Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, left to right, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole take part in the federal election English-language Leaders debate in Gatineau, Que., on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, left to right, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole take part in the federal election English-language Leaders debate in Gatineau, Que., on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OPINION: The more things change, the more they stay the same

There’s a climactic scene at the end of the first act of Jurassic Park — the 1993 Spielberg classic — where the Tyrannosaurus Rex attacks a stranded Jeep with two kids, Tim and Lex, trapped inside. The T-Rex tosses the Jeep over an embankment and into the jungle canopy. Tim, still trapped inside, climbs out with the help of Dr. Alan Grant, but as the two descend to the base of the tree, the weight of the jeep begins to snap the branches holding it in place, and it starts falling towards the ground. As Tim and Grant get to the bottom, the Jeep collapses on top of them, but they survive thanks to some Hollywood movie magic.

Closing the scene, Tim exclaims: “Well, we’re back in the car again.”

Anyway, following the preliminary federal election results this week, we’re back in the car again.

It’s downright hilarious that Canadians have returned nearly the same parliament that was dissolved earlier this summer, save for a few cosmetic changes.

The Liberals appear headed for a minority government with 158 seats, the Conservatives lost two seats at 119, the Bloc Quebecois are up two seats at 34, the NDP are up one seat at 25 and the Greens took two seats (these are preliminary results; mail-in ballots may flip a few close races).

While some cynics lament the $600 million cost of the election in the context of returning nearly the same parliamentary makeup, that’s simply the cost of doing democracy’s business.

Imagine flipping that concern over costs around, by saying, “well, the election is gonna cost $600 million, so we probably shouldn’t have one because it’s too expensive.”

Yikes.

Regardless of the reasons for going to the polls, Canadians had the opportunity to exercise their democratic right and cast a vote.

And that is always important, no matter the financial cost.

In terms of the election’s timing, that’s another matter entirely — was this the appropriate time to hold an election?

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau justified the election was necessary to give Canadians the option of choosing their future government to lead the country in the post-pandemic era. Others saw it as a cynical ploy to seek a majority parliament.

Regardless, what’s done is done and the voters have spoken.

So, without further ado, some election-related thoughts that I’ve been reflecting on since the preliminary results came in early Tuesday morning.

• How will Trudeau govern now? Canadians have spoken, and while Trudeau says he “has a mandate”, he’s still going to need parliamentary support from other parties to pass legislation, especially bills that carry a confidence measure. How much of the Liberals’ campaign promises will become reality, now that they need opposition votes? The NDP spent most of the campaign attacking Trudeau and the Liberals to lure away the left-wing vote — can the two sides repair the bridges and work together on issues like sickness benefits like they did during the early days of the pandemic?

• The Conservatives are having an identity crisis, and have been struggling with one since at least 2015, when former Tory Prime Minister Stephen Harper lost amidst Trudeau’s march to a Liberal majority. I still remember the Conservatives running attack ads that Trudeau “just wasn’t ready” and that “he has nice hair though”. After six years of Liberal governance, you’d think the Conservative Party would stop focusing on Trudeau, and instead find a way to present itself as a legitimate alternative for governance. The 2019 election was a bellwether election for the Tories — despite Trudeau being mired in the SNC Lavalin scandal, ethics breaches, and blackface photos, the Conservatives still couldn’t get elected, and are now on their third party leader in six years. The party has got to find a way to broaden the tent in order to appeal to a wider audience beyond Western Canada and rural Ontario, and clearly present it’s priorities and vision for governance. Emphasis on clearly, or it will forever be relegated to the opposition benches.

• There’s a lot of ink that could be spilled about the People’s Party of Canada. I’ll only say party leader Mad Max Bernier turned into Sad Max Bernier as he lost his Quebec riding to a Conservative challenger. Au revoir.

• The Green collapse was ugly. The party went from over a million votes in 2019, to a few hundred thousand this time around. Party leader Annamie Paul lost her bid for a seat in the House of Commons, while the party claimed two ridings in B.C. and Ontario.

• Where does the NDP go from here? Can it carve out its own legislative identity, not as Liberal enablers, but as one that can advance it’s own agenda? The party is capable of capturing ridings anywhere across the country — what are the unifying messages or issues that supporters and undecided voters can flock to? The party gained one seat, but is there enough of a foundation there to launch an orange wave in the future?

Anyhow, the latest democratic exercise has been a fun one, and we can all look forward to doing it again in 24 months.

Trevor Crawley is a reporter for the Cranbrook Townsman and this is an opinion column