2008 Election Night Musings

Originally posted from August 26, 2008

Well, I’m comfortably seated in front of my television set (got my popcorn!), tuned in to CBC Newsworld (Atlantic Canada feed) ready to get the Atlantic Canada results. I’m glad that silly rule about not broadcasting the Atlantic Canada results until polls closed elsewhere in the country has been repealed (thank you, Mr. Harper!). As I said, especially in the age of the Internet, it was quite an anachronism, and not a particularly quaint one at that. It might be worthwhile to hold back announcing the results until the entire country has voted, but until then, I’m going to watch the results as they come in.

20:00: Coverage begins. Mansbridge welcomes us. Polls have closed in Atlantic Canada, and here’s the CBC’s slick new election coverage studio.

20:02: They have neat graphics displaying logos for all the mainstream parties, and the Greens. Heh! I guess there’s some merit in being prepared, but still: if the Greens get a single seat (even Elizabeth May’s), I’ll eat my hat!

20:03: Okay, that will teach me to make statements like that. Elizabeth May out to a 5 vote lead on Peter MacKay. One poll reporting, though.

20:05: Our panelists today are the usual suspects: John Manley for the Liberals, Ernie Eves for the Conservatives, and Svend Robinson for the NDP.

20:07: Chantal Hebert interviewed, says Quebec is too close to call and the results could be all over the place. The struggle seems to be between the Liberals and the Bloc in Montreal and the Conservatives and the Bloc elsewhere, which is fine by me.

20:10: What’s this “Other” seat? An independent? Where?

20:11: So far: LIB 4, CON 2, OTH 1. These results are almost exclusively in Newfoundland. Who is this “Other” vote?

20:13: Ernie Eves pontificates on the Conservatives’ chances in Ontario. Who is this “Other”, dammit!

20:15: Well, well! The “Other” turns out to be the Rhino candidate for St. John’s East. And he’s been declared elected! Defeated Conservative candidate Norman Doyle held that riding for 15 years! I’m thinking that the Atlantic Accord kerfuffle must be involved, though I didn’t expect the Rhinos would benefit.

20:17: The Conservatives keep two seats in Newfoundland. Probably much to Danny William’s chagrin. Mind you, the results for Nova Scotia are piling up the Liberals’ lead. Not unexpectedly.

20:20: Ah, the first NDP seat to be declared elected. Alexa stays in parliament!

20:21: Elizabeth May now holds a 50 vote lead on Peter MacKay, with a quarter of the polls reporting. It’s going to be a long night in Central Nova.

20:23: Weirder and weirder. Leading and elected results: LIB 8, CON: 3, OTH 3, NDP 3, GRN 1. Who are the two additional “Other” candidates?

20:25: The two others? Rhinos, both of them, and both declared elected, taking Bill Casey’s old riding and toppling NDPer Peter Stoffer in Sackville—Eastern Shore; what’s going on?

20:30: Huh? PEI ousts three Liberals for Others?! Are these Rhinos too?

20:32: Yup! Leading and elected results now LIB 9, OTH 6, CON 3, NDP 3, GRN 1. The CBC needs to change their abbreviation from OTH to RHI, I guess. Ironically, they can keep the grey colour on their graphics.

20:35: Okay, the CBC have just made the change. Results now read LIB 10, RHI 6, CON 4, NDP 3, GRN 1. Hilariously, they’re using a file image of a Rhinoceros in a zoo as their party logo. Mansbridge has just apologized saying that researchers are hastily trying to find the official logo of the Rhinoceros Party.

20:36: I just realized that Rhinos are six seats away from achieving official party status in parliament. I then further realize that, right now, they’re in the official opposition spot. How weird this that? Could you imagine Stephane Dion or Stephen Harper debating these guys in Question Period?

20:40: Peter MacKay has cut Elizabeth May’s lead in Central Nova to 12, with half the polls reporting. Strange how that’s not the story of the night.

20:45: Rhinos leading and elected in four New Brunswick ridings, taking out three Liberals and one Conservative. Andy Scott, defeated! The results for Atlantic Canada are now at LIB 12, RHI 10, CON 5, NDP 4, GRN 1. The Rhinos are just two seats away from official party status!

You know, I’m reminded of the results of the 1997 federal election, where the surprise of the night was that the Liberals were almost wiped from the map in Atlantic Canada and the PCs and NDP given new leases on life. Perhaps this is a repeat of the earlier aberration?

