Last night's election was, in many ways, the most earth-shattering of elections we've seen in a generation. If not the most earth-shattering, it can at least said to be tied with the 1993 re-alignment and utter chaos of the decade that followed for Canada's Conservative forces. Now, we potentially face a full decade of utter chaos for Canada's left-wing and centrist forces as well, and possibly even longer than that.
Because last night, yes, the Liberals went down to utter defeat, electing their smallest caucus ever with the lowest popular vote ever, and yes, the New Democrats swept Quebec and took the place as Official Opposition in a very big way, and yes, we defeated the staunchly separatist Bloc and elected the first Green representative - but it all doesn't matter because Stephen Harper won a majority government, and not just a majority, but a strong majority, with over 12 MPs over the required 155 seats.
No matter what opposition party you supported last night, you can't celebrate or mourn without realizing how bad of a situation we have just been put into. Harper and the Conservatives have found a winning strategy and have found a way to completely turn around the face of Canadian politics, and just because Jack escaped this time, doesn't mean he will next time - if he's even there next time. No, the fact is, the Conservatives managed to defeat the Liberals a little too well, and they will use that strategy again, no matter who is in charge, because it works. If you think that we just have to wait four years to turf the Conservatives, you have to be prepared for a whole lot more than that. They will use the same tricks, in the same style, and with the same people, that they did it before, and given how much Harper has deflected just criticism so far, you shouldn't expect his agenda to affect his outlook a heck of a lot more than it has already when there was already unlimited power at his grasp, thanks to a weak Opposition.
To the New Democrats, I do congratulate you guys on a win that you've worked hard at, but just know that regardless of what Jack said last night, your 102 MPs are pretty much worthless. One CBC presenter put it best: Jack traded up to be the first guy to ask a question of the Prime Minister that he doesn't really have to answer. That's about the extent of your powers right now, for the next four years, and possibly longer. All those programs you want to fight for, you want to push for, you're not going to get them - Harper knows how to co-opt the popular ones, how to make the others look foolish, and how to turn the entire table back on you. Be prepared for the same ride we went through.
And another word of advice: 58 of your 102 MPs are from Quebec, and 56 of them are completely green, and I suspect the majority of those are not going to go with your program all the time, and indeed, some may not be the kind you necessarily want in a caucus that purports to be federalist and sensible. You are now in control of a powder keg that brought down the Liberals, tore apart the Progressive Conservatives, and just completely deflated the Bloc - if you're not careful, you will be looking forward to a very short honeymoon in la belle province.
To the Liberals, I will simply say what I said before: we're a party that ran this country for eight decades for a reason. We have to find that reason again, and we have to build on it. Canadians haven't necessarily turned their backs on us, but they have sent us a message; it's time we maybe listened up.
And finally, to the Conservatives: don't let Harper bully you. You're not bad people, and I like many of your members and MPs. Some of you are extremely bright and have a great vision of what Canada's future should look like, one that even I'm inclined to agree with. But Harper's vision of Canada isn't one that I, nor do I think many of you, support. Hold Harper to account, because he's nothing without you. His power rests in his ability to control 167 members of Parliament - make sure that control comes with a price. Make sure that Harper doesn't simply have free reign. You need to ensure that, in this majority situation, Harper realizes that he is still accountable to the population of this country, to his caucus, and to you. Make him feel the pressure. Don't let his tactics intimidate you. Don't let his cabal steer this country the way you don't want it to. Conservatives have a proud history of serving this country in some of its darkest times and bringing forward some of the greatest ideas - now is not the time to let Harper taint that history once again.
It will be a wild ride over the next few years. Let's make sure Harper doesn't get free reign. We best be prepared for a fight, however.