Two Cheers for Paul Martin:

The Liberal Canadian Prime Minister has just delivered an eloquent, patriotic concession speech. Current results (including Ridings where results are not final) is Conservatives 124; Liberals 103; Bloq Quebecois 51; New Democratic Party 29; Independent 1. This will lead to the Governor-General of Canada asking Conservative party leader Stephen Harper to form a minority government.

As the results solidified, television commentators speculated that the Liberals might try to hold on to power by forming a minority coalition with the NDP. Paul Martin's concession speech, however, rejected this backdoor attempt to cling to power. Although the Liberal campaign was extraordinarily ugly by Canadian standards (the low point being a quickly-withdrawn January 12 ad warning that Stephen Harper would put the military on the streets of Canadian cities), Martin's concession speech was statesmanlike, dignified, and constructive.

In Parliament, the Conservatives and NDP will be able to team up to pass a variety of anti-corruption measures. Enactment of other items on the Conservative agenda (such as adding property rights to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or dismantling the long gun registry and spending the savings on more police) is uncertain.

Although the Liberals lost, they did better than polls had indicated. Regionally, the results are: In Atlantic Canada, a late Liberal surge maintained the status quo, with only small Liberal losses. In Quebec, the Conservatives won nearly a third of the vote, and handily displaced the Liberals as the major federal party in Quebec. In Ontario, the Conservatives made significant gains, while the Liberals easily held their stronghold of Toronto. In the Prairie Provinces, the Conservatives had a great night, as expected; I was especially pleased to see that Liberal gun-banning Justice Minister Annie McClellan lost her seat in Edmonton. In British Columbia, the Liberals appear to be holding much of their Vancouver base, although results are still coming in.

Dustin (mail):
it is now up to the Tories to prove that they are not unable to govern after so long out of power. They are in charge of a nation somehwat afraid of reactionary changes.

Also up to them to show they can resist corruption better than the liberals.

We'll see how this all goes, but I doubt the liberals will be out of power for long in Canada. Coalitions will form in time. There is just no upside for them without such measures, and there are ways to do so responsibly.
1.24.2006 12:58am
Jonathan M (mail) (www):
Property rights is LOW on the agenda. Since it already appears in the Bill of Rights (1960) which is still law.

"Although the Liberals lost, they did better than polls had indicated."

True, but not by much. The Liberals got about a 3 point popular vote swing from the Tories in the end.

Re: Mclellen...most people are glad to see her gone. She was a good hard working MP, but it was hard for many to stomach her during question period. So much for the Liberals trying to reach out to the West.

Oh...and there goes the Gun Registry!
1.24.2006 1:47am
Kevin Murphy:
I'm seeing on Canadian blogs the idea that Harper will join with the Bloq, as the Conservatives want to devolve power to the provinces and that may work well in Quebec. Relying on the NDP would be tougher, as there's not much common ground except disliking the Liberals.
1.24.2006 2:06am
M. Au-Lim:
With only a minority, I have to question how effecitve Harper and the Conservatives will be able to push through their campaign promises.

As for allying with the BQ, I think they'll get the Bloc's support on measures which will remove the federal government from interfering with the provinces (something the separatists certainly want), but, by and large, the BQ tends to be left-of-centre in its politics. This leaves the Conservatives with no real allies with whom to partner -- it'll mean a fight for every bill.

