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Election's Big Winners and Losers

These get our votes. Please add your own.

By David Beers and Monte Paulsen 15 Oct 2008 | TheTyee.ca

David Beers is editor of The Tyee. Monte Paulsen is Tyee investigative editor and edits The Hook.

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Cartoon by Ingrid Rice.

So who, and what, were the big winners and losers this federal election? Here are some suggestions we've drawn, bleary eyed, from the wisdom of our Tyee contributors who blogged on The Hook late into the night.

Winner: Stephen Harper's Tories. They gained 16 seats, won Ontario, and Harper was quick to thank Canadians for granting him the "strong mandate" he had requested on the campaign trail.

Loser: Stephen Harper's dream of a Tory majority. Nobody really believes that Harper broke his own vow (and maybe the law) in calling an early election, just to achieve a somewhat stronger minority. Sensing accurately that he faced one of the weakest Liberal leaders in memory, he lusted after a majority. And yet as Will McMartin blogged, Harper's Quebec strategy (was there one?) didn't budge even one new seat in the province, nor, as Bill Tieleman noted, did Harper manage to fully ring the chimes of Ontario's vital 905 area code voters. Some Conservatives, noting their one percentage point rise over last time around, have to be wondering if Harper can ever take them to majority land.

Loser: The centre-left's dream of a coalition government. The math never materialized. 37 (NDP) + 76 (Liberal) does not exceed 143 (Conservative).

Winner: Gilles Duceppe. Everyone to the left of Conservative must be thanking the silver fox and his Bloc for saving Canada, as Francis Plourde observed.

Winner: Premier Danny Williams. His call to shut out Harper in Newfoundland and Labrador was obliged. As Alex Marland, a poli sci prof at Memorial University in St. John's told Colleen Kimmett, Williams was preaching to the choir. A Newfoundlander voting Tory is about as fluky as an Albertan voting NDP.

Loser: Stephane Dion. Steve Burgess wrote his elegy about one hour after B.C.'s polls closed. Excerpt: "It's often said that campaigns should be about issues, rather than personalities. Good luck with that. When you watched Dion campaign, the personality issue was inescapable. Sure his English was bad, but so was Chretien's. Dion did not have the royal jelly. Canadian voters are usually pretty good about voting on issues, but you've got to meet a minimum standard. Party leadership is a roller coaster with a sign that reads, 'You must be this charismatic to take this ride.'"

Loser: Mark Marrisen. The veteran B.C.-based Liberal operative ran third-choice Dion up the middle of a leadership convention split between heavyweights Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae. No one outside Dion's camp seemed too thrilled at the time. Now, after their worst showing in two decades, the Grits are low on cash, very cranky, and looking at a big Marrisen mess to mop up. Maybe Capilano University needs a poli sci sessional?

Winner: B.C.'s Federal Conservatives. Their popular vote in the province jumped to 45 per cent and they gained four new ridings, upping their seats to 22 out of 36 in B.C. Conservative Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan celebrated his re-election to the strains of BTO's "Taking Care of Business," then told Adrian Nieoczym that it's time for a realignment of Parliament giving the West more seats. "I think we have to get more representation in Western Canada and have democratic reform and make sure Western Canada has that balance and power," he said. "For too long Quebec has had too much influence. I want to make sure that we have a balanced approach and that Western Canada has a stronger voice."

Winner: David Emerson. Having sluffed off his Liberal identity to take on some major portfolios in Stephen Harper's cabinet, Emerson chose not to seek re-election, but as a swan song ran the Conservative national campaign. One sign of his success in B.C.: minority voters appeared to deliver startling increases for the Conservatives in many urban ridings, as noted by Will McMartin.

Loser: David Emerson. He may have been a Liberal and then a Conservative, but nobody ever mistook the former CEO of Canfor for a New Democrat. But loathing for Emerson is still so palpable among Vancouver-Kingsway voters, NDP candidate Don Davies told The Tyee it helped him eke out victory in the riding.