Even though the Liberals are in the lead, they can’t be happy with the results. The Conservatives look as though they’ve been hurt by the Atlantic Accord, but those votes haven’t swung the Liberals’ way. Indeed, the Liberals have lost eight seats compared to the 2006 election results.

20:50: Elizabeth May retains a slim lead over Peter MacKay. Other than the Rhinos, the Greens have to be the only ones smiling tonight. Actually, are the Rhinos even smiling, or are they standing around in shock?

20:58: Well, Mansbridge says the polls are about to close from Quebec to Saskatchewan. This should lend some much needed normality to the night’s results.


21:01: And out of the gate the BQ get three seats. The Conservatives and the Liberals manage 1 each.

21:03: Four Rhinos added to their totals? Okaaaaaaay.

21:05: Twelve Rhinos?!

21:08: Fourteen Rhinos?! What the heck is going on?!!?

21:12: Oh, man, this is just weird. Gilles Duceppe is fighting for his life in his own seat. Stephane Dion is barely holding on, and Jack Layton is twenty votes behind!

21:15: There are Rhinos leading and elected in all eight provinces to report so far. They’re outpacing the Conservatives and closing in on the Liberal lead.

21:20: This is whacked. This is just… whacked!

21:22: Calgary Grit shares my confusion. ChuckerCanuck is more succinct (and that Garth Turner reference? Burn!)

21:25: Oh… sh———

21:27: They’ve just declared Michael Ignatieff defeated; yet another Rhino pickup!

21:30: The Conservatives have just pulled ahead of the Liberals, 33-32, and the Albertan results are still to come. There’d be jubilation in Conservative Party headquarters if the Rhinos weren’t sitting pretty with 50 seats!

21:35: Make that 60 seats.

21:40: The Rhinos have just taken Nunavut. Go figure.

21:42: Jack Layton has just lost Toronto-Danforth, although there may be a recount. Duceppe is also out. Stephane Dion has been declared elected, but I can’t help but wonder what his future is.

21:44: Pat Martin has been declared elected for the NDP in Manitoba and the panel is speculating on whether he’ll be the next NDP leader, or Olivia Chow (how ironic is that?). I’m betting Bill Blaikie is regretting retiring from politics, now (although his riding has fallen to the Rhinos).

21:45: The Liberals have done most of the bleeding so far, but now it seems like it’s the Conservatives turn. Only 20 seats in Ontario (compared to over 40 in 2006), and half the Conservative seats gone in Saskatchewan (I guess the Wheat Board is more popular than they thought, but not popular enough to switch votes to the Liberals).

21:47: The NDP have been shut out of Saskatchewan, again. Lorne Nystrom is on, now, talking about the NDP and how it lost the protest vote. The Liberals are down to just Ralph Goodale in that province. Rhinos have fifteen seats in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

21:49: The CBC have just declared a Rhinoceros Party minority government, at least. Standings now at RHI 90, CON 38, LIB 35, BQ 20, NDP 12, GRN 2. What took them so long to make the call? Incredulity, I’m betting.

21:50: Again, the only other party to smile tonight are the Greens. May has been declared the winner of Central Nova. Her margin of 350 votes is probably too wide to be defeated in a recount. And the Greens have just been declared elected in Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, toppling the Conservative. I remember that riding: Green candidate Shane Jolley was one of the most successful Green candidates in 2006. It seems that the Rhino vote helped split the riding. The Liberals and Conservatives bled support, allowing the Greens to come up the middle.

21:53: Final results in Quebec: RHI 45, BQ 19, CON 6, LIB 5. A disaster for the BQ right up there with the PQ being relegated to third party status in the National Assembly.

21:55: Ah, Duceppe is walking through the BQ faithful, about to address the party. Should be interesting.

Political fortunes are fickle, aren’t they? After all, Duceppe was written off in 2000 after making the mistake of being photographed in a hair net while visiting a cheese factory; he went on to rejuvenate his party’s fortunes in 2004 and stand as the senior party leader by the time the 2004 election rolled around. Now he’s being written off a second time. And I think this time it’s permanent.

21:57: Geez, bitter much, Gilles? Can’t blame this on money and the ethnic vote. I’m betting the Bloc supporters are so upset they’ll want to separate… from Quebec.

21:58: That’s it: Duceppe has announced his resignation. Is this the end of the BQ as a political force in Ottawa?

21:59: The CBC has just cut him off. We’re about to go to the results from Alberta and BC.