As for the scrapping the amazingly wasteful gun registry, I wouldn't hold my breath. The Liberals, who wanted to ban handguns, still have a lot of votes; the other parties don't seem to be in any particular rush to dismantle it, either.
1.24.2006 3:28am
I knew Kopel couldn't make it through a post without mentioning guns. I kept waiting for the payoff and there it was near the end.
1.24.2006 5:39am
I've heard that the plan is for the Tories to partner with the BQ on various issues, with possible exemptions for Quebec in the reform scheme.
1.24.2006 8:33am
What does "Conservative" mean in Canada, exactly?
1.24.2006 9:13am
I just hope they pay attention to the state of the Republican Party in the US: even "conservative" parties can become corrupt big-spenders once they're in power. If Harper can get anti-corruption reforms to last longer than Gingrich did, he'll have really accomplished something.
1.24.2006 9:28am
The NJ Annuitant (mail):
I am not a Canadian, but I used to do quite a bit of business in Montreal. The ethos of the Montrealers seemed to be more market economy -oriented than that of the Toronto people. The guys in Montreal I dealt with used to joke about " The People's Republic of Ontario". This is my rambing way of wondering if the Conservatives might not be able to do a coalition with Quebecois?
1.24.2006 11:12am
The Conservatives will probably do OK as long as they stick to an anti-corruption and fiscal discipline agenda. But if they start getting into social issues, there doesn't seem to be any support for them. As others have noted, the Liberals, NDP and BQ all fall to the left of them in those areas. One has to wonder how strong those pick-ups in Quebec were and whether they will last long-term. Without them, the Conservatives would once again be back where they were before election day.
1.24.2006 12:17pm
After anti-corruption legislation, where are the Conservatives going to get the votes to pass anything? The Liberals surely won't cooperate in any German-style "grand coalition." The NDP is too far left to agree to any economic or social program. And, if the Bloc Quebecois sees the Conservatives as their primary opposition in Quebec, they certainly won't cooperate.
1.24.2006 12:36pm
This really looks like a win for the Bloc since they will now have authority over cabinet posts in a Tory/Bloc coalition thereby granting them more influence than they ever had in their history. They will also be able to use the conservative tax cutting platform to transfer more money and power from the federal government to the provincial government. Quebec has been demanding the transfer of tax points from the federal government for quite some time. This could happen under the conservatives since the could sell it as a federal tax cut.

Once these measures passed the coalition and government would collapse when Quebec attempts separation thinking, with the additional money and power, they could gain some traction.
1.24.2006 12:55pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
Now, there's a story I NEVER get tired of seeing: A story about how great, terrific, awesome, wonderful etc. the concession speech of a liberal who lost the election was.
1.24.2006 12:58pm
Chris Jones (www):
sprice: there is no way on earth that anyone will enter into a formal coalition with the Bloc under any circumstances. Harper said in his speech yesterday that he plans to govern as if he has a minority (contrast that to Clark in '79), and to work on an issue-by-issue basis with the other parties.

I suspect we'll see the Liberals end up supporting the Conservative government on more occasions than you'd think, because the Liberals simply can't afford another election, and don't have any allies to form a government without election.
1.24.2006 2:21pm
"Liberals simply can't afford another election, and don't have any allies to form a government without election."

That's true now but if the Conservatives are in power in a year, don't be surprised to see a Liberal-NDP alliance topple the government. The NDP distanced themselves from the Liberals because the corruption scandals but more likely than not, in a year, those will be "old news". Once the Conservatives turn to the social items on their agenda, the left-wing alliance that the Liberals and NDP had will re-emerge.
1.24.2006 2:42pm
Ian G. (mail):
Chris Jones: Another reason why the Liberals don't want another election any time soon is that they are broke by some accounts they are $30 million in the hole: they cannot afford another election.

To everyone who has suggested a coalition government: that isn't how Canadian governments work. In the Dominion's 139 year history there have been 9 minority governments and 1 government of national unity (during WWI). Out of those 10 times there has only been a formal coalition once. The Bordon government at the end of WWI was comprised of Tories and Liberals who were in favour of conscription. Check this out for more info. Far more often the coalition is informal with the smaller party getting a large say in how the government is run - witness the NDP last time out.
1.24.2006 2:51pm
Splunge (mail):
Hmmm...Australia (Howard), Great Britain (Blair), Germany (Merkel) and now Canada (Harper). Looks like the junior Senator from Massachusetts was wrong and the mountain is coming to Mohammed after all. Interesting message, that.
1.24.2006 3:22pm
Richard M.:
Splunge: Although the trend you point out is pretty clear, I have to point out that Blair represents the Labour party, not the Conservative party. Outside of foreign policy I don't think that he would be well received as a Republican. On the labour website listing their top 50 achievements since 1997 here are a few (chosen for impact, not random):

3. Introduced the National Minimum Wage
8. Funding for every pupil in England to double (since 1997) by 2007-08
19. Local government funding has increased by a third in real terms
20. Equalised the age of consent for gay men
22. Overseas aid budget more than doubled
26. Introduced the Disability Rights Commission
32. All workers now have a right to 4 weeks' paid holiday
33. Record rises in the state pension
38. Free nursery places for three and four-year-olds in England, Scotland and Wales
39. Free fruit for all four to six-year-olds at school
40. Free school milk for five, six and seven-year-olds in Wales