Winner: Vancouver Island incumbents. If, that is, you weren't Catherine Bell.

Loser: Carbon taxes. Or more precisely, as Tom Barrett blogged, the way Stephane Dion tried to sell carbon taxes to Canadians.

Winner: Joyce Murray. When she was Gordon Campbell's first environment minister, Murray oversaw the slashing of nature-preserving budgets and regulations, drawing the wrath of green activists. But Murray appears to have climate change religion now, and her try at re-election in Vancouver-Quadra was boosted by the efforts of many enviro-activists and a strategic voting nod on the website VoteforEnvironment. In this affluent riding that includes UBC, Dion's Green Shift did seem to put people in gear.

Winner: Sukh Dhaliwal. The Liberal incumbent edged out his Conservative Party rival Sandeep Pandher for a big win in the hotly contested riding of Newton-North Delta. He partly can thank the support of influential Indo-Canadian Voice editor Rattan Mall, who told Geoff Dembicki that Dhaliwal "has really good recognition in the community. Indo-Canadians see him as a strong voice for their interests."

Loser: Strategic voting. Despite claims that the web can now guide netizens to make thousands of sophisticated strategic voting decisions, the most high profile B.C. example was a bust. In a Saanich-Gulf Islands riding brimming with nature loving voters, Liberal Briony Penn was anointed by VoteforEnvironment, the Conservation Voters of B.C., and others as the one to choose in order to defeat Harper resource minister Gary Lunn. As Andrew MacLeod blogged, the Green candidate still pulled well over 6000 votes, stealing more than enough to have put Penn over the top, and even the NDP candidate, who had dropped out of the race amidst unsavory allegations, received 3500 votes.

And as Crawford Kilian blogged, a push among NDPers to throw their weight behind Liberal Don Bell didn't achieve his re-election in North Vancouver.

Winner: Hedy Fry. Pundits like to snicker and portray her as a lightweight, but never count out the political diva of Vancouver's West End. This time she handily whipped (in order, second through last): the sitting provincial MLA (Conservative Lorne Mayencourt), an international law expert with star appeal (NDP's Michael Byers) and the former leader of B.C.'s Green party (Adriane Carr). As the dust cleared Fry surveyed the vanquished and told Jackie Wong she'd had her most dangerous enemy pegged. "I always thought it was going to be Mayencourt. And it was."

Losers: First Nations. Harper has hammered the Kelowna Accord, then refused to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, as Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs reminded Heather Ramsay. Still that didn't prevent several ridings with a high percentage of aboriginal voters from going Conservative.

Winner: Jack Layton. His party was one of the only two to gain seats this election, and by most accounts he ran a vigorous campaign and acquitted himself very well in the debates. In his third campaign since taking over the leadership in 2003, he has moved the New Democrats from 13 seats to 37.

Loser: Jack Layton. He didn't gain Vancouver-Centre or other key ridings, losing ground by a seat in B.C. Nationally, the New Democrat vote rose by just one additional percentage point.

Loser: Elizabeth May. Not only did she not win her riding of Central Nova, people are now going to be asking why she ever decided to run there in the first place. Also, why believe a Green might ever win any riding? What good did her deal with Dion do for the Liberals, or the planet? And which races would the pro-oil sands, pro-nuclear, anti-Kyoto Conservatives have lost were Greens not helping to split the vote?

Winner: Dona Cadman. Won't Harper be happy to see her waltz into caucus? And she owes it all to her late husband's good name and reputation.

Loser: Democracy in the short term. Voter turnout skimmed an historic low this election.

Winner: Democracy in the longer term? As a prime minister with 37 per cent of the popular vote thanks Canadians for his mandate and declares his intention to move forward with a full platform, pressure is bound to mount for proportional representation or some other form of electoral reform.

Who, or what, do you think won or lost big last night? Please add a comment below.  [Tyee]

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