This will decide whether we have a Rhino minority or a majority. It’s going to be close. I’m betting minority. There’s no way they can get enough seats out of Alberta, is there? Who the heck will be their coalition partner? Or will the four other parties band together and relegate the Rhinos to opposition? That sort of thing would be just the scenario I’d expect from the Rhino’s political theatre.

22:03: Conservative numbers piling up, as expected. Never thought I would be cheering them on like this. Standings now RHI: 100, CON: 50, LIB: 38, BQ: 19, NDP: 13, GRN: 2

22:05: Woah, Rahim Jaffer is losing by 50 votes to the NDPer Linda Duncan. The Rhinos have taken 1000 votes in this riding. Are we seeing more Rhino vote splitting as we saw in Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound?

22:07: Double woah! Rob Anders losing to the Rhino candidate! Rhinos leading in Myron Thompson’s old seat!

22:10: I’m taking a moment to consider Liberal and Conservative casualties and what the parties will look like after tonight. Some big names are gone while others are staying on and are likely leadership candidates. For the Conservatives, Flaherty is gone, MacKay is gone, as is Diane Finlay and Michael Chong. They get to keep Tony Clament, Maxime Bernier, and Bev Oda. The Liberals lose David McGuinty, John McCallum, Maurizio Bevilacqua, Garth Turner, Michael Ignatieff, and Ken Dryden, but keep (or gain) Bob Rae, Gerard Kennedy, Justin Trudeau and Martha Hall Finlay. Actually, a fair chunk of Dion’s “dream team” is intact. Will they be able to work together to improve Liberal fortunes in parliament, or will they dissolve into infighting as they sense a repeat of the last leadership race?

22:12: Peter Milliken re-elected, and probably a shoe-in for Speaker, yet again. It should be interesting to see how he handles the Rhinos in parliament, and how the Rhinos handle him.

22:13: Rhinos leading and elected in four Albertan seats?! What the hell is going on?!!?

22:15: Rob Anders has been declared defeated. And there was much rejoicing.

22:17: Stephen Harper is faring far better than the other political leaders, 1000 votes up on the Rhino candidate. Even so, I wonder as to his future.

22:20: The territories have all gone Rhino. It’s like a grey landslide… Actually, real landslides are usually grey, aren’t they?

22:23: Oh, dear. The BC results are looking really good for the Rhinos right now. We may be getting the answer about whether this is a Rhino majority pretty soon. It could be an interesting four years.

22:25: The CBC election desk has made its declaration:


Oh. My. God.

22:30: Here’s the final tally: RHI: 160, CON 69, LIB 41, BQ 19, NDP 17, GRN 2.

Didn’t the Canadian Alliance/Conservatives sit as the official opposition with nearly 70 seats back in 2000? Back then, that was their best performance ever. I bet they never expected to be back at that level, facing the man they’ll be facing across the aisle.

22:32: here’s the popular vote: Rhinos: 30.5%, Conservatives: 23%, Liberals: 22%, NDP: 12%, Green: 6.5%, Bloc: 6%

The Rhinos have shattered the record, previously held by Stephen Harper, of obtaining the lowest level of popular support by the most popular party in an election (30.5% compared to 36.3%). They’ve also blasted the record, previously held by Joe Clark, of obtaining the lowest level of popular support by any party that ended up forming the government (35.7%). And yet these guys have a majority. That’s just wrong. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: our first-past-the-post system is a disaster waiting to happen. Could this be the disaster which proves my point? Time will tell.

22:35: Estimates place voter turnout at between 78-81%. That’s a sharp increase from the 2006 election’s turnout of 64.7%. A quick calculation tells me that that’s around 3,000,000 additional voters (no wonder there were line-ups across the country). So, a lot of those individuals decided to screw with the mind of our elected politicians. Though that number is still less than the Rhino popular vote, so the established parties lost votes as well.

O_o — Oh, dear. I think voters just took my advice. Oh, dear!

Er… I’m sorry?

22:40: Still watching the coverage. Nothing has changed. On a hunch, I flipped over to CNN. Larry King has been pre-empted by coverage of the “shocking results” in Canada. We bumped Paris Hilton!

22:41: Live news coverage on ABC, NBC and CBS. My local FOX affiliate is still showing a repeat of Married: With Children, however. A pity. I’d be interested to see Bill O’Reilly pop a vein over this.

22:43: Already sick and tired of hearing Bob Costas go on about the differences between the Canadian and American political systems. Switch back to CBC. Everybody still in a state of shock. Nothing is happening. Getting a little antsy.

22:50: Peter Mansbridge wonders aloud where the mainstream party leaders are. Drowning their sorrows, perhaps?

