Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I attended a Liberal Party rally in downtown Vancouver last night to cover the event for The Ubyssey, UBC's student newspaper. It was a bloodbath for the Liberals, winning only five of a possible 36 seats in BC, but two of the winning candidates — Hedy Fry, and Ujjal Dosanjh— were in attendance and full of fire and brimstone for the New Democratic and Green Party leaders. Basically, they blamed their loss on vote splitting, on the New Democrats fooling Canadians into thinking they could form a government, on the Greens for being the "Ralph Nader" of Canadian politics, and the media for not doing its job properly in failing to show Canadians Dion was a better choice for prime minister than Harper.
I understand the argument on vote splitting, but I think it's pompous and naive of the Liberals to believe Canadians had been "tricked" into voting for Jack Layton or Elizabeth May. I, for one, had a really hard time deciding who to vote for this time around; the Liberals, NDP, and Greens all had positions that I agreed with, but they also had positions I disagreed with. I usually vote NDP, but Jack Layton rubbed me the wrong way this election, particularly with his attempt to block Elizabeth May from the leadership debates. But I also don't agree with the Green Party's position on the seal hunt. I was tempted to voted Liberal, but since moving to Vancouver poverty and homelessness has become an important issue to me, and the gap between the rich and poor increased dramatically under the Liberal government during the 1990's. When it came down to the wire I sucked up my dislike of Layton and voted NDP.
Conservatives only took 44.4 per cent of the vote in BC, and 37.63 per cent of the vote in Canada as a whole — hardly the 50 per cent plus one ideal for a winning party. If you believe what the Liberals claim about vote splitting and "stealing", the NDP, Greens, and Liberals combined took 51.24 per cent of the country's vote, meaning the majority of Canadians did not support the Conservative government. Fair enough, but the Liberals are assuming Canadians who didn't want a Conservative government were "confused" and would have voted Liberal if they had known better.
The NDP might not be forming a government anytime soon, but they did increase their seat count from 19 t0 29 in the 2006 election, and to 37 during this election — a long way from a minority government, but steadily rising. I'm no rocket scientist, but I think this means there are some Canadians out there who identify more with the NDP platform than Liberal or Conservative.
The Greens didn't get any seats this time, but they did take 6.8 per cent of the vote — more than the previous election. Oh, and then there's the Bloq Quebecois with 50 seats out of a possible 75. Perhaps it was because it was a British Columbia rally, but neither Fry nor Dosanjh mentioned the Gilles Duceppe when listing off election scapegoats.
I am disappointed with the outcome of last night's election — particularly the record low voter turnout (less than 50 per cent in Newfoundland? Seriously?!) — but I think the blame for the Conservative minority government should fall mostly on our first past the post voting system. Most of the opposition parties supported a reformed proportional representation electoral system, such as Mixed Member Proportionality, though this was a new stance for the Liberals - perhaps because they haven't been able to form a majority government since 2002. Whether or not they'll maintain this stance if they should form government again remains to be seen.
Photo: Vancouver Centre MP Hedy Fry. Credit: Alfred Hermida, http://flickr.com/photos/hermida/2888671333/