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The Conservative gamble paid off in Kamloops--Thompson--Cariboo this evening, as Cathy McLeod took the riding with a significant margin of victory.
UPDATE: With all polls reporting, Ms. McLeod captured 46% of the votes cast, out-polling not only two-time NDP candidate Michael Crawford (35.9%), but also retired Conservative MP Betty Hinton's results from the two of the last three elections (2006 - 39.3%, 2004 - 40.4%, 2000 - 50.3%). The chart above right (image and data courtesy of Pundit's Guide to Canadian Federal Elections) shows the popular vote received by the different parties in this riding over the past four elections, where light blue represents Conservative votes, yellow represents Green votes, orange represents NDP votes, and red represents Liberal votes.
As you can see, the big story is the collapse of the Liberal vote, which has bled off to the Conservatives, NDP, and Greens. In fact, Green candidate Donovan Cavers picked up 8.1% of the vote, less than two points back of the votes garnered by Liberal Ken Sommerfeld (10%).
It's got to be a heartbreaking loss for Mr. Crawford, who has campaigned almost non-stop since the last election. With another minority Conservative government it would make sense for the local NDP to keep their best foot forward, but one has to wonder whether their candidate will be up for another tilt.
Nationally, Prime Minister Harper managed to increase his mandate with respect to the number of seats and popular vote. However he ran into a wall in both Newfoundland & Labrador (where he was locked out) and Quebec (where he retained roughly the same number of seats). It was Quebec however where he had hoped to break through into majority territory.
During national coverage on CTV, Lloyd Robertson and Craig Oliver speculated about the impact of Quebec denying the Conservatives a majority. Mr. Oliver suggested that there will be lingering resentment among some Alberta Conservatives. Given Mr. Harper's gracious acceptance speech however, I doubt he will abide by that kind of sentiment, especially given it was the Conservatives, not the Bloc, which announced funding cuts for artists prior to the election.
While the move may have played well in some rural ridings, it was head-shakingly stupid for any party trying to make inroads in Quebec to suggest that arts (read: culture) should lose federal dollars.
The move got Quebec voters' back up in two ways; 1). governments in Quebec are expected to play an active role supporting and growing Québécois culture, and; 2). when the feds dictate how tax dollars will be spent, it stirs nationalist sentiment. One has to wonder whether any of the incumbent Conservatives in Quebec raised their hand to say,"Non" when the issue came up. Given the very small number of tax dollars at stake, and the entirely foreseeable manner in which the Bloc Québécois would run with the issue, one has to wonder about the party's french-speaking brain trust.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO vote swapping on Facebook? The story was that disaffected, Anyone But Conservative voters would use the social networking site to swap their votes with voters in other ridings in an effort to defeat Conservatives in vulnerable ridings, like Parry Sound-Muskoka, where Minister of Health Tony Clement won his seat by a mere 28 votes in 2006. So what happened? Mr. Clement won the riding with an absolute majority: 50.2% of the vote. See what happens when you prostitute your vote?
SPECULATION ALERT: During his acceptance speech, Mr. Harper extended a hand to the other parties for the benefit of Canadians. Given his creative cabinet appointments after the last election, watch for the Prime Minister to make a similar appointment this time round. Can you say, "Elizabeth May, Minister of Splitting the Liberal Vote?" :~/
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