Voting wasn’t a lot of fun this year, but I got out and did my civic duty.
The voting station I had to go to was divided into 12 different polling sections. Lucky me, I was in the section where all the university students were dumped. So I had to stand in a long line for half an hour to vote while at least six of the other sections didn’t have a single person vote the whole time I was waiting. One of my neighbours was working as an elections official and I remarked off-handedly to her that the planning was terrible. She insisted that it was actually working really well, the only problem was that all the students were in my voting section. I thought this sort of made my point. No one had planned for this? For one section having ten times as many voters as all the other sections combined? I wasn’t sure if she’d understood so I said again, “Well, that’s bad planning.” She dug in deeper, pointing to all the desks for the sections where no one was voting and where the officials were sitting back doing nothing and looking bored. “You see,” she said, “some of the sections aren’t busy at all.” At this point I was glad I had a mask covering my face so that she wouldn’t see my gawping. “Yes,” I tried again. “I can see that the other sections aren’t busy. But there’s a line with sixty people in it for this one. That’s poor planning.”
“No it’s not,” she said. “You’re only saying that because you’re in the line with all the people in it.”
Like I say, voting wasn’t a lot of fun.
I begin with this anecdote to make a couple of points. First: voting is still too big a hassle. One old fellow who came in while I was waiting in line got vocally angry and took it out on the officials, telling them it was a disgrace before stalking off without voting. The second point follows from the first: the lines were just another thing to piss people off. I thought calling an election was a stupid move. The Liberals clearly figured they were going to upgrade to a majority government, but I don’t see how that was ever in the cards. I’ve written before about how we’re living in an age of anger, and the pandemic has only made people angrier. Why would a party in power want to test an angry electorate? Poor planning!
Now on to the election results.
As expected (and I predicted) it was a tight race but Toronto and Montreal came through for the Liberals again. The new house will look almost exactly the same as the old house. The Liberals will again have a minority government.
I can only think of this as a Pyrrhic victory, as it doesn’t put them in any better position than the one they were in, underlines the pointlessness of the whole exercise (which cost upwards of $600 million), and I think sets the Liberals up for the kind of massive backlash the Tories experienced in 1993 after Mulroney won an improbable majority in ’88. They are less popular now than they were and are going to have to wear this. Trudeau immediately claimed a “clear mandate” but early results had the Conservatives actually receiving a larger percentage of the popular vote. That’s not a very clear mandate to my eye.
I think the Conservatives had the right idea in tacking to the left — however insincerely — though their “Secure the Future” campaign, with a logo that looked like a bunch of interlocking padlocks, seemed kind of threatening, especially given that I think the target demographic skewed older and more affluent. And securing their future means something different than securing a decent future for the rest of us.
Erin O’Toole was not an inspiring leader, but he played his cards the right way I believe. American-style, right-wing nuttery won’t work here, for various reasons. Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada didn’t have the regional base that the old Reform Party (now the Conservative Party) had, and in a first-past-the-post system it’s impossible to make any kind of dent on the two-party status quo.
Meaning that the NDP unsurprisingly failed to achieve any kind of breakthrough, again, while the Greens disappeared (with Annamie Paul finishing fourth in her own riding). I don’t know what the Greens should do at this point. Not only are they never going to have any kind of voice in FPTP, they aren’t even going to have any influence on shaping policy going forward. The environment as an issue simply isn’t a priority for any appreciable part of the electorate.
So there you have it. An election that nobody wanted ending with a result that will make nobody happy. Which will lead, I am sure, to more anger. A forecast of sunny days ahead.