Winners & Losers

As many of you may have noticed, I’m an avid reader of the National Post. But many of you may not believe that I have three daily newspapers delivered to my house each and every morning. In short, I read the National Post, the Toronto Star and the Hamilton Spectator.

Living in Burlington, Ontario, I’m a stone’s throw away from Hamilton, so the Spectator gives me the best perspective on local news.

Reading the Toronto Star is, at times, like trying to endure a throbbing toothache, because it is so obviously partisan in support of any political party with a “Liberal” tag its (for me) actually painful to read. You never have to worry about objectivity if you are reading the Star though, because there is no objectivity found within its pages.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. The Toronto Star never pretends to be anything other than what it is – and that is a very large cheering section for the Liberal Party of Canada and/or the Liberal Party of Ontario. During the 14 years of Liberal Government here in Ontario from 2004-2018, the Toronto Star cheered and unapologetically supported ever increasing yearly budget deficits, a ballooning Ontario provincial debt, any and all social, financial and political positions put forth by the Ontario Liberals, and scandal after scandal committed by elected and appointed Liberal officials alike.

This all works for the Toronto Star, because without question it has achieved more than a modest measure of success. The Star is Canada’s “largest circulation” newspaper, and people don’t buy it because of the advertising. If the Star didn’t print, and say, what people wanted to hear, people wouldn’t buy it. So, I give the Star credit where credit is due.

But (for me) reading the Star did become a habit while I was in the political mix. It is a habit that’s hard to kick though, because I always find it helpful to know what “the other guy” is thinking and saying.

Now, I understand that many in my small social circle consider the National Post to be Canada’s “Conservative” newspaper, and that I’m an idiot for subscribing. To an extent I agree, but never the less feel compelled to at least offer up a small defense of the Post as being a newspaper of some substance.

For those of you who take the time to read the Post, you will discover that this publication offers up a visceral critique of all political parties, including the Conservative Party of Canada, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, the United Conservative Party of Alberta, and any other so-called Conservative party in Canada, while certainly offering up no apologies for being a smaller ‘c” conservative-leaning publication.

In very few words, I find that I get the closest thing one can get to an honest assessment of what’s really going on when I read the Post. Plus, it has the added advantage of being a national newspaper. Not perfect by any means, but like all things in life, what’s perfect? Well, I suppose if you believe Donald Trump, his conversation with the President of Ukraine was perfect, but again I digress………

Now, all of the above is an awkward way of saying that I had a very bad cold this week, and with little else to do besides read my newspapers, watch CNN, MSNBC and our very own poor Canadian excuses for cable news channels, I kept going back to the Post to read the post mortem on our Federal Election (no pun intended).

Like the National Post, I have concluded that there were very few winners as a result of our election. In fact, we came very close to finding ourselves in a situation where just about everybody and every political entity lost. And here’s the logic – if I can call it that!

Technically, we all know that the Liberals won a minority victory, while receiving some 240,000 fewer votes than did the Conservatives, who will again for the Official Opposition in Parliament.

But we Canadians, and especially Ontario Canadians, are a hardy lot. Most of us, with me included, have spent the past three years hating and critiquing Donald Trump (and all things Republican south of our border) while we questioned the legitimacy of the 2016 US Election.

Trump, as you no doubt recall, received some three (3) million fewer votes than did his opponent, Hillary Clinton. How could this be, we asked? How could any fair-minded person, living in a democracy, accept such an outcome? Well, we now know the answer to that question. Such an outcome is fair if you live in Ontario or Atlantic Canada, but still unfair if you live in the USA, or, God forbid, in Western Canada or Quebec.

Here are the numbers, and we all know numbers don’t lie.

In 2015, the Liberals received 39.47% of the popular vote, and they won 184 seats. Preliminary results for 2019 show that the Liberals received 33.1% of the vote and 157 seats. While technically a win, and a minority victory, 33.1% of the vote (where only one out of every three people who bothered to vote actually voted for the winning party) cannot be considered a political victory in any sense of the term. And in terms of promoting the national interests, the Liberals failed to win even a single seat anywhere between Winnipeg and Vancouver. And even the most hardened among us will concede that Western Canada still holds the keys to our economic success as a country.

Well now, how about the Conservatives you will no doubt ask? Yep, they are a bunch of losers too. While getting 34.4% of the popular vote, they managed to win only 121 seats. They made no progress or inroads into Southern Ontario (Toronto and or the Greater Toronto Area, or as we political nerds like to call it, the 416 and the 905) where elections in Canada are won and lost. And its mostly because they fought an election campaign that gave progressive voters in this key area of the country little comfort that progressive values (which have importantly and increasingly become Canadian values) would be honoured and protected. Andrew Scheer simply screwed the pooch on this one folks.

Unless and until the Conservative Party of Canada joins the rest of us and recognizes that Ontario voters consider themselves to be “Progressive”, in that they overwhelmingly support progressive social policy positions such as a woman’s right to choose, LGBTQ rights and other social policy positions, the CPC will continue to poll in the mid-30% range. And you can’t form a government if you can’t poll above that level of support. So, the Conservatives, in spite of showing some political gains, simply lost an election that they should have won.

And how about the NDP? Jagmett Singh was dancing around his election headquarters on election night as if he had won the lottery. But take a look at the numbers. Again…… in 2011, Jack Layton’s NDP got 30.6% of the popular vote, and won 103 seats. But in 2015, Tom Mulcair’s NDP won just 19.7% of the popular vote and only 44 seats, which under normal circumstances in Canadian politics is a bonanza for the NDP. But our friend Jagmett in 2019? 15.9% of the vote, and down to 24 seats. Need I draw you a graph?

And the poor Greens? How did they fare? Well, they did manage to get 6.5% of the popular vote, but they managed to win only 3 seats. This is a dismal political outcome for a political party that was running (or at least we thought) neck and neck with the NDP throughout the campaign, and this will surely once again call into question Elizabeth May’s leadership.

And if I say the Greens are poor, we can only describe the Bloc Quebecois as being vote poor, but seat rich. The BQ won just 7.5% of the “national popular” vote, but 32 seats. They showed, yet again, that if you promote a political party in the best interests of a particular province, you can produce amazing results.

So, why not do the same (yet again) in Western Canada. We’ve been down that road a couple of times already, with the whole Reform experiment, which morphed into the Canadian Alliance experiment, which further morphed into the Conservative Party of Canada experiment, which as we now know can only muster up less than 35% of the national popular vote, and no chance what so ever of forming a National Government.

Yes, my friends, we’ve all lost.

We have returned a minority government that ignored ethics guidelines and violated the rule of law in its first term. But the Liberals are now isolated to vote/seat rich Ontario and Atlantic Canada. Not a win by any stretch of the imagination.

We gave a very luke warm reward to a Conservative Party that refuses to embrace 21st Century Canadian values, but will convince itself that because they made (what they will argue) substantial gains, Canadians are about to embrace “conservative” values in the next election. I’m of the opinion that if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll always end up with what you have. 35% of the popular vote is what the CPC has, and it will never get them there! Sooner or later the Conservatives will have to accept that 65% of the country describes itself as being “Progressive”. Do the math! And develop the policy positions necessary to become something more than the Official Opposition.

Look at the NDP math, and if things keep going the way they have gone in the past 8 years, the NDP will be in Green territory very soon.

Perhaps the only real winner in this election is Jody Wilson Raybould, who proved that you can stand on principal and win, even if it is a lonely road to travel. I was hoping that Jody would be joined by Jane Philpott, but that was not to be. More to come, however, on Jody and Jane. A topic for another day.

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