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Some post-election thoughts

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Now that the dust is starting to settle on the election, a few thoughts.

First and foremost, while not everyone will agree, it was a good day for the country. Stephen Harper, with his dictatorial leadership style and unethical tactics, had turned the election into a referendum on him and on Canadian values. We passed that test by showing him the door.

Now we’ll see how the new guy does. He’s off to a good start. As Prime Minister Elect, Justin Trudeau is already sending signals of a new, open approach, and that is certainly refreshing. But Liberals should make no mistake. There is no question that this election was mainly about seeing Harper go. Who his replacement would be was a secondary priority. It just happened that because of a near flawless campaign on Trudeau’s part combined with a failed strategy and stumbling on Thomas Mulcair’s part, Justin got the nod.

So it is now on to the job of repairing the harm done by Harper over the past 10 years, and moving the country forward.

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Some of that should be fairly easy. Start treating the environment like it matters, unmuzzle our scientists and bring back the long form censuses so we can get back to fact-based decision making. These kinds of things should be a no brainer.

Much tougher, and perhaps a real test of Trudeau’s character may be what he does with the PMO. Under Harper, power was concentrated within the Prime Minister's Office to the detriment of Parliament, which was regularly circumvented. It was also to the detriment of democracy, but human nature suggests it is often hard to relinquish clout once you have it. So we’ll see.

We’ll also see if he keeps his promise to review our deeply flawed first-past-the-post electoral system. I checked to see if he actually promised to change it. He didn’t, just to review it. But hopefully enough pressure can be brought to bear that it does get changed.

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While most of us are looking at Monday’s election as a massive win for the Liberals, and it was, the accompanying fact is that just like Harper four years before, we have a majority government even though only a minority of Canadians voted for it. In fact the Liberals got less than 40 percent of the popular vote, the same as Harper got in 2011.

It’s not that big a deal this time because 70 percent of the country wanted a progressive party to win. But if it wasn’t for the NDP collapse, it is quite possible that we would have ended up with a re-elected right wing party most Canadians didn’t want, just like last time.

First-past-the-post (or winner take all) overly rewards the winners, and overly punishes the losers. And it often results in strategic voting, which while understandable, nevertheless sucks. It’s pretty simple. A party that gets 40% support should not get 100% of the power. It is simply not fair, and certainly not representative of the country's citizens.

But perhaps like the power concentration within the PMO, it may be hard for someone who is benefiting from a system to find motivation to change it. But since we are now into change big time in this country, maybe the time is right to put Proportional Representation on the table.

Trudeau did promise to look into it. That’s a start.

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