The gruelling election campaign lasting 78 days came to an end on October 19 when Canadians went to the polling stations in troves to exercise their franchise. The ruling Conservative Party deliberately prolonged the campaign in the hope a longer campaign will be to its advantage. Compared to the other two parties the Conservative had millions of dollars in extra cash in the bank to spend on the elections.
When the election results were flashed over the TV screens as soon as polled closed in Atlantic Canada at 7.30 pm, the Liberal party was painting the electoral map pure red. The Liberal party took a commanding hold in Atlantic Canada capturing all 32 ridings across the region and it set the stage early for a majority government. High profile Conservative cabinet ministers and veteran New Democratic MPs suffered defeat at the hands of Liberal candidates.
It was a strong message; not only across Atlantic Canada but also the whole country coast to coast. The Liberals won seats after seats in record numbers as results from other provinces poured in. Before mid-night, the Liberal party has won a convincing majority, taking 184 seats out of 338 seats. Canadians in every province voted for Liberal candidates, who won in striking victories in greater Toronto and Quebec. In Ontario Liberals won 79 of the province’s 121 seats including all 25 Toronto City ridings and 22 of 24 ridings in the Greater Toronto. The Liberals mostly took back the seats they lost in the 2011 elections. The larger turn out at 68.5 % compared with 61.1 % in 2011 boosted the total number of votes cast. Turnout this year was the highest since 1993, when it was 70.9 %. The following Table 1 shows how the parties fared compared to 2011 election at a glance.
The major difference was the high voter turnout, motivated by the anti Stephen Harper sentiment. There were 3.0 million more votes cast in 2015 over 2011. However, the hardcore conservative base remained intact. Harper only lost 231,905 votes from 2011 and Liberals got 4.1 million more than 2011. So they got all of the additional votes and the strategic swing from the NDP also.
In 22 ridings, the margin of victory was 1.5 % or less. The narrowest margin was in Winnipeg’s Elmwood-Transcona, where the NDP’s Daniel Blaikie won by 51 votes, 0.1 %, over his Conservative opponent, Lawrence Toet, is the sitting MP since 2011.
Canada has first-past-the-post system where the winners take them all. So second-place finishers may feel bitter when they lose elections by a razor thin margin. Overall the Conservatives and Liberals came second most frequently, but the NDP came second to the Liberals in 64 ridings.
The NDP which took Quebec by storm in the 2011 elections fared badly this time. They won only 15 seats compared to 57 in 2011. It is obvious the Orange wave that swept Quebec in 2011 was a one day’s wonder. NDP, which won 59 out of 75 seats in 2011 won in just 16 out of 78 this time around amid the negative publicity over the contentious niqab issue. The party was unable to convince voters in the province that it was best-placed to replace Conservative leader Stephen Harper.
On the other hand relegated four years ago to seven seats around the island of Montreal, the Justin Trudeau-led Liberals roared through Quebec as Liberal candidates won 40 of the province’s 78 ridings and captured more than 35 % of the popular vote. Not since 1980 have the Liberals done this well in Quebec, when the elder Trudeau won 74 out of 75 seats. The following Table 2 shows the results province-wise elections result for 2015.
The election night showed the first-ever MPs of Afghan, Somali and Iranian origin. There was a jump in visible-minority representation in the 42nd Parliament – a measure of growing integration and active political participation among visible minority communities. At least 46 visible-minority MPs were elected on Monday, the vast majority of them being Liberal, 13.6 % of the total of 338 seats. In 2011 election 28 visible-minority MPs were elected, representing 9.1 % of the total number, but 2015 surpassed that total. Out of the total of 46 visible minorities 19 are from South Asian descent, 10 Chinese, 1 Afghan, 1 Somali and 1 Iranian. Ten MPs represent the aboriginal communities.
Many reasons are offered for the defeat of the Conservative Party poised to win a 4th mandate according to early opinion polls. Among them are (1) incumbency fatigue by voters. (2) Alienation of visible minorities with stringent immigration and terrorism laws. (3) Nikab issue. (4) Prime Minister’s authoritarian style of governance. (5) Dislike of Harper even by Conservative supporters. (6) The negative personal attacks against Justin Trudeau that “He is not ready.” (7) The party talked about defending citizens’ privacy rights, but in the name of fighting terrorism it handed intrusive powers to government via Bill C-51. (8) Through Bill 24, the government tightened Immigration laws that imposed more stringent restrictions on sponsorship, time period before one can apply for citizenship etc. (9) Making voting a bit harder under the Fair Elections Act. (10) The gutting of the long census form despite opposition. (11) Opposition to Ontario Canada Pension Plan simultaneously ignoring compelling economic arguments. (12) Harper ignoring provincial premiers.
