By Jonathon Van Maren
A few brief thoughts on election night (for those who want more in-depth commentary, I co-hosted an election night livestream with my friends Scott Hayward and Alissa Golob from the political pro-life organization Right Now last night):
- Despite the fact that I am obviously disappointed, this was the result I was expecting. Only twice in Canadian history has an incumbent prime minister with a first-term majority been unseated, and despite being damaged by a never-ending string of scandals, Trudeau remained relatively popular. That said, the Tories actually beat the Liberals for the popular vote, and the Liberals currently have the smallest vote share of any government, minority or majority, in the history of the country.
- The primary reason Trudeau eked out a win is because Andrew Scheer was, to put it bluntly, a weak leader. The Conservative campaign was completely devoid of ideas, and the campaign team around Scheer obviously decided that affordability was going to be the single issue they discussed (I know they had other policies. Nobody else did.) Incidentally, that’s what every leader was campaigning on, and combined with Scheer’s lacklustre stump skills and the total absence of a political kill instinct, he essentially traveled the country stirring up apathy.
- The People’s Party of Canada was wiped out. Maxime Bernier even lost his own seat, which is not surprising based on his reputation in Ottawa circles for being a somewhat lazy politician. I never considered them a viable alternative, despite the fact that several of their candidates were whip-smart and accomplished people (such as Dr. David Haskell of Laurier University.) At this point, however, it does appear that the PPC may cost the pro-life movement a few pro-life seats. The most painful loss is Harold Albrecht, one of the best pro-life MPs with a perfect voting record. In short: the PPC didn’t damage the Conservative Party, but they did hurt the pro-life movement.
- The Trudeau Liberals may shift even further to the left, if that is even geographically possible. With their dependence on the NDP or the Bloc to keep them in power, they will probably choose to adopt a few NDP policies while keeping the rest of their “progressive” agenda steaming ahead. It’s a minority government, sure, but the only good news Jagmeet Singh has had in a long time is that he may hold the balance of power—after his incredibly poor showing, it’s the only reason his party isn’t turfing him. Tom Mulcair would have been eating Trudeau’s lunch for the duration of the campaign.
- A number of fantastic pro-life candidates won, while several high-profile Red Tories lost. Tamara Jansen won in Cloverdale-Langley City, for example, while Conservative Party deputy leader Lisa Raitt lost in Milton. Lisa Raitt was the MP who fought pro-lifers at convention to keep the line “a Conservative government would not support any legislation to regulate abortion” from being deleted from the Tory Party handbook. It should be obvious that Red Tories have no natural base, while good social conservative candidates do. The Conservative caucus heading to the House of Commons is a more pro-life group than before, unencumbered by several heavy-hitting opponents like Raitt.
- Red Tories will be scrambling in the coming weeks to claim that Scheer’s personal social conservatism was the reason he couldn’t unseat Trudeau, despite the fact that one of the reasons he consistently managed to appear weak was his refusal to actually address his personal convictions in anything resembling English. Scheer spent most of the campaign running from his pro-life record, and that undoubtedly damaged him. That said, social conservatives always get the blame in this coalition, and perversely, the Red Tories will be sure to pretend that this was a campaign fought on the credibility of the very issues that Scheer refused to discuss.
These are just my initial thoughts—there will be much more analysis in the days to come, especially as leadership challenges take shape, Trudeau’s agenda is announced, and we begin to get a clearer picture of how long this minority government will last. But for the moment: A disappointing but unsurprising night. We have more pro-life MPs in the House of Commons, fewer Red Tories, and fewer Liberals. That, at least, is good news.