2015 Election Canada Analysis Essay

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The Liberal Party cut a dominating swath through the Atlantic region, then stormed into Ontario, Quebec and the Prairies as the first two waves of federal election results flooded in Monday, the beginning of the end of a historic, drawn-out campaign that saw political fortunes fluctuate dramatically.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won a majority government Monday, beating out Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and Thomas Mulcair’s NDP by a wide margin.

As up about 11:45 p.m. ET Monday, the Liberals were elected or leading in 189 ridings — up massively from the 36 seats they held at the start of the campaign. The Conservatives led or were elected in 105 ridings, down 54. The NDP was on track to win 36, which would be a 59-seat drop.

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As the results became clear, news emerged that Harper will step down as Conservative party leader.

Party president John Walsh is expected to say that Harper has asked him to reach out to the new parliamentary caucus and request that they choose an interim leader, the Canadian Press reports.

Harper will stay on as the MP for Calgary Heritage.

Stay tuned for live news, photos and analysis from across Canada throughout the night:

Speaking in Calgary, Alberta, Mr. Harper conceded defeat but vowed to supporters that the Conservatives would rise again.

“The disappointment you all so feel, is my responsibility and mine alone,” he said. While Mr. Harper made no mention of his plans, the Conservative Party issued a statement saying that he had resigned as its leader.

The election became something of a referendum on Mr. Harper’s approach to government, which, in the view of his critics, has often focused on issues important to core Conservative supporters, mostly in the West, rather than to much of the population.

Dominic LeBlanc, a prominent Liberal member of Parliament who was handily re-elected in New Brunswick, attributed the party’s extraordinary revival, following a period during which many people forecast its extinction, to Mr. Trudeau, who became the party’s leader in 2013.

The focus of the campaign fluttered among issues, including a scandal over Conservative senators’ expenses; antiterrorism measures Mr. Harper introduced; pensions; the stagnation of the economy brought about by plunging oil prices; the government’s handling of refugees; the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact; and Mr. Harper’s attempts to ban the wearing of face veils known as niqabs during citizenship ceremonies.

“I hope what this tells us is Canadians across the country have responded positively to Mr. Trudeau’s positive message,” Mr. LeBlanc told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The younger Mr. Trudeau proved as adept as his father in attracting crowds, and he, too, had a flamboyant streak — taking part in celebrity boxing matches. As votes were being counted in Ontario and Quebec, the provinces that account for about two-thirds of Canada’s population, the extent of the Liberals’ win was still not fully clear. It is a remarkable turnaround for the Liberals. During the last election in 2011, the party fell to third place for the first time in its history, holding just 34 seats. Even before all of the voting ended on Monday, the party had won or was leading in 152 electoral districts. The Conservatives had won or were leading 95 seats and the New Democratic Party had 25.

For much of the 78-day race, all three major political parties were in a statistical dead heat, according to various polls. Canadians only vote for members of Parliament, not the prime minister or parties, making it difficult to translate poll findings. And Mr. Harper won the three previous elections without ever exceeding 40 percent of the popular vote.

While the Canadian election was initially met with summer-vacation indifference when it was called on Aug. 2, the dramatic ending appeared to have attracted voter interest.

Turnout fell to as low as 58.8 percent in 2008 and was 61.1 percent in the last parliamentary elections, in 2011. The agency that supervises federal elections reported that 68.5 percent of the country’s 25.6 million voters cast ballots in this election.

News reports indicated that voters faced unusually long lines at some of the 66,000 polling stations on Monday. A rush of traffic temporarily overwhelmed the website of Elections Canada, the agency responsible for federal votes.

Many analysts have said that Mr. Harper set a campaign period of twice the usual length in the hope that the more voters saw of Mr. Trudeau during his first term as leader of the Liberals, the less they would like him. Early Conservative ads emphasized Mr. Trudeau’s relative political inexperience and concluded with the slogan, “Just not ready.”

If that was the case, it backfired.

Although Mr. Trudeau has been prone to occasional verbal slips since assuming his leadership role, including the use of a vulgar metaphor in response to Mr. Harper’s decision to commit Royal Canadian Air Force fighters to the multinational campaign against the Islamic State, he has grown in stature over the course of the election.

He proved able at crucial events, like a debate on foreign policy, where even some Liberals feared that he might stumble. Late in the campaign, the Liberals flipped the Conservative slogan to “Ready” in its ads.

In a symbol of the Liberals’ confidence, Mr. Trudeau used part of his final day of campaigning on Sunday to visit Alberta, Mr. Harper’s adopted province and the Conservative Party’s power base. An energy program introduced in 1980 by the elder Mr. Trudeau had for decades made the Liberal Party almost toxic in the province, which is dominated by the oil and gas industry. Mr. Trudeau’s stops included Calgary, Mr. Harper’s hometown and a place that has not elected a Liberal since 1968.

That victory 47 years ago was part of a wave of Liberal triumphs that became known as Trudeaumania.

After spending most of the campaign delivering standard speeches to invitation-only crowds, Mr. Harper took a more theatrical approach in the final days. At campaign stops, as he recited his party’s claims of what a Liberal government would cost individual families, a recording of an old-fashioned cash register bell repeatedly pealed through loudspeakers and audience members piled what appeared to be currency on tables.

Tom Mulcair, the leader of the New Democratic Party, who had insisted that the election should be focused on removing the Conservatives from power, devoted much of the final hours to attacking the Liberals.

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