Not one reason is responsible for the defeat of the Conservative party; it is a combination of two or more of them. An analysis of the election results show the Conservative party kept its base support more or less intact. It, managed to win 99 seats and its voter support dropped only 7.6%.
The Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau campaigned on the following platform.
- Lift the two % cap on increases to First Nations education funding and establish a new financial relationship with First Nations.
- Inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
- Launch a new competition to replace the CF-18 fighter jet and scrap the F-35 fighter program.
- Review defence capabilities with the aim of creating a more efficient military.
- Hire additional mental health professionals to support veterans.
- Reinstate the long-form census.
- Implement imported gun-marking legislation.
- Begin a review of environmental assessment processes.
- Double the number of immigration applications allowed for parents and grand-parents.
- Lift the visa requirement for Mexican travel to Canada.
Justin Trudeau broke new grounds when he named a Cabinet that looks like Canada on 4th November. In appointing 15 women MPs, first in Canadian history, he kept his promise to have gender equality in appointing Ministers. The cabinet is highly diverse, with ministers representing various ethnic backgrounds, age groups, and levels of work experience. As well, the cabinet has members representing every single Canadian province, as well as the North. At the same time he broke his election promise to restrict the number of Ministers to 25 which is now 30. The cabinet is a combination of talent and experience. There are no Deputy Ministers in Trudeau cabinet.
A total of 18 posts went to political newcomers to Ottawa. Some stars, like ex-Toronto police Chief Bill Blair and retired General Andrew Leslie, were overlooked. The cabinet includes millionaire businessman, a geoscientist, a Paralympian and a refugee who fled the Taliban.
The new Liberal cabinet also features seven from the Greater Toronto Area, where voters helped push Liberals to a historic electoral victory. Quebec elected 40 Liberals got six ministers in turn, none of which was an economic portfolio.
Bill Morneau at Finance; Chrystia Freeland at International Trade; Jane Philpott at Health; Navdeep Bains at Innovation, Science and Economic Development; Kirsty Duncan is Science minister; John McCallum takes Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, and Carolyn Bennett is at Indigenous and Northern Affairs. The important portfolio Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada went to veteran MP (Markham -Thornhill) John Mc Callum.
He is well known among the Thamil community and Thamil refugee claimants can expect fairness and compassion from him. Specially, the Ocean Lady and MV Sun Sea boat people dubbed by the Conservative Ministers as ‘terrorists’, Queue Jumpers and Human Smugglers.
The election results were a historical break for the Sikh community. Four out of the 30 ministers were from the Sikh community which shows Sikh’s rise to prominence. The important National Defence portfolio went to Harjit Singh Sajjan, Vancouver South, B.C. Even in India the homeland of many Sikhs only two hold cabinet posts in the central government. The Sikhs are 1.7% of the total population of India and world wide about 27 million and 73% live in India. In Punjab state the majority are Sikhs.
Now let us see how the Thamil candidates who contested the elections fared. There were 6 candidates in the field 3 from the NDP, 1 from the Liberal and one each from the Conservative Party and Green party respectively. The following Table 4 shows the names of candidates, their parties, votes polled etc. Only Rathika was a sitting MP others entered the ring for the first time. Out of the 6 candidates only two had a reasonable chance of winning.
Rathika led in the public opinion polls at the beginning, but was pushed to third place after her party lost the popular vote. In Toronto, Non- Liberal candidates could not survive the Liberal surge during the last one week of the campaign. No Thamil candidate can win elections depending on Thamil votes alone. They need the votes of other communities also. Gary’s timing was perfect and he waited for his turn with patience.
The Liberal government under Justin Trudeau has been quick to grabble with urgent problems. Trudeau has promised that his government will work to earn the trust of Canadians through sound policy-making, better decisions and a strong vision. Some glaring missteps by the Conservative government under Harper are being rectified. Trudeau’s first legislative priority is to lower taxes for middle-income Canadians and raise taxes for the top one % of income earners. His government will shine more light on government to ensure it remains focused on the people it is meant to serve. “Openness and transparency will be our constant companions, and we will work to restore Canadians’ trust in their government and in our democracy. We are committed to the highest ethical standards and applying the utmost care in the handling of public funds” Trudeau said.
These pronouncements are fine, but what about the lower class who toil for minimum wages? It’s the Canadian “working class,” not the “middle class,” that is truly struggling, according to reports. How the government intends to tackle child poverty, students unemployment etc.?
To Trudeau and his government the road ahead poses daunting challenges like brining in 25,000 Syrian refugees before the year end, climate change, sluggish economy, 1.4 million out of work, annual growth in 2016 and 2017 forecast to grow by only 0.1% and 0.3 % respectively, falling value of the loony and crude oil prices.
New brooms always sweep well. Trudeau will enjoy honeymoon with Canadian voters for the next 6 months, but after that?