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Blog-Rolling the Vote

Some first responses to the election results.

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[Editor's note: Gathered at midnight, here are four bloggers' reactions to the election results.]

'STATE OF SHOCK'

By Warren Kinsella

Just did a hit on CKNW in Vancouver. Boy, are folks out west in a state of shock.

What does it mean? It means that, for Harper, running a perfect campaign isn't enough. Having his opponent run a terrible, terrible campaign isn't enough.

It means Harper has to run a perfect government. No mistakes. He has to ensure there are no backbench bimbo eruptions, whatsoever. No fumbles, no flubs.

He has to show his party is, indeed, moderate and centrist.

That's all he can do. Hell, he's done everything else.

Warren Kinsella is a Toronto-based lawyer and former Chretien advisor. His blog is here.

'BC HAD A GREAT DEAL'

By David Schreck

British Columbians are probably weary after three elections in the last 9 months, but federal politicians will immediately start preparing for the next campaign. With the Liberals in disarray, they are not likely to contribute to the defeat of Prime Minister Harper's minority government, but 18 to 24 months is probably the longest that can be expected in the absence of a majority. That is probably a good thing because keeping an eye on the next election will help to keep the government in tune with Canadians and away from philosophical extremes.

BC got a great deal from the federal Liberals and maybe that explains why it went contrary to the rest of the country and reduced the number of Conservative MPs from 22 to 17, or maybe it's just the usual contrary habit of BC voters. Federal transfer payments to BC rose from $2.6 billion for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2000 to over $5.6 billion estimated for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2006. In addition, BC has benefited from federal commitments to the RAV line, the 2010 games, the convention centre expansion and several highway projects. That funding should not be at risk under the new government, but it will be difficult to expand further upon Ottawa's largess. Expensive promises like sewage treatment for Victoria are likely to require a lot of time-consuming study.

One of the biggest impacts of the change in governments will be seen in new "networking". Yesterday's movers and shakers are powerless; key Liberal lobbyists and strategists have lost their influence. Failed candidates and their helpers will not be able to look to an internally focused Liberal party for patronage appointments. New networks of Conservative contacts will take their place, but if Harper keeps his word, there will be less outright patronage and greater accountability. He has set the bar high with his promises of a fixed election date, political financing reform, an expanded role for the Auditor General, and an independent ethics commissioner; these reforms will receive support from the majority of the new parliament.

Mr. Harper promised to freeze the sale of Ridley Coal Terminal in Prince Rupert until a review is completed. The review must be seen to do more than rubber stamp the sale. It must address the concern of all of the companies that use the port, that a new owner won't use its power to the disadvantage of its competitors. BC's Kevin Falcon may have to eat some of his words from the last session of BC's legislature where he defended the sale.

The promised review of leaky condos will be welcomed by many British Columbians, but no one should get their hopes up that it will lead to the federal government accepting any liability. Expect the review to take longer than the first term of the Harper government.

The Conservatives promised to "Ensure the rigorous enforcement of federal fishing regulations on the Fraser River and the preservation of wild salmon stocks." The BC Legislature's Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture will be interested in talking to the Federal Fisheries Minister about that promise, particularly in light of the promise to "Work with the provincial government to create joint fishery management councils." Many British Columbians, not the least of whom is Rafe Mair, don't trust the Campbell government to protect wild salmon.

The new government deserves a honeymoon that gives it a chance to show Canadians what it can do. The biggest threat to the government will come, not from any opposition party, but from its own supporters. Mr. Harper must resist pressures to govern in a style that differs from how he campaigned. He must resist temptations to engage in creative interpretations of his campaign promises. Moderate, honest, compassionate government is demanded by Canadians. If Mr. Harper can deliver, he may be able to look forward to the next election. If he can't, the expanded NDP caucus will be there to remind him that he cannot govern as if he had a majority.

Former BC NDP MLA David Schreck's online political journal Strategic Thoughts is here.

'THE HARD PART'

By Paul Willcocks

Now the hard part starts for Stephen Harper. He's starting an audition today. The Conservatives can't rest comfortably on this victory and not just because they only managed a minority government.

