The federal election results demonstrated three things.
One is that this election, despite many predictions to the contrary at its start, energized many voters. Voter turnout was up, and interest was particularly high in the last two weeks of the campaign.
The second thing it clearly showed is that most Canadians see national issues from one of two major perspectives — the less government/ lower taxes/law and order perspective of the Conservatives, or the more activist government/expanding programs/’soak the rich’ perspective of the NDP.
The Liberals, in trying to strike a balance between the two perspectives, pleased neither side and have become much less relevant in the national debate, as witnessed by their poor third-place showing. They will be less of a force in the next Parliament and leader Michael Ignatieff is finished. He lost his seat and has resigned.
The third and most positive thing is the rejection of the Bloc Quebecois by the vast majority of Quebeckers, relegating the party to four seats. For the first time since 1988, most MPs elected in Quebec support their province being part of Canada. This is an enormously positive step forward.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is now in power with a comfortable majority. He pledged on Monday night to work with other parties and govern for all Canadians. That pledge will be tested many times in coming months.
He needs to show the 60 per cent of voters who didn’t vote Conservative some respect.
NDP leader Jack Layton, who ran a positive and upbeat campaign, is now the leader of the opposition. As such, he speaks with considerably more clout.
In articulating his vision of Canada, Layton will have to be more realistic about how the economy works, and how jobs are created. However, his strong emphasis on preserving important social programs like health care and ensuring that average families get decent tax breaks is needed, at a time when many people are struggling.
Both Layton and Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who had an historic win in Saanich-Gulf Islands, have called for more respect in Parliament.
The people of Canada, from many disparate regions of the country, have spoken. They want Parliament to get down to business, without any unnecessary drama or an election for at least four years.