By Sunday, I was losing faith. I'm not sure whether the public was affected by the Liberal attack ads, the reports of 'hidden candidates' or the brief suggestion that Stephen Harper had stopped talking to reporters, but it all dampened my spirits.
Last night as I watched the results, I was really disappointed. Then, I heard Stephen Harper speak. That was when I realised how big this win is, not for conservatives, but for Canadians.
Harper's minority government represents hope to many who had begun to despair of our political system. Right or left, conservative or 'progressive,' are not so important as seeing that there is a credible alternative to Liberal hegemony. Despite what Liberals want us to believe, we all know that One Party Rule is never a good thing in a democracy.
Some Liberals equate this experience for them to a 'time-out' or a stint in the 'penalty-box'. This implies that when the Liberals have finished their renewal process, that they will assume their traditional role of 'natural governing party.' I don't see that in the results and I hope it's bravado talking, rather than a true sense of entitlement.
In the months to come I expect that Stephen Harper and his team will prove themselves to be a safe and viable choice for voters, and not simply a temporary surrogate. Depite all the campaign rhetoric, the Conservative policies (despite being different from the Liberal policies) are not radical or right-wing and will be easily supported by many right-leaning Liberals.
All of the parties faced disappointment last night, none of them achieving their ultimate goals. The Conservatives have a fragile minority, rather than the strong one they'd hoped for. The Liberals lost both seats, and popular support. The Bloc failed to meet its target in the popular vote, and elected fewer MPs, and Jack Layton and the NDP, despite a two percent gain in the popular vote and a ten seat increase in the House, no longer hold the balance of power.
The irony of all this is that power still rests with the Liberals. It will be Liberals Stephen Harper will look to for support of his budget and other programmes, and for the most part I think they'll sign on. Financially strapped and without a leader, they'll be in no hurry to bring the government down. Likely, many are still stinging from the very public and vulgar bashing of their values by Paul Martin as he pandered to the 'progressives'. These MPs will be loyal to their party, but they'll want it to have time to be dragged back to the centre from the outter left fringes where Paul Martin left it.