The Conservatives' success owes much to the public's anger at the Liberals. That will fade, with the only question how long that process takes. And without that factor, the Conservatives may be another doomed government.

Harper and the Conservatives have to convince Canadians that they can govern effectively. He has to prove to skeptical centrist voters that the Liberal attacks ads about same-sex marriage and reckless tax cuts were false.

And his biggest problems will be the 124 MPs sitting behind him on the government benches.

It's been 13 years since the Conservatives were in power. For the Reform/Alliance side of the party, this is their first taste of government.

And many of the MPs elected Monday are getting ready to fly into Ottawa with great expectations. Some have accepted the need for unity and party discipline in order to win the election. They learned that lesson painfully in 2004.

But now they are going to want action. They have waited in the wilderness and they are bound for parliament to make big changes.

Which creates a problem for Harper. Go too far, and the public's fears will be confirmed and the road back cleared for the Liberals.

Don't go far enough, and the MPs who believe the Conservative party should denounce gay relationships, or launch any number of more extreme policies will get grumpy and fractious. (These are people, don't forget, quite willing to form new parties with little chance of real political success for years.)

The successful campaign gives Harper more clout in the party. And the minority government may be a blessing. Harper can remind MPs that getting too radical could mean a brief term in government and a long wait on the outside.

The minority government is also a good thing for British Columbia. In the 15 elections since 1958, this is only the fourth time that B.C. voters have been on the winning side. But even in this election, the Conservatives lost seats in this contrary province.

So Harper must pay attention to British Columbia's issues.

There will be some quick, critical tests. The Conservatives promised $1 billion over 10 years to help deal with the pine beetle disaster. They said they would halt the sale of Ridley Terminal in Prince Rupert. After some fumbling, they agreed to support the Kelowna Accord to assist First Nations, although they want a clearer spending plan.

Failing to deliver on any one of those would indicate B.C. is being forgotten.

And the number of cabinet seats from the province, and the jobs given to MPs like Jay Hill, Stockwell Day and Chuck Strahl, will signal Harper's attention to B.C. Given the need for regional balance, some experienced MPs from B.C. and Alberta are going to be left out.

Paul Martin is right to resign. The party did better than expected, especially in B.C. But Martin was not the man to give the party the new start it needs.

The decision does buy Harper some time. The Liberals will now be looking inward and rebuilding. They will be in no rush to topple the Conservatives.

I expect many British Columbians believe these results are the best of a bunch of bad options. The Liberals are out, the Conservatives in check.

If Harper wants a majority next time, he has to look to B.C.

The Conservatives expected a better performance in the province, both in their share of the popular vote and the number of seats. Their share of the vote is unchanged and it looks like they will lose four seats.

They need to find out why so many British Columbians were still not ready to trust them in government if they ever expect a real victory.

Footnote: It will likely take until recounts are complete to determine a critical question. The NDP and Conservatives are on the edge of having a combined majority in parliament. That would open the door to a more stable coalition, and free Harper from dependence on the Bloc Quebecois. It won't be an easy partnership, but there are near-term advantages for both parties.

BC political columnist Paul Willcocks' blog Paying Attention is here.

'CONSIDER DION'

By Colby Cosh

I've got a secret

There is one Liberal politician in the whole of Canada--exactly one--who has been courageous and perceptive enough to recognize the real nature of Adscam. He has chosen not to dismiss it as the work of a handful of rogues; he acknowledged, and at a time when it still might have been useful tactical information for Paul Martin's Liberals, that the entire party came to fatally confuse its own interests with those of Canadian federalism. It is true that he did not object in 1996 when a Liberal committee dared to ask a cabinet meeting for "a substantial strengthening of the Liberal Party of Quebec"; but in response to the Gomery report, he at least had the sense to express retrospective "astonishment" that such a blasphemous thing had taken place.

He is Stephane Dion, and--why, look! He's a bilingual Quebecker! I wouldn't dream of proposing him as a leading candidate for the Liberal succession, but editors and columnists might find it unexpectedly rewarding if they decided to, say, take him 20% as seriously as Michael bleedin' Ignatieff.

Colby Cosh is an Edmonton-based freelance columnist who appears in Western Standard and National Post. His election weblog is here.  [Tyee]

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