What Happened in the Canadian Election? or, “Do You Still Want to Move Here?”

Stephen Harper has managed to form a majority government in Canada, which is pretty badass, unless you’re part of the 60.1% of the population who didn’t want the Conservatives to win. I am one of them, and I want to cry and have some vodka.

Final polls on Sunday evening suggested the Conservatives would form the government again, though a huge increase in NDP support made it hard to tell whether it’d be with a minority or a majority. And by the time the federal election was over, they won a majority, with the NDP as the official opposition, the Liberal Party reduced to a shadow of its former self, the Bloc Québécois in an even worse position, and the Green Party with its first Member of Parliment ever. Here is what this looks like:

Canadian Federal Election 2011 Results via the Globe and Mail

The Conservative Party received 39.6% of the popular vote, which translated to 167 seats in the House of Commons, thank you, first-past-the-post political systems (to form a majority government in this election, a party had to win at least 155 seats). This means that Harper has the majority government he’s always wanted. And the “popular vote” only includes registered voters who voted, and not people who didn’t vote or who had to be added to the registry that day. So 60% — and maybe more — of the population is unhappy with the way things turned out. And there isn’t much anyone can do about it. Instead, Harper has some things he wants to do, and now, he’s going to do them. You can’t fight the Harperbot.

Some of the things Harper is expected to try do include lowering corporate taxes while getting rid of the deficit (which, it should be noted, he created. When the Liberals formed the government in 1993, Paul Martin eliminated the federal deficit and paid down $36 billion in national debt, leaving Canada in a pretty good place, financially. And while spending during the recession was necessary, things like building a gigantic artificial lake were not); pushing a pro-business agenda; and completely ignoring climate change.

The New Democratic Party (NDP) received 30.6% of the popular vote, or 102 seats. This means they are now the official opposition, which is the first time this has happened ever, and which is really exciting.

However, because of the conservative government got a majority, the NDP actually have less power than they did before. Before, while they only had 37 seats, they could cooperate with the Liberal party, which had 76 seats, and the Conservative government had to cater to their every need. But now, while it’s awesome that the NDP are the opposition, they won’t have the seat power needed to actually oppose anything. They can yell about it, and gain experience in Parliament that their party hasn’t had, ever, and can be as annoying as they want during Question Period, but the chances of them being able to get things done isn’t good.

Additionally, the sudden rise in support for the NDP, particularly in Quebec, isn’t necessarily related to a seismic shift in the political spectrum. In an online debate in the Globe and Mail, André Pratte argued that while polls suggest 40% of the Quebec population might still be in favour of separatism and might elect the PQ in a provincial election, they are now more willing to take part in pan-Canadian public debate on issues that concern everyone:

“This presents the whole country with an opportunity to begin a new dialogue between ourselves, a dialogue that the Bloc domination had rendered difficult, if not impossible. That doesn’t mean Quebecers are less nationalist than before. But they have chosen to express who they are and their view of Canada through national parties rather than a separatist one.”

The Liberal Party received 18.9% of the popular vote, and 34 seats, down from 77 in 2008 (and that was under Stéphane Dion). Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff lost his seat in his home riding, and resigned as leader of the Liberal Party on Tuesday morning. While some are blaming the Conservative attack ads that featured Ignatieff as a “latte-sipping elitist, who returned from the hallowed halls of Harvard and London after a 30-year absence to take over the party and grab power for the sake of power,” while others have suggested that the Liberals shouldn’t have forced an election. It’s also been suggested that Ignatieff’s approach to the NDP was too divisive, and that rather than going on about “OMG! Scary socialists! Be afraid! Be VERY VERY AFRAID!” his energy would have been better spent trying to take down the Conservatives in any way possible. Whatever happened, the Liberal Party is a little bit like a Liberal Wake at the moment, as they wait to announce their third leadership convention of the past five years.

The Green Party received 3.9% of the popular vote, but also got their first seat ever. Elizabeth May, the Green Party leader who was excluded from the leaders’ debate, won her seat in Saanich-Gulf Islands, in British Columbia. While her riding has had a Conservative MP since 1997, the bulk of May’s support came from former Liberal supporters, and it was enough that she led significantly from the first poll results (her opponent, Conservative Gary Lunn, conceded the race after barely half of the results were in, and by the end she had nearly 48% of the vote. Across the country, though, support for the Green Party fell. In 2008, they received 6.8% of the popular vote across the country, but in 2011, they have only 3.9%. In the next election, they’re hoping to get up to eight seats.

