Not even overtime in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final can match the drama of election night. By the time the seventh game rolls around, no surprises are left. There is only one possible outcome. But there are always surprises in a nationwide election, and there are 308 distinct outcomes.
Seldom has there been a more dramatic election night in Canada than the one last week. When the vote was called some two months ago, no one would have predicted the results.
Having garnered 39.6 per cent of the total vote, the Conservatives of Stephen Harper will govern the next four years with a majority in the House of Commons, with 167 MPs. For the first time in Canadian history, the NDP will form the official Opposition. NDP Leader Jack Layton and his team won 102 seats with 30.6 per cent of the vote. The Liberals fell far down into an unfamiliar valley, winning merely 18.9 per cent of the popular vote and 34 seats in the House of Commons. Quebecers essentially turned their backs on the Bloc Québécois by returning only four members. Elizabeth May will sit as a single-member Green Party.
Michael Ignatieff and Gilles Duceppe have already announced their resignations as leaders of their parties.
We congratulate the prime minister for his decisive victory. We congratulate all the newly elected and re-elected members of Parliament. In addition, we commend and congratulate and thank every candidate in the election. We insufficiently acknowledge how difficult it must be to so openly expose oneself to unremitting public criticism, disparagement and scorn. Nor do we adequately acknowledge the effort and labours of the countless volunteers without whom very few candidates could make their case to the public whose votes they seek. Our democracy – indeed, all democracy – is nourished by broad citizen participation and involvement. There is no doubt that Canada’s democracy is well nourished.
Many capable and caring individuals will be going to Ottawa for the first time. Many will be leaving. Hakarat hatov, the principle long enshrined in Jewish tradition of honouring the good others have done for us, compels us to single out four such individuals who were especially generous and accomplished in their service to the Jewish community in particular and to the wider Canadian community in general: Liberal MPs Joe Volpe in Eglinton-Lawrence, Ken Dryden in York-Centre and Anita Neville in Winnipeg South Centre, and Tory MP Lawrence Cannon in Pontiac.
An American journalist once wisecracked that “people who want to understand democracy should spend less time in the library with Aristotle and more time on the buses and on the subway.” The constantly renewing truth of democracy, of course, is that it works best when it includes Aristotle and the people on the buses – that is, all of us. Our vast hopes and best wishes for our new Parliament are that it govern well for the benefit of all.