Reading the tea leaves in Newfoundland and Labrador

Guest blogger Brad Cabana gives his outsider perspective on election results

It’s the kind of morning where you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. On the one hand, this province essentially rejected the Harper government and Ms Dunderdale’s exercise of “influence”. On the other hand, we have a majority federal government that was rejected by 60% of the electorate and essentially is without representation from the two most nationalistic provinces in the country. I am pleased at the election of Judy Foote, our local Liberal MP, but concerned that the federal Liberal Party lies on the rocks.

The biggest political story from our province had to be the failure of the Dunderdale PCs to influence the vote. In fact, going over the numbers from 2008 and today’s, the federal Liberal vote was essentially untouched. The Conservatives did increase their vote, but not at a significant cost to the Liberals. Case in point, the Random-Burin-St. Georges riding. The Liberal vote remained virtually the same – in fact it increased by 400. The Conservative vote almost doubled, but not at the expense of any other Party. The NDP vote essentially remained the same.

So the bottom line is a vote representing 18% of the overall vote came out to vote, whereas in 2008 it stayed home. Essentially, that analysis happened throughout most of the Province. St. John’s Mount Pearl saw 20% of the Liberal vote bleed to the NDP candidate Ryan Cleary – an exception to the overall trend. In Labrador, the Liberal candidate lost 26% of his vote, but the Conservative candidate benifitted from 2100 votes that did not show up to vote in 2008.

Looking toward the future I see conflict. The Harper Conservatives are, after all, a marriage of the western Reform movement and the Harris Conservatives of Ontario. The Progressive element of the old Party is either gone or marginalized. We now have a dangerous combination of an idealog in the drivers seat, and an extremely polarized electorate. Then add to that the two most nationalistic provinces in Canada rejected that government. Then focus on the silent iceberg laying in wait – the renegotiation of our equalization formulas in 2012-2013. Despite all the talk of gun registries, etc., the real fights happen over dollars and cents.

Quebec thoughts

Quebec will be angling for taking more, the west will be angling for giving less, and so it goes. Again, the danger is the two most nationalistic provinces are essentially not in the government federally, so their provincial governments will come more to the fore. In our case that is the Dunderdale government. The thought “lambs to the slaughter” comes to mind. In Quebec’s case it will mean the Parti Quebecois – a separatist Party that is more or less guaranteed to win the next provincial election there. It should have been a major point of anxiety for everyone to envision a right wing Harper majority negotiating with a left wing, separatist Party in Quebec. Apparently, that thought did not factor into the Ontario thinking process.

It’s odd that Ontario did not play it’s traditional role as a bridge for Quebec to the rest of the country. Instead it threw it’s lot in with the old Reform Party crowd. Is that an act of self-preservation on their part? Is that Ontario’s way of choosing sides so it won’t rattle the goose that laid the golden egg – Fort MacMurray? With massive provincial debt crippling Quebec and Ontario, and costs going through the roof, did Ontario decide their collective interest lay with the boys from the West? Sounds like it to me. Again, a dangerous shift for the unity of the country. Don’t get me wrong. The folks out West are Canadians like the rest of us. The problem is when the historical, internal, political culture and national rhythms fracture so goes the ties that bind. This is the real danger of last night’s vote. I see us sleep walking toward that conflict – eyes wide shut.

One last thought

If an NDPer had to win last night, Ryan Cleary is a man who will stand and fight for Newfoundland and Labrador. I wonder though, speaking of the two most nationalistic provinces, how a man so passionate and sincere about this Province will fare in a caucus dominated by soft nationalistic MPs from Quebec? It may well be a litmus test to my theory of this oncoming national divide.

For more political blogging visit Cabana’s Rock Solid Politics

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