The Canadian Election That Changes It All

What Harper’s Victory Means for Canada -- and the United States

Courtesy Reuters

It is a credit to Canada that few outsiders pay much attention to what goes on there. Prosperity, stability, and centrist politics make for dull news. But now and then, something truly interesting -- even revolutionary -- takes place. The Tories’ sweeping victory in this week's federal election marked just such an occasion.

Canada is a country that has benefited from risk aversion. Unlike their counterparts in the United States, Canada’s large banks have long been well regulated; they issued no subprime mortgage loans and resisted the temptation to trade heavily in toxic securitized debt. In response to the global recession that began in 2008, Canada created a moderate stimulus program that led to a moderate deficit. Its soldiers have fought bravely in Afghanistan, and its jets participated in the recent military intervention in Libya -- with little fanfare abroad or violent dissent at home. Its Muslim population is generally moderate, wealthy, and well integrated. Canada is a land that attracts immigrants from all corners of the globe, yet has barely been touched by a clash of civilizations.

Politics, too, is a gentler business in this country than in the United States (even if Canadians endlessly wring their hands over "American-style" political attack ads). South of the border, the two-party system creates a relatively simple left-versus-right dynamic. Canadian politics are more complicated, because the parliamentary system allows smaller parties to gain regional footholds. Although the Liberals and the Tories usually claim most of the vote between them, the pro-union New Democratic Party (NDP) and the avowedly separatist Bloc Québécois (BQ) are also significant players. There is even a small Green party that, in parts of Canada’s west coast, has split the vote even further.

The regionalism and ideology that overlay the political party system tend to be nuanced and unstable, which is why this week's federal election, held after the minority government collapsed, was the fourth one in the last seven years. In recent years, the BQ's domination

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