22:51: God, they keep switching between the three party headquarters. It’s like a funeral in each one. The hockey arena rented by the BQ has now emptied out; it’s eerie.

22:53: People are converging on Rhino party campaign headquarters, which is in some church basement in Victoria. The CBC is showing pictures of convoys of camera trucks descending on the area.

22:55: Spontaneous celebrations (or demonstrations?) in Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Vancouver and Calgary. Police are out in force to keep order. I open my window and can hear horns honking in downtown Kitchener, rather like the time the Jays won the 1993 World Series. I’m also reminded of referendum night back in 1995. Mostly peaceful. A lot of people standing around, staring in shock.

23:00: Here we go: Jack Layton is heading through crowds of NDP supporters, about to address the party. Olivia Chow is by his side. She gets to keep her seat. Will she be the next NDP leader?

23:02: A pretty humble speech by Mr. Layton, all about power to the people. Yup, the people certainly exercised a lot of power tonight.

23:03: He’s done it: he has resigned the leadership of the NDP. Let the leadership contest begin!

23:04: Short but sweet. Nice hug between Layton and his family. Quite a sad sight, actually, especially with its quiet dignity.

23:05: Here comes Stephane Dion, through the Liberal crowd.

23:07: Speaking in French. From the translation, it seems quite a dignified, humble speech.

23:08: And here we go: resigning the leadership, but staying on until the party finds a replacement.

23:10: It’s all over but for the hugging.

23:12: And here it comes: Stephen Harper is heading through the crowd.

23:15: He’s on the podium. Say what you will about Conservatives, but they can cheer VERY loud.

23:17: They’re still cheering him.

23:21: They’re still cheering him.

23:23: This is the longest applause I’ve heard for any losing party leader anywhere, anytime.

I’m reminded of Larry Grossman and the Progressive Conservative’s terrible defeat in the 1986 Ontario election. Party faithful kept on cheering, almost as if they didn’t want their leader to speak and admit defeat.

23:25: Finally gets to speak. Says five words. Interrupted by cheers.

23:27: And there goes Harper, resigning the leadership of the Conservatives. He’ll hand the party leadership to an interim leader appointed by the party caucus at a meeting to be held tomorrow, and again I’m reminded of Larry Grossman. Who will be the Conservatives’ new Andy Brant, I wonder?

23:30: A pretty classy speech, actually. I’ll say this about our politicians: they know how to lose with grace.

I actually feel sorry for Stephen Harper; I had my problems with him, but he didn’t do a bad job as Prime Minister. I was perfectly happy for him to continue with a minority government, but then the people have spoken, haven’t they? I have to hope that they know what they’re doing. But I thought the electorate was pretty volatile and had been for some time. You know, they’ve done strange things before, like give Bob Rae a majority government, when they felt that the mainstream parties weren’t serving them properly. Maybe this will be a lesson learned. I expect the Liberals, the Conservatives and the NDP will all be doing some soul searching. The question is, how much soul searching will Canadians do when they realize that they’ve elected a whimsical protest party to power?

23:32: We now have pictures of the inside of the Rhinocerous Party headquarters, where reporters are close to outnumbering participants (although plenty are apparently streaming in through the doors). Geez, can you say deer-in-the-headlights look?

23:35: Rhino Party leader has just stepped to the podium. Geez, the hall has gone suddenly silent.

23:40: This is a pretty serious speech, after the initial joke. We’re humbled, et cetera. We don’t take the mantle lightly.

23:41: They will form the government.

23:42: They will form the government tomorrow. Can they do that? What sort of throne speech can they prepare in twelve hours?

23:45: “You ain’t seen nothing yet”? Coupled with a tape of Bachmann-Turner Overdrive on a ghetto blaster?

Oh, dear. It’s going to be an interesting four years.

23:47: Mansbridge reports that the governor of the Bank of Canada has called a meeting with the boards of directors of the country’s major stock markets. You know, you guys: if you want to forestall a sense of panic, it might be a good idea to… you know… NOT PANIC?

23:50: Four years? God!

23:55: Well, we shall see. Perhaps it’s a good idea to convene parliament right away. Minimizes the uncertainty that’s bound to come out from this vote.

00:00: The people are still celebrating and/or standing around in shock in the streets across Canada. All of the panelists have their ties off and are looking wiped. Mansbridge is joking about stripping down to his undershirt. Please, no. I’m turning in. I’d better get a lot of sleep in order to minimize the national headache that’s to come, tomorrow.

00:05: And my popcorn’s gotten cold.

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