Nation, I just got back from the Telus Convention Centre, the site of the Conservative Party's (sorta)-celebration. Having also been in attendance in January of 2006, a few contrasts caught my eye immediately:
Firstly, the crowd this time was a LOT YOUNGER - in 2006, I was in my late 20's and would have bet on being one of the 15 youngest people in the room. This time around, there were a LOT of people in their early 20's, and even a healthy smattering of children. Everyone wants to be associated with a winner, I guess.
Secondly, the security was vastly more complex this time. Security personnel, both uniformed and "non-uniformed" (wearing bad, non-matching suits with ear-pieces and death-stares, so as not to stand out - mission accomplished) were virtually everywhere.
Now, on to a few meandering observations of the event itself...
I saw FOES (Friend Of the Enlightened Savage) Naheed Nenshi on-stage (and, I presume on camera) with what appeared to be a cadre of CBC folks - good on ya, sir. There was, however, a gentleman off to the right at the table who looked like the blogger archetype: young, cute haircut, earnest, laptop spitting smoke and sparks... Are you cheating on me with another blogger, Naheed? ;)
I thought I sensed a disturbance in the Force... and I was right. The former independent candidate for Calgary Egmont was in attendance. As if to remove any doubt from my mind, I walked right past a low-slung domestic poor-man's sports car with the website stencilled on the trunk. CLASSY.
I don't think I'll ever get used to seeing staffers holding up tape recorders to MP's who are mid-conversation on their cell-phones. Best explanation I can come up with? They want their words on tape, so no one can come back and say they said something else.
It was disheartening to see the conservative voters of Calgary West send Rob Anders back to Parliament when they had a legitimate choice. That said, barely a third of eligible voters in Calgary West voted for Anders, so that's something. Also, HUGE props to independent Kirk Schmidt for obtaining 1,790 votes, for 3% of the popular vote. Every other candidate in the riding had a built-in base that was ready to vote for them the second they won the nomination - Schmidt built his support from scratch, and without access to party financing. Congratulations on a battle well-fought, sir. You are an asset to the democratic process.
Liz May gambled by running in Central Nova, and she lost. Her party increased its popular support by 50%, but it's still perceived as a single-issue party, whose leader was more focused on her quixotic quest to "hurt Stephen Harper" by running against Peter MacKay than on actually running in a seat she could win. 6.8% is good enough to argue the Greens should be in the debates again, but May herself has to do some soul-searching, and decide whether she wants to lead a political party, whose job is to get elected, or instead be an activist, rubbing the politicians' noses in it. You can't be both, and be good at either. The Greens, if they hope to get elected, have to take this "political" stuff seriously, starting tomorrow - when they should start accepting resumes for candidates for 2010 (thanks, Jack).
Harper has to be overjoyed (if he's capable of the emotion) at his results in Ontario, but utterly mystified by the result in Quebec. It's clear they're never going to accept the social policies of the former Reformers in Quebec, so Harper and the party higher-ups need to sit down and figure out exactly what, if anything, they can do to counter the Quebecois distaste for the CPC. Without a breakthrough in Quebec, the Tories will almost certainly never get the majority they so covet.
Not to beat this to death, but... this was NOT a good night for Stephane Dion. He looked like he had just gotten a call from his vet about Kyoto when he took the stage to give his speech. He snapped at a CTV reporter. His party LOST the popular vote in Ontario, which is the bedrock upon which Liberal governments have to be built. He's up for review in May, and I expect him to be gone, baby gone... replaced with Ignatieff or (dark horse) Dalton McGuinty (hey, if you want to rebuild from Ontario outwards, Dalton's not a bad choice...)
Final numbers are understandably still under review, but it look like we're sitting thusly:
CPC: 143 seats (up 19 from 2006)
Lib: 77 seats (down 26)
BQ: 49 seats (down 2)
NDP: 37 seats (up 8)
Ind. 2 seats
Just for the fans of MMP, here's how things would look by proportional representation (not sure how independents figure in, so not 100% accurate):
CPC: 116 seats
Lib: 81 seats
BQ: 31 seats
NDP: 56 seats
Grn: 21 seats
(leaves 3 seats to be determined by best 2-out-of-3-falls, in a steel cage)