Opinion

What Will Harper Do with His Majority?

He'd be wise to moderate his party's red meat demands. But he could throw them steaks.

By Bill Tieleman 3 May 2011 | TheTyee.ca

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. E-mail him at weststar@telus.net or visit his blog.

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Handed the crown, now what?

"A majority is always better than the best repartee." -- Benjamin Disraeli, British prime minister, 1804-1881

In this stunningly exciting federal election two parties were devastated and two -- the Conservatives and the New Democrats -- absolutely elated.

NDP leader Jack Layton's "Orange Crush" has fundamentally changed national politics and the near total Liberal and Bloc Quebecois collapse let the Conservatives easily gain their much-wanted majority government.

The NDP bashed the Liberals into third place to achieve their dream of becoming official opposition and absolutely devastated the Bloc Quebecois and their separatist goal.

The Conservatives get their first majority government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper despite his campaigning in a bubble and avoiding most media questioning. Harper's voters really don't care.

The results sadly vindicate the Conservative strategy of demonizing Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff with negative attack ads, damaging his credibility so much the NDP leapfrogged into second place.

But Ignatieff was also the overly academic author of his own demise.

Now the Tories and NDP have four years to solidify their positions -- and marginalize their opponents.

Ignatieff's failure to connect with voters means the party will seek its third new leader in three years.

Neither a discredited Bob Rae nor an unremarkable Justin Trudeau can rescue the Liberals.

But the Bloc's near elimination by the federalist NDP is a death blow to separatism and Gilles Duceppe's leadership.

Let them eat steaks?

Harper is now in the position he has wanted since becoming Conservative leader -- a four-year mandate with control of Parliament.

Will Harper wisely moderate his party's right-wing red meat demands and instead occupy the centre of the political spectrum?

Or will he throw them steaks -- like dismantling the CBC, privatized health care or slashing public services to pay for corporate tax cuts? Count on the long gun registry to die along with public funding for political parties and much more.

Also deceased -- strategic voting. The idea of changing the results in ridings with small margins of victory with an ABC campaign -- Anybody But Conservative -- showed yet again it is a failing strategy, especially when two competing parties completely deflate.

Layton's task

Jack Layton won big. His appealing personality was backed with an excellent campaign that focused on key voter issues like job protection, retirement security, the environment and public health care.

Now Layton has four years to prepare for a classic left-right battle against Harper's Conservatives -- if he can dispatch the Liberals to political history before the next election.

And the election is a warning sign for BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark -- the long-time federal Liberal may want to avoid a general election at least until the Orange Crush runs out.  [Tyee]

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