(Disclaimer: If you’re sick to death of Canadian politics, you might want to skip this one. We watch elections like sports in my house, so I’m afraid this was inevitable.)
On Tuesday morning, the weather may have been damp, but we all woke up to a slightly sunnier Canada.
We have endured 10 years with a Prime Minister who (among countless other things) thumbed his nose at the environment (on a national and international scale), was the first PM to be found in contempt of parliament, implemented an economic plan to benefit the rich, killed countless necessary research programs, gagged government scientists, introduced a bill that allows the government to revoke Canadian citizenship, eliminated the long-form census, and ran an election campaign rife with juvenile tactics and racism (If I listed everything, we’d be here all day.)
For my international friends, our First-Past-The-Post system, paired with the spoiler effect has resulted in 10 years with a federal government that made the majority of Canadians unhappy.
Check out these fantastic videos that explain some different electoral systems, and why ours is broken:
Alternative Vote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Y3jE3B8HsE
Mixed-Member Proportional Voting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QT0I-sdoSXU
But on Monday, Canadians finally figured out how to force the broken electoral system into change, in a big way. With a tidal wave of support, and buoyed by fear of another four years of the Conservative “Harper Government,” Justin Trudeau and his Liberal team swept the country to a very solid, very surprising, majority.
It’s a tentative, cautious sort of optimism that many of us feel this week. Many of us voted strategically, meaning we made a decision based on who we wanted to lose. So, we have put a lot of faith in the Liberal party, to follow up on their many campaign promises, and fix the current mess. Many people voted while holding their noses, for candidates they didn’t actually support. The NDP and Green party lost too many seats they should have won.
And yes, the Liberal party has made some questionable decisions, most recently and notably supporting Bill C-51 and throwing our basic rights and freedoms into question. They’ve also made a lot of promises, including electoral reform. With such a massive show of support for Trudeau, it would be easy for the Liberals to get cocky, and conveniently forget about this promise (which would significantly weaken support for their own party).
But, as Canadians have pointed out very clearly, it was time for change, and we were determined to make it happen. No party is perfect, but any alternative was better.
However, there is another VERY good reason to be optimistic. A record number of people voted – 68.5%. That’s quite a leap from 61% in 2011 (CBC News, October 21, 2015). Also, a record 46 visible minority MPs were elected (Globe and Mail, October 20, 2015). This means that a record number of people cared, really and truly cared what happens to our beautiful and diverse country, and we will have a Prime Minister that believes, along with most Canadians, that Canada is strong not DESPITE our differences, but BECAUSE of them.
Tuesday I woke up happy. I woke up knowing that at least for the next four years, I won’t have to be embarrassed for Canada as I introduce the concept of government to my children. And, if all goes as promised, I will be able to tell them that every single vote actually means something.
Mr. Trudeau, I’m counting on you.