The Bloc Québécois received 6% of the popular vote, which translated into four seats. Leader Gilles Duceppe lost in his home riding, and then resigned Monday evening. In a short speech at a rally in Montreal, Duceppe told supporters, “Those who supported the NDP wanted to give a last chance to a federalist party. Quebeckers now have the right to expect results, changes, a concrete recognition of the Québécois nation.” In 2004, the Bloc had 54 seats, which fell to 49 after the 2008 election. This time, a significant portion — by which I mean, almost all — of Bloc supporters seem to have shifted towards the NDP, particularly following the French language televised debate.

In addition to everything happening party-wise, there are a lot of other things to talk about in this election:

Voter turnout: According to estimates by Elections Canada, voter turnout was 61.4%, which was, embarrassingly, an improvement over 2008’s record low of 59.1%. The highest turnout Canada’s ever had was 79.4%, in the 1958 election that resulted in John Diefenbaker’s majority government. Even with an increase, 61.4% is still the third-lowest turnout in history, just above 2004 and 2008.

The Elections Act: The CBC may have broken the Elections Act by publishing the results from Eastern Canada in provinces that still had polls open. According to a representative for the CBC, the broadcast was due to a “switching error.” The Elections Act bans “premature transmission” of election results. Tweettheresults.ca did not end up breaking the Elections Act, though they meant to. The site, which was planning to display the results as leaked from polling stations and other sources, shut down at the last minute out of concern that, because of their sudden popularity, a complaint would be filed. #tweettheresults trended on Twitter anyway. Also, Stephen Harper broke election rules by campaigning by radio on election day.

Polls: The polling industry, which utterly failed to predict the way the Conservative supporters would translate into seats and a Conservative majority, has also been having a rough few days filled with existential self-doubt. Not only did the numbers during the campaign period vary wildly, which some have attributed to using different methods (phone interviews, automated phone interviews, or the Internet), they were also — with the exception of the results from Nanos Research — significantly different from what actually happened. The president of EKOS, one of the less accurate (this time) companies, told the Globe and Mail that the best way to fix something like this is to study the numbers and contact the people polled to see whether they voted the way they say they would, but that no one cares enough to actually (pay for them to) do it.

The youth vote: Rick Mercer-inspired Vote Mobs, which began at Guelph University, took over the world.

Inexperienced Members of Parliament: There are over 100 MPs who all have varying levels of political experience but who also have never been MPs before. Four of them are McGill students (three currently, one recently). This is incredible, and unbelievably cool, and also, a little worrying. People can applaud “fresh faces” and “new blood” all they want, but there’s a reason experience is valued, too. Whatever happens with this, the results will be interesting — just hopefully not in the way a car accident is.

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Ryan Yates

Ryan Yates was the NSFW Editor (2013–2018) and Literary Editor for Autostraddle.com, with bylines in Nylon, Refinery29, The Toast, Bitch, The Daily Beast, Jezebel, and elsewhere. They live in Los Angeles and also on twitter and instagram.

Ryan has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. are there any penalties possible for harper’s radio bullshit on election day?

    • there’s a loophole apparently; (to the best of my knowledge) they are allowed to do interviews on election day. what they AREN’T allowed to do is actively campaign. But Harper basically said “vote conservative!” which is like campaigning. but people are saying that since it was during an interview, it doesn’t count. YEAH RIGHT.

      • I listen to the very wise Kady O’Malley on this one, who is kind of the greatest political reporter/liveblogger ever. She’s also a super intense tweeter (@kady) but it’s worth following her because you learn so much.

        She agrees with the whole “it was an interview” thing, so I’m going to agree that he didn’t break election laws this time. Also, I feel it’s kind of impossible to get a politician to do an interview during election time that doesn’t sound like campaigning so…there’s that.

        On a lighter note, here’s something someone funny made: http://www.flickr.com/photos/david_hicks/5683761559/in/photostream

    • Woah, do you go to SFU? That man is my department head, and a pretty fantastic professor in my opinion.

