Red Wave Rings in a Hopeful New Era in Canada; Wreaks a Little Havoc Too

Credit: Fred Chartrand
It's fabulous Harper is gone, but the ABC sentiment will cost parliament its party diversity. But whatever, for now, let's bask in our victorious voting.

When colonies of marine algae feel the time is right, they form massive swells dubbed “a red tide.” They bloom so out of control they have the power to wipe out, shut down, or renew the life in a bay. It’s a forceful clean slate of sorts. Scientists report these Red Tides are on the rise, and they don’t know why.

A political red tide swarmed the country last night, and it was no mystery why it happened: the person leading this country lost touch with our values and desires, and he was levelled on election day. The stats exist: more people voted, more demographics voted, and more people voted with a sense of power and pride than ever.

Hell, people were offering free rides to polling stations on social media so folks could help cast Harper from power. It was monumental, it united people, and it worked. Harper is gone: my celebratory wine was ample and good, and I hope yours was too.

The Red Tide meant something last night: we can still send a message. When a person in government does not represent our national values, they have got to go,and we can make it happen. In a Canada as passive as today’s, voter turnout this year was the equivalent of a modern day riot.

The results of Canada’s election clearly proved people were not voting for MPs in their ridings, they were voting to remove Stephen Harper from office. ABC was a countrywide sentiment, and Harper’s eviction is worth being happy about, but there was a fallout.

Party Diversity Paid Dearly for the ABC Voting. Our Parliament Will Suffer for It.

Peter Mansbridge himself couldn’t believe his eyes last night. The first 32 seats, the entirety of Atlantic Canada, voted red. The Liberals were winning ridings by huge margins, often winning by thousands, not hundreds of votes. MPs who had solidly held their seats for years were ousted by Liberals many of us haven’t heard of.

Voting ABC avoided splitting the anything-but-Conservative vote among The Liberals and NDPs, or The Red Tide was the results of Trudeau’s admittedly solid, charismatic and often convincing campaign. He killed it, was the message Mansbridge repeatedly relayed. Let’s remember this moment for a second:

But Google analytics revealed “6 to 1 more searches for strategic voting” in this election than last. And the fallout of The Red Tide, whatever caused it, is a lack of party diversity in our new parliament.

The Conservatives went from 15 Atlantic Canadian seats to zero, a historically poor performance, but who cares, really, it was a message: Atlantic Canada loves its prime minster as much as that prime minister loves Atlantic Canada. Karma.

The slightly more disconcerting issue with Atlantic Canada giving all of its seats to The Liberals is, well, damn, our interests and theirs better align. With that many Liberals in parliament (185 Liberals; More than the NDP and Conservatives combined) they’ll be more likely to toe company lines than constituent ones.

NDP, the party that credits itself with things like healthcare and old age security, only have 44 seats in parliament, considerably less than the 103 seats they had last week.The Liberals’ whopping jump from 34 seats to 184 cost the NDP dozens and dozens of seats.

Local Liberal MP Seamus credits The Liberals’ “campaign of optimism.” He, no small feat, ousted the incumbent Ryan Cleary (NDP) — a man known to fight hard  for Newfoundland & Labrador. Even more surprising, Nick Whalen (who?, you might ask) defeated political stalwart Jack Harris (NDP), which has many townies reeling.

Off the island, our new parliament has lost the likes of Peter Stoffer, a man who has won MacLeans’ “Parliamentarian of the Year” several times running. Not voting him in, nor people like him, does not directly scream “positive change for the country.”

Nova Scotia’s Megan Leslie was among the mourned loses of NDP seats. It was a riding the NDPs held since 1997. Leslie was known across the country as a genuinely admirable and transparent MP. So, party diversity in parliament clearly paid the price for The Liberals sweeping the country’s slate clean last night.

Harper’s Gone, But Aren’t They All the Same?

The Conservatives did not do enough to show they were listening, or to show they were willing to change their ways, when their ways appalled the majority of Canadians. They got their backs up, if anything, so we pulled their chairs right out from under them. Canada knew what it wanted last night, and it got it: a new leader.

So, let’s take a breather before our inner Eor kicks in about “same cat, different stripes.” Some cats are just more wretched, self-absorbed, and dangerous; some cats are totally unconcerned with their master’s wishes. Read: Justin Trudeau is a better man than Stephen Harper, even as his job will inevitably warp the character he campaigned as. For now, we celebrate this new day for Canada.

It was no small feat for Trudeau to do what he did: he’s the first Prime Minister since 1925 to go from leader of a 3rd place party, to the leader of a majority government. Whether it was the hair, the campaign, or promises doesn’t matter. For the sake of national morale, and international image, we’re now at least theoretically poised for change.

Trudeau’s acceptance speech was nothing if not full of hope. Time will tell if he is this hopeful warrior he positions himself as, and hopefully he doesn’t forget about us Atlantic Canadians who 100% voted red.

In his speech, he was immediately gunning for unity, undoing damage done during the niqab debate, and stating, “Conservatives are not our enemies. They’re our neighbours. Leadership is about working together.” In reference to the blow the NDP took, he said “our country needs engaged citizens like you.”

Baby Steps Towards a Better Canada

Jumping too quickly to questions of Trudeau’s potential for “real change” undercuts the glory and the triumph of all those Canadian voters who did all they could this month to get the worst of three options out of power. Baby steps, haters, baby steps.

We live in a world where the average voter has no control over who is running in their riding, and who is leading these parties. Like a dog, we get what we’re served.

What we can do, is use their desires for election against them, and demand they bend to our will and values, not the other way around. Never forget YOU elect THEM. So you can toss them to the curb, one X on a ballot at a time.

And if that doesn’t work, or if that’d take too long, there’s always a good old fashioned revolt. These people define the world you’re living in, and should know it when they’re offending your sensibilities. Ask the suffragette, the Martin Luther King Jrs.

Getting back on track, Trudeau might share some of Harper’s shady moves, but he does not share them all. I mean, there is this graphic floating around, and well, it’s not wrong:

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But a lot of the fuss brought into the light as they won last night was how, say, The Liberals abolished the national minimum wage … in 1996, when Trudeau wasn’t even in the party, let alone leading it. And minimum wage is complicated stuff: retail, restaurants, the places paying it are all barely keeping their doors open as is. I’m all for $15 an hour, but I also know it’d shutter a lot of businesses who couldn’t afford it.

For all their talk of environmental responsibility, The Liberals have a lot to do to align their promises with their practices. But we’ll know in 40 days, when the Paris climate conference starts, if we can or cannot critique their commitment to the environment. Elisabeth May will certainly keep us posted on that.

He has made some good promises: positive tax changes, better relationships with indigenous people including an inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women, more sensible child benefits, the return of the long form census (so we can know what’s up in our country), and even electoral reform.

For now, smile, picture the country you want, and how you can hold this man to it, via your (Liberal) MPs. Maybe Trudeau himself was inspired by your political action this fall. Hell, imagine if he only supported Bill C-51 to win over some of the Conservatives votes, but totally has plans to repeal and shred the thing. He has promised amendments, let us force him to shred the thing.

Who knows. Let’s let time tell, and for now, let’s be happy there’s a clean slate that cannot possibly ever get as dirty as Harper made it. Granted, this rare optimism might be a product of the celebratory drink and the haziness of the hour of the night (anyone else get caught up on the coverage till 4:30 am?).

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