(Paraphrased) "Let us be clear, here: this was not a victory. We simply eked out a draw in extra time."
--Rt Hon. Harry Perkins, A Very British Coup
The numbers are not final, yet. At the time of this writing, the seat count is as follows:
Liberals - 135
Conservatives - 99
Bloc Quebecois - 54
New Democrats - 19
Independents - 1
For some reason, the pollsters did not successfully predict the strength of Liberal party support. Despite this, this election breaks records.
Although the Liberals received a higher percentage of the popular support than that won by the Clark Tory minority of 1979 (which, at 35%, was the lowest level of popular support received by a party that still formed the government), it still represents the lowest percentage of popular support won by the most popular party in an election. Previous to this, Pearson's Liberals and Diefenbaker's Conservatives shared this record, when they both received roughly 37.3% of the vote in the 1962 minority.
What does all this mean? It means that although Canadians strongly disliked the growing complacency of the Liberal party, they did not find an alternative worthy of coalescing around.
Don't blame Liberal negative advertising. In my opinion, Liberal numbers dropped every time the Liberals got dirty (more on that later). Canadians looked for alternatives from the NDP and the Conservatives and, while the NDP approached the core support of its eighties heyday, the Conservatives achieved only 4.5% more than the level of support received by the Canadian Alliance in 2000. The Conservatives might be selling their policies very hard, but Canadians aren't buying.
If Martin doesn't take this election as a good swift kick in the pants and shape up (a possibility I'd rate as 50-50), Canadians will again look to the opposition to provide something better. If that opposition wishes to receive the confidence of a plurality of Canadians, they will need to offer Canadians what they seem to want: the policies of the Liberals, but the integrity of somebody else.
Canadians seem desperate to replace the Liberals... with the Liberals.
Gathering the Ballots
Being a Deputy Returning Officer amounts to long periods of boredom, coupled with a few minutes of terror. Your voters come in pulses, especially around lunch time and just after dinner. In a single poll, with a single voting booth, it can get a little chaotic.
Still the good folks at Conestoga Lodge made us feel very welcome and were good company, even as we sat for long periods of time and read books.
It's a long day. We showed up for work at 8:30 a.m., an hour before polls opened, in order to set up the area and get everything ready. For twelve hours, from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., we sat and took ballots.
These voting hours, incidentally, are new. It used to be that Ontario voted from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., but Elections Canada changed things so that Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta closed their polls at the same time. Now that election results are reported across the country the moment polls close wherever they close, Elections Canada has responded by rearranging voting times so that the polls in four big blocks (Newfoundland, the rest of the Atlantic provinces, the batch of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and finally, on its own, Britich Columbia).
This may have an effect on the turnout. We had a burst of people wanting to vote as the polls opened at 9:30 a.m. We had three people show up to vote between 8:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Turnout, in my opinion, was low (although I don't have the official numbers with me), although I did register about eleven voters who either moved into the riding or hadn't voted before, or who hadn't voted for years. Make of this what you will.
After 9:30 p.m., we spent the next two hours making sure that we counted those ballots in accordance with the rules and regulations of Elections Canada -- a stressful process where you feel that a single mistake might be deadly. I'd like to thank the scruitineers who showed up, and the volunteer electors (including my father) that we managed to corral in order to make sure that there were enough people around to keep everything honest. They were most patient.
It's late now, but democracy has had its big day in Canada. An effective election took place thanks to the dedicated efforts of thousands of individual Canadians.
Must sleep now.
How about those Conservative numbers in Saskatchewan, eh? The birthplace of the NDP swept in Conservatives at a rate that equalled that of Alberta. Do we blame Lorne Calvert? Who'd have thunk it?