On Tuesday, May 5, the unthinkable happened. The Canadian Press called it “a tectonic shift.” The Globe and Mail used the word “stunning.” The CBC described it as “a massive shock that turns Canadian politics on its head.”
What we’re talking about, obviously, is the day Alberta turned orange.
The NDP swept Alberta’s latest provincial election, dethroning the ruling Conservatives as they scored 53 of 85 seats. (As an added slap in the face, the PCgs took a measly 11 seats, with the recently formed Wildrose party becoming the Official Opposition at 20. The Liberals scored one.)
It doesn’t take a political pundit to understand why this was huge news. Alberta is Canada’s closest thing to Texas: historically right-wing, largely religious and homogeneously white. Oil is the lifeblood of its economic success. Heck, the coolest thing that happens there is an annual rodeo.
Alberta’s political one-eighty has voters across the country talking. Could the NDP — the Official Opposition party in the House of Commons — actually have a shot at coming first this fall? Will we have a Prime Minister Thomas Mulcair by Christmas?
It’s possible, but some recent news has really shaken that hope.
Let’s take a quick gander at the numbers. The NDP’s stronghold resides in Quebec, where the party holds 54 of its 95 national seats. Like it or not, it’s largely thanks to the French-speaking province that our government looks the way it does. Will Quebec vote the same way in 2015?
Don’t be so sure. Quebec is a politically obsessed province; unlike apathetic Ontario, the French majority is prone to change its mind on a dime. Remember good ol’ Pauline Marois, leader of the Parti Quebecois, who tried to pass the contentious Charter of Values, a bill that tried to make “conspicuous” religious symbols (i.e., turbans, hijabs) illegal for public employees? What’s she doing now? Oh right. Not politics.
And now, in a worst-nightmare scenario for NDP supporters, a political superstar is back from the dead. On June 10, Gilles Duceppe, the former leader of the sovereignist Bloc Québécois for almost 15 years, announced that he accepted the party’s leadership after retiring in 2011.
As the Globe aptly put it: “Gilles Duceppe is back in the ring, the heavyweight who has been knocked down but feels he can win at least one more fight.” And it didn’t take Duceppe much time to start attacking voters who supported the 2011 “orange wave.”
“I adhere to the adage that people have every right, including the right to be wrong,” the Globe reported. He added that he found it challenging to go head-to-head Jack Layton, who was battling cancer at the time of the historic vote. “Let’s just say it was difficult to attack someone in that condition.”
Why is Duceppe such a threat? First off, he’s a household name in Quebec. As a former MP and leader of the Bloc, he’s poised to rally voters who are still straddling Quebec’s separate-or-not line.
And then there’s Ontario, where things have certainly changed since the last federal election. Ontario was the biggest supporter of Stephen Harper at the time of the 2011 vote, and reasonably so; home to Canada’s economic heart, Ontario sought stability in light of the 2008 recession, and Harper successfully sold himself as the most budget-conscious leader. (Whether he’s proven that in the last four years is whole other column.)
Today we’re living in a very different Ontario than in 2011. That was when Mayor Rob Ford (SUBWAYS! GRAVY! MORE THAN ENOUGH TO EAT AT HOME!) was leading Toronto, the province’s most populous city. It was also when the PC’s handled significantly more seats at Queen’s Park than they do today. Especially considering the Liberal success in the most recent Ontario election, it isn’t looking likely that Harper can rest on his laurels.
So what should you make of all this? At the risk of sounding like a reality TV show, Canadians should expect the unexpected. If Alberta taught us anything, it’s that no one is safe. But it’s certainly going to be fun to watch.
Do you think an NDP prime minister is possible? Share your comments below or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe.