If you step back, look at the big picture, these election results may represent the best case scenario for Canada. Obviously, as a progressive, the thought of a Conservative government is hardly desirable. However, taken in totality, the new political landscape offers several positive developments.
First, and foremost, the Liberal Party is now forced into a re-examination phase that will morph it back to a relevant alternative. Martin's quick exit sets the tone for reform, which the Liberals must heed. The Liberals did suffer from the pitfalls that historically happen when one party rules for too long. The party can sharpen its message in opposition, free from the albatross of scandal and present a fresh start. Canadians are still generally sympathetic to Liberal policies, but rejected the present configuration. Time spent in the political wilderness could well serve as a net plus for the Liberals in the longterm.
Canada is now cleansed of the divisive forces which have plagued the national government. The Bloc has lost its reliable whipping boy, that has helped perpetuate the seperatist agenda. A Martin led Liberal Party would never recover in Quebec, and only serve to further alienate Quebecers. This election, Quebecers clearly showed that while they reject the Liberals, they do not reject the federation. The results from Quebec offer a great deal of hope as we move forward. Duceppe is weakened and defensive. Harper has a handful of MP's to bring into cabinet and give the government a much needed national character. As I watched the coverage last night, even partisan Liberals commentators had to agree that the results in Quebec were encouraging.
The sense of alienation felt in provinces like Alberta had reached a dangerous tipping point. Today, the headlines cry "the West is in!" and a new sense of inclusiveness reigns. I truly believe, that this election was a line in the sand moment regarding western alienation. Had the Liberals triumphed yet again, I doubt anything would be able to stem the overt anger and frustration. With this election result, the constant East bashing that has become required sport in Alberta will ease. The West is in, objectively if the concern is Canada, this is a healthy development.
All these positive developments attained within the framework of a relative weak minority government. There was nothing I feared more than the thought of Conservative majority. Despite the attempts by Harper to project a moderate image, anyone who follows closely knows that behind the scenes lies a hard right agenda. This present makeup of parliament doesn't lend itself to bold initiatives or aggressive agendas. We have Harper, but in many respects we have a neutered Harper. Surrounded by social progressives on all sides, Harper will be forced to appease and outright abandon. Today's buzzword amongst the pundits seems to be "on a short leash" and Canada is well served by this predicament.
We have a government that has a national identity, at a time when one is desperately needed. We have an opposition that essentially controls the agenda. We have a Liberal Party that received the required kick in the ass, without the post-Mulroney style drubbing that leaves a mere skeleton. The Liberals are well placed to re-emerge, so long as they heed the harsh advice from voters. Quebec is revisited, Alberta is finally on side, which clearly translates into a net positive for the nation.
If you accept the premise that the Liberals were going to lose, I can't think of another scenario that bests this outcome. Possibly, a parliament where the NDP holds the balance of power, but essentially we have power sharing in spades. If I must endure Stephen Harper, then these set of circumstances are the most acceptable in the short term.