A Conservative Majority in Canada, with 40 Percent of the Vote. I'll Explain.

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 2 2011 10:59 PM

A Conservative Majority in Canada, with 40 Percent of the Vote. I'll Explain.

Back in March, when Canada's leftish opposition and third parties forced a general election , I assumed the Conservative Party would win a majority.

This election is happening because the Liberals, joined by the lefty New Democrats, brought down the government. Surprise -- voters are pissed. An Ipsos poll taken this week found 43 percent of voters backing the Conservatives if the Liberals pulled this stunt. That puts them in the position to win an overall majority. How do they do that with only 43 percent? Because the left is still divided between three parties who cannibalize votes, and as happened in 2006 and 2008, it'll be possible for the Conservatives to scoop up seats in swing areas with pluralities.

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And sure enough, the Tories have won a majority -- the first Conservative majority* since 1988. They have done so by winning around 40 percent of the vote nationwide and watching the New Democratic Party swallow the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois like a python. It's the highest plurality for the Tories since they were formed.

Actually, this election has a serious resemblance to that 1988 election. Brian Mulroney's PC won that year with 43 percent of the vote, as the Liberals and New Democrats won 52 percent and spoiled one another. The new majority comes with wins in ridings like Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe (36 percent for the Tories), Labrador (38 percent), Scarborough Centre (36 percent), and Winnipeg South Centre (38 percent). Meanwhile, the New Democrats won seats where they nominated nice-seeming token candidates, including a woman who went on vacation -- to Vegas! -- during the campaign.

The quick take: Conservatives in Canada have prospered, thanks to good stewardship of the economy, and a lot of lucky breaks from a self-destructive left and a collapsing Liberal Party. If anyone tries to make a point about American politics based on this, run. Run the other way.

*Back then, they were the Progressive Conservatives. It's complicated

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.