What a short, strange, sweet trip it’s been—made all the sweeter because not a single politician, party insider, pollster, pundit or person predicted it. Including me. My first post-election-call column was a lament that—in a campaign focused so tightly on just 50 swing ridings—the votes of the rest of us wouldn’t count.
What happened? The short answer is Canadians took back their politics—on social media, in vote mobs, in their own minds. They rose up—though not the way Michael Ignatieff hoped—and told pollsters they were mad as hell and weren’t going to take it anymore.
“It” was Stephen Harper and his smarmy, controlling politics of fear and loathing of any other. But it was also the Bloc Quebecois and the Gilles-one-note clanking call to non. And Michael Ignatieff, who ran a mostly solid campaign but couldn’t escape his pre-election Tory tarring as the outsider-other, or the reality his so-recently-discredited Liberals represented a tired alternative that wasn’t.
This negative, none-of-the-above frustration almost certainly fed the tsnunami that has swept the NDP from its nadir of 13.2 per cent in polls two weeks into the campaign to the giddying heights of official opposition, perhaps even minority government territory today.
But if the NDP surge is, in part, a negative response, it is also—in perhaps larger part—a reflection of voters’ hope for better.
Jack Layton isn’t new, and neither is the NDP platform.
But after 4.6 million of us watched his performance in the leaders’ debate, the ground under this election began to shift seismically.
The NDP engaged Canadians in discussions about their issues, and the avuncular, unflappable Layton steered clear of the personal negatives—our attack ads, he joked, are about attacking poverty—that were other parties’ staples.
The NDP’s sudden surge, of course, means its platform—and how it gets paid for—hasn’t been scrutinized nearly carefully enough (although the Globe Friday trotted out 10 bank and business economists who concluded “no one appears to be shaking” at the prospect of an NDP government).
However it all turns out, Canadians have already shaken conventional political assumptions. That is reason enough to hope.
But stay tuned. This trip may not be over yet.