Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bloc falls: election 41 stands political scene on its ear

Jack Layton and his “Orange Crush” knocked the Bloc Québécois to the ground and stole Gilles Duceppe’s seat. Stunning is one word for the total collapse of the separatist Bloc; incredibly grateful is the reaction of the Canadian public. Layton gave the federalist cause in Quebec a place to park its vote, and Gilles Duceppe’s ineffective campaign had no response.

Not all counts are final, but we are looking at an NDP with about 60 caucus members from Quebec. These alone are more MPs than the New Democrats have ever had. Add a few seats from the Atlantic provinces, a few in Ontario and British Columbia and more than 100 Dippers go marching off to Ottawa as the official opposition, leaving a ruined Bloc Québécois and a crippled Liberal Party—both without elected leaders—in their wake.

It is indeed curious that in choosing a federalist option, Quebec voters chose the weakest champion of provincial rights of the three. The Dippers will now have to twist themselves pretzel-like into advocates of provincial rights for Quebecers, and, at the same time, staunch defenders of a strong over-arching federal government in the rest of Canada. A neat trick, if you can get away with it.

Not to rain too hard on the Dippers’ parade, but there’s too much being made about their sweep of the country. Sure they had a great night, but the real story was the collapse and near annihilation of the Bloc. Without the Bloc’s Quebec seats, the Dippers would be fighting it out head to head with the Liberals at less than 50 seats each. So the Orange Crush is pretty much a Quebec phenomenon with some, but not a lot, of carry over effect.

The Bloc will take four or so members to Ottawa—not enough to qualify for official party status and the funding and perks that represents. Once Prime Minister Stephen Harper puts an end to the $2 per vote taxpayer subsidy, this may well have been the Bloc’s last election.

Some worry about the quality of the new NDP caucus, and wonder whether they’ll be able to even locate some of their winners to give them the good news, and I worry too. I am, however, reminded, that a political hero of mine, Brain Mulroney, took a bunch of separatists from Quebec to Ottawa, and that gave birth to the Bloc Québécois. A few pylons in opposition MP seats will never compare to that.


© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

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