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ten reasons why it's ok to be happy about the election

hate the idea that we just elected a right wing government whose leader supported the american war in iraq? angry that no one seems to have the seats to control what's going to happen? confused? afraid? need a hug?

ok, i can't help with the hug, but, for once in my life, i woke up the morning after an election not feeling like i'd been beaten with something. there are a surprising number of things people should feel happy about in this election (and this is coming from someone who finds the new government a wee bit creepy).

1. the ndp are back- the country's most left-wing party to win seats in parliament won more than they had in the previous four elections and came close to winning a number of others. anyone who thinks that the election results indicate that canada is shifting to the right isn't looking at the numbers very carefully.

2. you have to play nice with the other kids- the wonderful thing about minority parliaments is that they force politicians to work together. and a policy patchwork of elements from all the parties would be an accurate reflection of what canadians voted for. think we'd be better off with a more limited choice of parties, only ones that have a real shot at winning government? look to the south of us. feel better now?

3. the scare tactics didn't work- the liberals' cynical return to the strategy of making voters scared of stephen harper's conservatives (who would admittedly be scary if given unfettered power, see point #2, above) and of telling people that they were wasting their vote if they went ndp, was a failure. if that's the best argument they can make to stay in power, they deserved to lose.

4. people care- it's still not great, but voter turnout was close to 65%, which is a lot better than last time, when it was just under 61%. we're moving in the right direction.

5. there seems to be a country again- the conservatives won seats in every province except prince edward island, ending years of parliaments marked by deep geographical divisions and ultimately controlled by the seats in vote-rich ontario. every party still has their areas of strength, but the lesson seems clear: parties that want to run the country are going to need a presence from the whole country. now they just have to work on that urban-rural split that seems to be developing.

6. every vote does count- for once, the voters in british columbia weren't tuning in to find out that the results were already a forgone conclusion. their seats were crucial in determining the strength of the various parties.

7. we aren't getting divorced- although they won two thirds of the seats in the province, the separatist bloc quebecois got a sharp wake-up call. they had made a point of saying that they were aiming to win more than 50% of the popular vote, thus raising some serious questions about the status of quebec in canada and possibly moving things in the direction of a third referendum. the resurgence of the conservatives at the last minute confirmed what many of us had already figured out: that bq support was not coming exclusively from separatists. a lot of votes that have gone to the bq in previous elections came from people who just couldn't stomach voting for the liberals. all in all, the bq ended up with 42% of the popular vote in quebec, not exactly "winning conditions" for a sovreigntist referendum.

8. but the divorce lawyers aren't as bad as you might think- the bloc quebecois won 51 seats. politics in quebec has a deservedly bad name. for some reason, corruption seems to spread like the proverbial pandemic there, in my lifetime infecting the liberals, then the conservatives, then the liberals again. the bloc quebecois, having no pretensions to power or access to public money, seem happily immune to this. they have a smart man as their leader, a lot of their policies are progressive and after more than fifteen years in the house, they seem to take their jobs surprisingly seriously. quebec could do (and has done) a lot worse.

9. sarmite bulte, the "entertainment industry" mp who was the subject of a sustained campaign aimed at exposing the hypocrisy and self-interest of her attempts to rewrite canadian copyright laws, was defeated by new democrat peggy nash. the system works.

10. after reaching a nadir in the year 2000, it appears that youth engagement in the electoral process is recovering. the parties that increased their seat count- the conservatives and the new democrats- were the ones who showed a particular savvy for new technologies (yeah, the blogs) to which young voters can relate. the liberals, who showed themselves to be powerfully out of touch, failed to capitalise on this neglected population segment. paul martin, the latest in a string of liberal leaders perceived to be past their best before date, has now stepped aside, clearing the way for a more relevant person to take up the reins of canada's "natural governing party". i would say the times are a-changin', but that would seem dated.

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