Two years of minority parliament and several weeks of rather bland campaigning later the election seems to have taken the country right back to where it was in 2019 before the pandemic and all of its staggering consequences and impacts.
The Liberals lost the popular vote as in 2019 but just as then will hold on to a minority while all the parties landed seat-wise almost exactly where they began.
While many mainstream commentators are saying that the “message” from voters is that they want the politicians to “work together,” “get back to work” or some other platitude, it seems more likely that the electorate simply found no compelling reason to switch things up.
The narratives of the NDP and the Conservatives failed to motivate people to vote for “change” as it would be seen in the very limited and limiting context of Canadian mainstream elections.
Looking at the major parties Trudeau and the Liberals managed to swing the early momentum that O’Toole appeared to have back through both fearmongering (which does not mean that they were wrong to say people should fear the Conservatives) and the good fortune that O’Toole’s campaign peaked early enough for people to have second thoughts.
This is likely to save the $10 a day daycare plans, which is an objectively good thing, but there will almost certainly be little else that is exciting out of this government. I suspect we will see a lot more of the same, which on several fronts, such as foreign policy, is rather reactionary and which will always favour the interests of capital.
O’Toole came out on election night and gave an unexpectedly punchy and well delivered “concession” speech that clearly was aimed at starting to build a case to his caucus that he should be allowed to keep his job. It is ironic that he seemed much more enthusiastic and focused doing this than he did stumbling through multiple flipflops over the course of the past few weeks.
The Conservatives did win the popular vote but the knives will be out from the right-wing of his caucus who will blame his alleged “shift to the centre” for allowing the People’s Party (PPC) to siphon off enough votes to prevent a possibly significantly better result. This shift was more in tone than anything else and O’Toole’s lackluster final stretch and inability to articulate coherent stands on issues like assault rifles and healthcare along with his stated desire to blow up the daycare plan are probably what actually dragged them down.
Fortunately the PPC, while seeing a rise in popular vote, failed to breakthrough to any seats and given that the rise was fueled by the pandemic it is not at all clear that it will be maintained.
Jagmeet Singh and the NDP simply stalled right where they were at though, with the usual NDP cult like approach to these matters, no doubt they will attempt to spin it as a great success and part of “building” again towards that glorious moment when Jack Layton came in second and the country was plunged into four years of the most right-wing government in the modern Canadian era.
People can smell bullshit and as I related in The Left Chapter’s election roundups, the NDP was spreading a lot of it as were its left sheepdogging supporters who pronounced it as “the most left-wing NDP campaign ever” while glossing over the reality and fine print. As if that is actually saying something of interest anyway even were it true given it would be a pretty low bar to climb over.
We even saw the BS in action last night when a notably subdued Singh during his few minutes went on about how the NDP would continue to fight to make the “superrich” (he can’t even just say the rich) and billionaires “pay” while mere moments later taking credit for the scandalous boondoggle that is the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) that resulted in the greatest transfer of wealth in Canada from the people and government to the corporations and CEOs since at least 2008.
While it was not a disaster for the NDP trying to claim it as anything other than stagnation should fall flat. The NDP capacity for self-delusion is large, however.
It was, on the other hand, an unmitigated disaster for the Greens that was only partly offset by an unexpected win in Ontario which will leave them with the same number of two seats that they had going in. But their vote went down dramatically and Paul Manly lost his seat in British Columbia which has to be a painful setback given that he was widely expected to win.
Annamie Paul’s leadership has proven catastrophic. She focused, as well, all her energies on winning her own seat—which may have made a certain amount of sense—and spectacularly failed to do so coming in fourth.
It is very hard to see how she can remain on as leader.
Michael Laxer is a political activist, a two-time former candidate and former election organizer for the NDP, and a former socialist candidate for Toronto City Council in 2010 and 2014.
This article originally appeared on Michael Laxer’s blog, The Left Chapter.