Canada gets a new government

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Canadians yesterday voted to oust the Liberal government and give the Conservative party a chance to form a minority government. Here are the official results (English version), and here is the excellent Wikipedia entry. And here is Ed Morrissey's excellent Captain's Quarters blog. The Minnesota-based Morrissey did yeoman service to Canadian politics last year by making public the Gomery report on the Liberal Party's corrupt practices. Morrissey live-blogged the results last night and attracted so many page viewers that his server at times failed to connect. Check out his live-blogging and his references to Canadian blogs if you like.

The Conservatives won, but not by as large a margin as they were leading in most recent polls. Their popular vote lead over the Liberals was 36-30 percent, almost exactly a reversal of the 2004 popular vote. The left-wing New Democrats won 17 percent, up from 16 percent in 2004, and the Bloc Quebecois, on the ballot only in Quebec, won 10 percent, down from 12 percent in 2004. After the 2004 election, Liberals led in seats in Parliament by 135-99, with 19 New Democrats and 54 Bloc Quebecois. Now Conservatives lead by a narrower margin, 124-103, with 29 New Democrats and 51 Bloc Quebecois. Together the Conservatives and the BQ hold 175 seats, a comfortable majority in a Parliament of 308.

U.S. conservatives listening to the CBC election night broadcast on C-SPAN may have been irritated by the commentators who insisted over and over that this was not a vote for conservative policies but just a rejection of a corrupt party that had been in power too long, and that the Conservatives were just being given a tryout, not a mandate. But I think that was fair comment. The Liberals and the NDP together got 48 percent of the popular votes, to 46 percent for the Conservatives and the BQ together — and the BQ is by no means a conservative party. The big surprise of the evening was the Conservatives' increase in Quebec, where they went from 9 percent of the popular vote to 25 percent and from zero seats to 10, while the Liberals went from 34 percent of the popular vote to 21 percent and from 21 seats to 13. If it were not for this shift in Quebec, the Conservatives would have ended up with 114 seats and the Liberals 111, and the prospect for a stable Conservative-led government would have been dismal.

We are used to a huge contrast in the United States between our red states and blue states, with Massachusetts voting 62 percent for John Kerry and Utah 72 percent for George W. Bush. But the regional contrasts are even sharper in Canada. Quebec has its own Francophone politics, and the big story here was the rise of the Conservatives to second place. Conservatives won rural ridings (the Canadian word for districts) and a plurality of the popular vote in metro Quebec. The Liberals won only in Anglophone and immigrants ridings in metro Montreal. The fact that the BQ got well under 50 percent of the vote in the province is an indication that secessionist feeling in Quebec is ebbing.

In only two provinces did any party win a popular vote majority: the Liberals won 53 percent in tiny Prince Edward Island, while the Conservatives won 65 percent in booming Alberta. Conservatives failed to win the popular vote in Ontario, the largest province, but reduced the Liberals' popular vote lead there from 45 percent-31 percent to 40 percent-35 percent. Almost all of that plurality came in metro Toronto, where Liberals won 51 percent of the popular vote and 20 of 23 ridings (the other three went to the NDP). Here are the popular vote percentages for the parties for Canada's largest metro areas:

Metro area Cons Lib NDP BQ

CANADA 36 30 17 10

Montreal 15 38 10 32

Ottawa 41 35 17

Toronto 24 51 20

Winnipeg 35 32 28

Calgary 65 16 10

Edmonton 56 22 16

Vancouver 22 42 30

It's hard to believe they're all in the same country. Note that none of these metro areas produces results close to the national average, except possibly for Winnipeg. The Conservatives are barely a presence in Montreal; the Liberals are barely a presence in Calgary.

The Liberal Party is now primarily the party of culturally liberal metro Toronto, home of Canada's Anglophone media and corporate elite, of the Anglophone corners of Quebec, and of the economically lagging Atlantic provinces. The Conservatives are the party of Great Plains provinces and of the less metro parts of Ontario. The NDP is the party of a few central cities—Toronto, Hamilton, Halifax, Winnipeg, Vancouver. The Bloc Quebecois is purely and unblushingly Quebecois.

In any case, Canada will now have a government much friendlier to the United States than it has had since Brian Mulroney stepped down in 1993. Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin tried to play the anti-American card, which worked for him in 2004. But it didn't work this time any more than it did for Gerhard Schroeder in Germany last year.