  2. guys, please move here. we could use the non mouth-breathers right about now. and i promise those places that arent bluetastic are super awesome.

    • i still 100% want to move there.
      even though i still get confused that blue means conservative and “bluetastic” isn’t a good thing there. (blue states are awesome states here.)

  3. I have weighed the options and I still think I’d rather be movin’ to Canada. Your graph was truly, and sadly, fascinating for someone like me, who grew up in the States and is always surprised to find out that there actually exist countries with more than two political parties(!)

  4. Balls.

    What more is there to say?

    At least my chosen NDP MP – Don Davies – got elected. And I am friggin’ stoked about Elizabeth May.

    But… BALLS.

  5. i don’t think i’ve ever really realized how much a sense of community voting/elections bring. watching the results and seeing my riding go NDP i realized that i know a whole bunch of people who voted (who knows if they voted NDP, but still, it seems likely?) like my friends’ parents and the people i grew up with. usually i can’t picture people actually voting – i just think “who the hell is voting conservative? who are these people!?” and then seeing the whole of quebec basically vote NDP made me feel part of this huge movement, and actually made me really proud to be from quebec.

    except for that whole separatist movement thing.

  6. I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s worried about sending so many first time MPs to the hill. Also, I think I’m as sad about Cheryl Gallant getting re-elected as I am about the majority. That woman is insane…

  7. I really enjoyed this post. I am glad Canadian politics are getting some attention. And really sad about the results! I have been siging petitions and looking for ways to get involved in activism for electoral reform even though I don’t know how likely it is to ever happen.

  8. I’m moving to Germany, you guys. Those of you who are reconsidering Canada should come with me! We’ll start our own queermo commune!

      • We can all play “Schwul or Schwül” instead! Say some girl is talking to you and you’re starting to feel a little hot under the collar. If it’s “Schwul,” that means she’s a lesbogay and getting hot may lead to getting in her pants/adopting cats together! If it’s “Schwül,” that means it’s just fucking humid out and getting hot may lead to pit stains.

  9. it’s very bizarre to live in a big metropolitan city like toronto where my prime minister is stephen harper and my mayor is rob ford.
    and i didn’t vote for either of them.

  10. im so sick of this election, mainly because ndp didnt get majority and im still sulking about it…, whatever. also though alot of those graphs are technically right with the votes overall but they should pay attention to certain proviinces where there are more small towns compared to massive metropolitan areas. like for example most of st johns and mount pearl in nl voted ndp womp womp! sooooooooo i dont know where im going with this i have toooo many thoughts/ feelings/ anger towards this and i want to move right now… i have no idea what will happen in the future… booo.

    i second going to germany// maybe just europe… yeah :D

    • If the NDP had won the election (minority or majority) I think half the nation’s old folks population would have dropped dead from sheer shock. I’m personally still trying to get over the fact that they are the official Opposition! So many seats!

  11. i always feel that first-past-the-post is just dumb and unfair.. it tends to lead to bipartisan systems or at best marginalize minority/smaller parties..as well as leading to voter apathy as so many votes are wasted,
    people feel like their vote doesn’t matter or count.
    proportional representation also has its issues, but in my mind it is at least a lot fairer and much better reflects the popular vote..

    ok just wanted to share these thoughts, and thanks for the informative coverage of the canadian elections!

    • I have written papers upon papers about how badly we need to reform our electoral system… FPTP needs a SWIFT KICK IN THE ASS. I’m gunning for some sort of MMP (mixed-member proportional representation) system.

  12. I live in Alberta, and the rest of the country basically assumes we’ll vote conservative and lets us be. Nobody campaigns here. My incumbent MP, a conservative, didn’t even bother answering questions from the newspaper when they did profiles on the ridings. This bothers me, because even Stephen fucking Harper didn’t visit his own riding in Calgary-Southwest, AND HE STILL WON IN IT. Hell, we could have a cardboard cutout of Voldemort under a conservative banner, and I’m sure people would still elect it.

    Whether this is due to general apathy (We’ve had something like 3 elections in 5 years…) or actual support for the conservatives, I don’t know. I’m sure if I lived somewhere else, politics would be more exciting than just “Vote for whoever gives us money”.

    • Yeah, I’m moving to Edmonton in the fall and I’m a litttttttle hesitant because of the intense Conservatism. How big/out are the LGBT communities in Alberta?

