I chose to remain mostly non-partisan during this Canadian election campaign due to a temporary work assignment. But with it almost over, I think it's alright if I share some thoughts of a slightly partisan nature. Please expect my full-on leftie liberal stance to return to this site in short order.
The biggest loser in this election regardless of the outcome will be Stephen Harper (provided Canadians don't lose their minds overnight and give him a majority, which seems now extremely unlikely).
Every poll and prediction I've read of late puts Harper's Conservatives on the path to another minority government. It's possible they may manage to increase seats overall, with setbacks in Atlantic Canada and Quebec balanced off with mild gains in Ontario and British Columbia.
Still, it's clear that Stephen Harper called this election to win a majority government and sensed the timing was right. He was wrong on three counts: he completely misjudged the mood in Quebec, particularly over his hard-right policies re: culture and crime; he failed to anticipate how the recent market crash would impact on Canadians' hopes and fears and seemed completely out of touch right at the moment when most Canadians were paying close attention to the campaign; he hoped that Stephane Dion would fail to gain any traction and, with the help of Jack Layton's NDP, would lead his party to a historic defeat.
Now instead of a majority or even a strong Conservative minority that thrusts the Liberal Party into turmoil and establishes the Conservatives as the strongest national party, it seems that the Tories will actually lose ground to the Bloc in Quebec, who have emerged in this campaign as the biggest winners. Finishing third place in Quebec (including in the popular vote) will be a huge blow to Harper's Conservatives.
Stephane Dion may now live to see another day. It all depends on the seat totals and where the Liberals land in the popular vote. The Grits have spent most of this campaign mired in the low 20s, which would have been a new modern low for that party. But since Dion's strong performances in both the French and English debates, Canadians have finally gotten a chance to judge the real Dion. Low expectations created by the Tories actually made it easier for Dion to impress. In the end, it looks like the Grits are reclaiming much of their 2006 support. Of course, to drop or fail to grow in popular support cannot be seen as a major success for Dion. Truth be told, it seems most Canadians still find Mr. Dion somewhat wanting in the leadership department, although clearly it would appear that the public's views of Mr. Dion have improved over the course of this campaign.
This was Dion's first campaign as leader, let's not forget. Think back to other leaders and their first campaigns: Stephen Harper's disastrous 2004 campaign convinced many of us that he was simply unelectable, an impression that lasted until Harper proved us wrong in 2005/2006. No doubt, Harper learned many lessons from 2004 and showed he could beat the odds and the pundits. The same can be said of Dalton McGuinty and Shawn Graham and many others.
I supported Dion wholeheartedly in the 2006 leadership race because I loved his track record, his focus on the environment and his gutsy style. He's weathered the blistering attacks on his reputation by the Tories and is still fighting. No doubt, once this campaign is over, he'll be able to (hopefully) reflect on the mistakes he's made and work to be the leader he needs to be in order to win.
Dion is the anti-politician in this election. I quite agree with what Jason Cherniak says today. Many of us supported Dion in 2006 because we had little confidence in his competitors and hoped that Dion would rise to the occasion of leadership as he had to that of cabinet minister and defender of Canada. Dion still has some to learn, but I truly believe that he's had more success in this 2008 campaign than most first-time leaders. If the Liberals hold their own tomorrow night, there's no reason why Dion should step aside considering the weak position Harper will be in due to his crushing loss in Quebec and his confirmed inability to win a majority.
The strength of Jack Layton's campaign has likely positioned his party to play spoiler, denying the Liberals enough support to knock Harper's Tories back into opposition. The Greens will also make gains in the vote but will be hard-pressed to win any seats, thanks to our first-past-the-post voting system. Besides Elizabeth May, I do suspect that Blair Wilson has a chance to win his seat in West Vancouver, but that's only based on a hunch (with the NDP being quite weak now in that riding with the resignation of their first candidate, with the Liberal candidate being too new and the Tory being the same fundamentalist retread voters rejected last time...I suspect voters may go for something different.)
In the end, I think tomorrow night will go something like this:
NFLD & LABRADOR