It felt like the first time. It was not the first time.
Scheer won in a nail-biter - the closest leadership race I've ever seen, he was behind on the first 12 ballots, and he came right up the middle through the narrowest gap in politics. It was an impressive performance by his team, and I'd like to congratulate him and wish him good luck in uniting the party behind his leadership and defeating Trudeau in 2019,
Now, if you'll excuse me, there's something I need to get out of my system.
I won't pretend to be happy about this result. I think Scheer was less well-positioned to win the next election, as well as being less likely to do anything useful if he does win. I have a sinking feeling that we might be here in a few years doing this all over again. Trudeau was never going to be easy to beat(even if you don't respect the man's smarts, he has a pretty good team and a boatload of charisma), and we just made it harder.
That said, the comment I made about Scheer and party unity before the vote was "Anyone who leaves the party over him was never ours to begin with". I stand by that. He's a generic conservative, very much like Harper was, and while I think we could do better, we could've done much worse. I have friends who are talking about being sure that they'll vote Liberal to punish the CPC, but I don't agree with their decision at all. I mean, maybe the 2019 platform will be so terrible that it's the right call, but promising to do that two and a half years out is grossly premature. I don't think the platform will be nearly as nice as the Bernier platform that could have been, but I can imagine a platform like Harper's in 2006 that is simple, to the point, and composed of some pretty good stuff overall. I'd happily support that. My gut right now expects something more in the "grudgingly support" realm, with a lot of annoying micro-policy and minimal vision, but I'd be happy to be proven wrong there.
Good platform or bad, though, it'll be a nightmare to win the election. Scheer did astonishingly well in Quebec, but by all accounts he did it by signing up people who'd mostly never vote for us in the general election. I don't expect him to win many seats there, and winning without Quebec is incredibly hard. In all of Canadian history, there have only been four majority governments that didn't need Quebec's votes. Two(1958 and 1984) were nationwide landslides that won Quebec as well, and simply used the extra seats to run up the numbers. One was the wartime election of 1917, where the Conservatives and Liberals, the only two parties of note at the time, basically formed a coalition government and ran a slate together everywhere but Quebec(English Canada went 150-20 for Borden, and many of those 20 were in Francophone-heavy ridings), The fourth and final example of a no-Quebec-required victory was the 2011 election,
2011 looks like an outlier here. It was no landslide(Harper won 39.6%), and it doesn't seem like anything particularly out of the ordinary as elections go. But if you break down the numbers a bit, you see exactly how hard it was. If you exclude Quebec, Harper went from 54% of the seats to 69%, from 39.6% of the vote to 47.7%. That's almost as big a landslide as Mulroney won in 1984. And even then, that wasn't enough on its own. We also needed the worst result for the Liberals in Canadian history(including the aforementioned 1917 election, where they barely existed across 2/3 of the country), with a shockingly strong NDP splitting the opposition vote - without that, we'd still have fallen short of a majority even with the huge support we got in English Canada bolstered by the bare handful of MPs we scraped up in Quebec.
Long story short, Quebec is large, populous, and very different than the rest of the country. You can win elections without them, but it's bloody hard. Scheer already threaded one needle yesterday, but if he wants a majority government, he needs to thread another one that's just as thin. Again, I'd be happy to be wrong here, but I'm not sure he's got it in him.
I expect there's going to be some people who have problems with the process. It always happens after an election like this, especially one where the voting process had as many problems as this election did(for those not in the loop, the process of mailing out ballots to voters was rocky, and I know a couple folks who simply never got a ballot in the mail - normally, not a big deal when you can just vote in person, but when there's only a dozen or so in-person polling locations in all of Canada, it really can be). Likewise, a lot of people had trouble with the "ID in outer envelope, ballot in inner envelope" system, and apparently the spoiled ballot numbers were high. From what I can see, none of this seems to have been targeted at any given campaign, and it was just a rocky process from a party that hasn't run one of these since 2004, and may have forgotten important details about how to do it well.
People will complain, but losing teams always complain about stuff like that. With a race this close it may have even made the difference, but we can't re-run the election to find out, so it winds up being a hazard of the game. I'm not thrilled about that, but I don't want to see people getting too bitter about it.
The other part of the procedure side that I find interesting is trying to figure out how Scheer will extend an olive branch to Bernier's camp. He won fair and square, so he's entitled to run on whatever policy he likes at this point, but if he's smart he'll try to keep the 49% of his party that wanted some pretty radical changes to our approach on-side. He'll keep harping on the things that they agreed on, of course - no corporate welfare(I doubt Scheer really means it from how he cozied up to the dairy farmers, but he'll at least pretend), balancing the budget, and all that. But if he starts talking about one of Bernier's bigger policies, I won't be too surprised. It won't be supply management, of course, nor will it be devolution of healthcare to the provinces, but I think Bernier's equalization policy might be an interesting one. It'll play well with the party base, he can have Bernier spearhead it to take the sting off for the Quebecois, and everyone always whines about the details of the formula no matter what happens, so it gives you political cover for doing just about anything. There's constitutional issues with changing it too much, of course(s.36 explicitly requires the existence of equalization), and the Supreme Court has not been known for its deference to Conservative policy efforts, but I think it's more likely than most.
It'll be interesting to watch, in any case. If Scheer starts acting like the "real conservative" he billed himself as, I think some of my more pessimistic friends may come around. We'll see.
The last thing I'll note before I start finding something to blog about aside from Canadian politics is that the reporting on this race was profoundly bad. Stupid and obvious questions are par for the course("You were the frontrunner and led on the first 12 ballots, how does it feel to lose?"), but the number of people who didn't even spend thirty seconds to learn the rules was really sad. Talk of "delegates" in reporting was common, some people didn't seem to understand that the votes had already all been cast, and I saw one reporter get Scheer and Bernier mixed up - not in random discussions in the newsroom, no, she asked one a question that was obviously meant for the other, because she didn't know who she was talking to. Argh.
The real gold-star, A for effort, achievement in failed reporting award, though, goes to someone who isn't actually a reporter at all - it goes to Kevin O'friggin'Leary, the guy who could plausibly have won this race if he'd kept his head in the game. After the first ballot results came in, he was talking about how he predicted Bernier was still going to win, but it was going to take longer. He'd originally said a win on the 5th-7th ballot, but now he was saying the 9th ballot. Small problem - that was a completely insane prediction, on the verge of being mathematically impossible. Bernier would have needed to be the second choice of 93% of everyone else's voters, including those of candidates who despised him, in order to win on the 9th ballot. Winning on the 5th would have required him to be over 47% on the first ballot, when O'Leary's(excessively generous, as it turns out) prediction was 35%. Mr. Wonderful didn't seem to understand that all the votes were already cast and candidates couldn't drop off halfway through. Despite having tried to drop out of the race himself and not being allowed to. Good lord, man. I am so glad that he realized he wasn't a serious candidate, because it would have been a disaster to have someone so clueless running the show, and he might have been able to get there.