My main concern with the new parliament, is that the current makeup could afford Harper a golden opportunity for the future. We have a relatively weak minority that should act as check on the Conservative hard right agenda. Although progressives can take some solace with the fact that Harper will be forced to the center, the reality may well benefit the Conservatives long term.
Despite forming a government, I would argue that many Canadians still approach Harper with a wait and see attitude. This election wasn't an endorsement of right wing policy, but more a desire for change, within the confines of moderation. Harper must now pick and choose which policies too push and which to leave on the back burner. I would expect to see the GST cut, the child care money, a further commitment to the military, measures to improve government transparency and other relatively benign legislation. The more hot button issues are not on the table in the short term and this will serve the Harper government well.
Fast forward two years into the future, when talk of another election is brought to the fore. I would suggest that because of the nature of this minority, and the resulting need for moderate policies, Harper will be strongly positioned to forcefully argue for another mandate. It may well happen that the Conservatives force the issue and allow the circumstance for another vote. Why? Harper can present a factual case to quell any hesitations about an extreme agenda. Harper can point to his achievements within a minority as proof that Conservatives are moderate and pragmatic. Canadians may well react with the thoughts that he cut our taxes, governed effectively under the circumstances and followed a mainstream approach.
This is all speculation of course, but Harper is in the unique position where the more extreme elements within his party will be muted because of circumstance, allowing him to portray the Conservatives as reflective of most Canadians. The opposition will be in a precarious position because the demand for compromise may translate into a clean record, not easily criticized. The Canadian people may reward the Conservatives with another mandate, possibly stronger and the country will begin to really turn right. I had heard talk that some Conservative strategists were openly supporting the notion of a minority. At the time I dismissed these assertions, but the more I think about this scenario, the more it may serve the Conservative well in the long term. The opposition parties are in a position where they must work with the government and in turn risk that government using its achievements to argue for more power. Food for thought anyways.