      • Well, I’ve never lived anywhere else, so I can’t say, but both Edmonton and Calgary seem pretty gay friendly in terms of venues and such. Both have Pride events and publications and whatnot, but it’s all very grassroots.

          • I’m also from Alberta, and although I’m pissed Rob freaking anders won in my riding, again, I can also try and help answer your question.
            I think, in general, there are some pretty cool events and a good sense of community. It just might take some extra work to find it initially. It is pretty cool to be involved in the LGBT community out here though. it’s really been growing and I think it’s pretty special to be involved in that!

      • I’ll second what Solovei said. The big cities are pretty active (Edmonton has three gay bars, at least one of which caters to LBT as well as the G. And we have an awesome goth bar that is very queerfabulous.) And pride in both Edmonton and Calgary is pretty sweet.

        But we do have a couple of issues – Calgary has a white power group which has become more active recently (including staging a home invasion against an anti-nazi activist). And Edmonton had a group that came through our main bar district and attacked four people, dropping leaflets advertising a rally for the Calgary WP group. Plus a girl had her jaw broken by guys shouting F*gg*t at her and her friends, and the cop who eventually showed up went on vacation before filing his report….

        But it’s really a nice place overall! Yes! If I tell myself that enough maybe I’ll stop worrying and they’ll start funding GRS again…

        • Sounds like you’re from Edmonton. Hooray for fellow Autostraddlers! Nice to know that you’re out there =P

    • I think it’s because Canada has a united Right since the Reform/Conservative fusion, and a fractured Left.

  13. yeah i heard that in alberta that was insane! wasnt it only the green party who showed up in the end because no one else had come to alberta…. its again.. insane! yeah and they do assume everyone in alberta will vote conservative. alsoooo do you know whats sad this election was the highest turn out rate of 61.5% of canada voting…. how sad seriously…. its the highest in like 20 or 25 years ? apparently ! 61.5%…… stupid stupid stupid! i hate politics sometimes and that means most of the time..

  14. Well actually Alberta not particularly conservative relative to most places.I’ve spent time in Calgary and Edmonton and they sure don’t feel conservative.Remember a conservative in Canada is often a fiscal conservative but not so much a such a social conservative (minus certain sections of Alberta.)So even though the counrty has a conservative leader their politics are till more center than most US democratic platforms.So conservative for some countries but not so much relative to the US.I mean gay marriage has been legal for years and while not legislated by the conservatives they have been in power during it”s enactment and have had no issues with it.In the US the repeal of DADT is still being fought.So it’s kinda like comparing apples and oranges.

    • 1) Krayden said social conservatives are not calling for a repeal of abortion laws, “We are asking that Canada catch up with the rest of the Western world and have some restrictions on abortion.

      WHY WOULD WE EVER EVER WANT TO DO THAT!?!?!?!??! Catch up = stumble backwards.

      2) Krayden said there is also a movement to have all the human rights commissions abolished.

      “These tribunals are dominated by people who certainly don’t share our particular philosophical bent. Certainly Christians have been persecuted, social conservatives have been persecuted by these commissions. They are quasi-judicial star chambers,” he said.

      – That’s a very good thing. Good fucking grief, at least Harper isn’t harpooning these arguments, but STILL!!

  15. While this may make me seem backwards thinking, I personally don’t agree with abortions. We’re so adamant about human rights, but we seem to neglect the rights of children who are unborn. I would never suggest that they should be illegal, but I would be okay with not federally funding them.

    But then again, my opinion has been heavily influenced by straight girls I know who have recieved abortions because they are “too lazy to take the pill and don’t like the feel of condoms.” Ugh. Hetero sex creates babies. If you don’t want one, there’s ways of preventing that.

    • Ideally, abortions would be infrequent with quality education about sex and health. But it should still be something that is available to those that need them, for whatever reason. Providing funding for abortions ensures that they aren’t out of reach for people who may REALLY need them because they would not be able to financially care for their children.

      Also, I respectfully disagree with the “unborn fetuses are children too” view – it creates a slippery slope and confuses science with politics. If a fetus at 4 months is a child, but a fetus at 2 months isn’t, who makes that (somewhat arbitrary) distinction? What’s to stop governments from legislating that sperm and eggs are also potential children?

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