And the best of all...
36. Banned handguns
1.24.2006 5:41pm
Implying that Harper's win demonstrates a conservative trend in Canada also displays a willful ignorance of the results, the other parties running and the Canadian election system. The Liberals and NDP together captured 48% of the total vote compared to the Conservatives 36%. I would venture to guess that most Liberal and NDP supporters would feel at home with the Democrats here in the US. The BQ is also left-leaning on most social issues. It's likely that the NDP captured most, if not all of their support, from the Liberals. Together, they could have formed a majority government or NDP could have agreed to support the Liberals, as they did this in the past government. But the Liberals are so tainted by corruption that there is no way that the NDP could do that now. However, as I noted above, when the Conservatives get past the current election issues of corruption and competence on fiscal issues, they face real trouble on the social issues. The NDP and Liberals could easily topple the Conservatives on issues like gay marriage or abortion, if the Conservatives are foolish enough to bring those up.
1.24.2006 5:54pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
Blair banning handguns was brilliant!! I wish I could move to that crime-free and gun-free utopia tomorrow, and pay all those wonderfully high taxes to support all those wonderful government programs. Unfortunately, I cannot afford the plane ticket thanks to the oppressive and evil policies of George Bush. Wait. Scratch all that. If Bush sees that, he'll throw me in Gitmo for sure!
1.24.2006 7:55pm
ras (mail):
In Parliament, the Conservatives and NDP will be able to team up to pass a variety of anti-corruption measures.

??? Am I messing up w/my math here? Or have the seat totals changed on recount?

It takes 155 seats in the Canadian parliament to make a majority and win a non-confidence vote.

124 Tories +
029 NDP
153 Total

Even if the lone Independent were to join them (iffy, as IIRC he's a cantankerous radio host from Quebec who ran as an independent cuz it suits him), that's still one shy of a majority.

The NDP gained seats this election, but they missed by 2 getting enough to be a true power-broker. Their votes in this parliament are more likely to be of the "me too, if anyone's still listening" variety. It'll normally take BQ or Liberal support on a vote-by-vote basis for the Tories to pass legislation.

Of the two, the BQ look to be the more unnerved by the election results. Their numbers were much too low for comfort as compared to their usual support. They won't want another election for a while, so they'll be looking for excuses to vote with the Tories in Parliament rather than against them.
1.24.2006 9:01pm

The Tories don't need the NDP to form the government They have the largest block of seats and have the opportunity to form the government on that basis. Once they've formed the government, then they'll need to enlist the support of the NDP and others (BQ most likely) to pass bills, the budget and avoid votes of no confidence. That doesn't necessarily require 155 votes (that assumes everyone votes) but they will need to keep a majority voting on the key votes like the budget. However, if a contentious issue comes us, the combined opposition could easily muster the votes to bring down the government, if they are so inclined. That's exactly what happened to Paul Martin's minority government and is likely to happen to Harper as well.
1.25.2006 12:08am
For those not versed in the Canadian system, here's a good overview:

Minority Governments in Canada
1.25.2006 12:10am
ras (mail):

Yup. I agree with what you said. But my main pt - that the NDP are 2 seats shy of power-brokering relevance - stands. The Tories will be looking mostly to the BQ for the necessary votes, occasionally perhaps to the Libs, but not normally to the NDP.

The NDP don't really matter; the numbers are clear.

Something I've said on other fora comes to mind, tho, and I'd appreciate opinions. Here it is:

A Tory minority, by forcing them to ally with the BQ, is actually more likely to produce a conservative (small c) result than a majority would.

This is so cuz the one area where Tory/BQ grassroots philosophy aligns is decentralization. The BQ want more power for Quebec. Tories generally favor it for all provinces.

If they go that route (I said "if!"), then the usual 18 mos or so that this latest minority govt lasts will see a lot of transferring of power from Ottawa to the provs. And decentralization, with its attendant competition and choice, is mostly a conservative or, if you prefer, classical liberal, phenomenon.
1.25.2006 4:59am