Pretty much everyone lost Monday’s federal election.
The Liberals lost seats and their majority. The Conservatives gained seats (but not many back east) and failed to gain power. The NDP lost seats, the Greens failed to make a big breakthrough, and only the Bloc Quebecois was happy.
There is one other winner in a divided minority government, at least potentially.
It’s the voters.
Picking a party is a moment of compromise for all but the fervent party faithful. You like this party’s leader, but not a policy. You like some policies, but worry if they’ll be effective in Ottawa. Voting your heart can war with voting strategically.
But a divided Parliament, with no clear winner between the parties, means that those in power – for now the Liberals – have to pay keen attention to the whims of the voters.
After all, they could go back to the polls at any moment. Once the Conservatives and NDP have replenished their election war chests – say a year or so – they will be ready to bring down the Liberals at the first sign of a major misstep.
In the meantime, every party has to burnish its credentials, and show they are ready to govern.
And surprisingly, there are some areas where all parties agree. Every MP in Surrey and Langley – Liberal and Conservative alike – support the SkyTrain extension. There will be some wrangling over carbon taxes, but we can expect crackdowns on big polluters. Affordability was just as important to the NDP as it was to the Conservatives, so now would be a good time to push for tax cuts or social programs that would help those of limited means.
Democracy is about people power. Let’s hope we can exercise it between elections, too.