What Does the B.C. Liberals Win Mean for the Canadian Political Landscape?
Surprisingly, after being more than 20 points behind the NDP, the B.C. Liberals did not only win another majority government, but in fact increased their majority in the provincial legislature. Pollsters had predicted with 90% and higher probability the opposite result.
It was not first election that yielded such results. The last elections in Alberta and Ontario, and even the last federal election were not very well predicted. However, what do these surprising results mean for Canadian politics in general?
At first, it seems that Canadians are or have become very conservative in regards to change. All the four elections have kept the current government. The federal government went from minority to majority, the B.C. government increase its majority, the Alberta government retained majority and even with ever more mounting scandals, the Ontario government only missed majority by one seat despite being down by at least 9% some weeks before the election.
One of the common issues in all those elections seem to be negative election ads. In each and every case, the government had a very persistent and some would say nasty campaign to in particular vilify the opposition leader. The campaigns of the winning governments seemed to be focused on polemic and style rather than substance.
So, without doubt, this will mean that negative ads will not only stay, but very likely increase. Elections will become more negative and will more try to sensitise people to fears than allow positive and substantive issues to be discussed. This will even more create a democracy of power rather than issues. Governments as the Liberal government in Ontario will be more and more emboldened to pursue an agenda that retains their power, rather than to follow a certain distinguishable policy.
Secondly, oppositions will have a harder and harder job to keep governments accountable. On the one hand, government are able to use every parliamentary procedure in the book to the advantage, proroguing parliaments, refusing to allow motions of no-confidence to be voted on, etc, even when they are in the minority. And even if such motions would be allowed, oppositions may be very vary to use them, since the electorate does not seem to hold bad or even corrupted governments accountable, if the recent results are extrapolated, a minority government might even be awarded despite scandalous governing with a majority. So why would an opposition in a minority government make it even easier for the governing party to cover up all the scandals they are involved in.
It is also noticeable that the press and media are not taking their important place as out-of-parliament opposition. Both are highly partisan and routinely overlook serious infringements to the democracy itself. The trivialisation of the scandals leaves the audience without of understanding of the real issues, and make them turn away from politics all together as every decreasing voter participation shows.
So as long as the populae does not stand up and demands full transparency and accountability from their politicians or tells them to take a hike at the next election despite maybe representing the same ideology, nothing will change. At some point in democracy, transparency and accountability are more important than anything else. And in particular at a time when al parties are crowding in the middle, and hence do not really distinguish themselves in their programs, the addiction to power must be countered with fearlessness of change. This time is now.