Jack Knox: 10 takeaways from the 2021 federal election

Ten takeaways from election night:

1) Hey, did you ever get in the car with this fantastic destination in mind, but kind of get lost and drive around aimlessly for 36 days, only to find yourself half a block from where you started?

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Justin Trudeau’s $600-million Excellent Adventure didn’t go as planned. We only endured this early election so he could win a majority, which he didn’t get. As bad decisions go, Trudeau’s call ranks with the Seattle Seahawks’ failure to give the ball to Marshawn Lynch on the one-yard line in the 2015 Super Bowl (not that I’m still bitter).

Trudeau will remain prime minister, but the man who earned praise for leading Canada through the early days of the pandemic now looks not only opportunistic but politically inept.

2) With polls identifying climate change as a top worry for voters, this should have been the Greens’ chance to build on the momentum of 2019, when they went from one MP — Elizabeth May — to three. Instead, the Greens shot themselves in the Birkenstocks before the race even began by descending into internal squabbling triggered by, of all things, a dispute over Palestine and Israel.

When a party gets in a family punch-up over a half-a-world-away issue over which it has no influence, red flags go up. It took May years to drag the Greens out of fringe territory, but now — even if they win three seats again — they’re sliding back, flirting with numbers so low that they put election-expense reimbursements in jeopardy. Leader Annamie Paul didn’t win her Toronto seat, so where does that leave former leader May?

3) There was some real ugliness to this campaign, with an emboldened, angry fringe showing up at campaign stops to hound Trudeau (who probably thought their antics would earn him sympathy), chanting “lock him up,” threatening him, even throwing gravel.

It showed the power of social media to attract the kind of people who mistrust traditional media (and science) but are happy to place their faith in echo chambers that spew (suspect) information from a single perspective.

It would be easy to dismiss them all as crackpots, but the reality is Canada has a significant number of largely young people with not much money and not much education who are seriously disaffected, not recognizing themselves in any of the mainstream parties.

4) There was as much chance of the Conservatives winning the Victoria riding as there was of Trudeau leading the Calgary Stampede parade. The Conservatives earned less than 13 per cent of the vote in Victoria in 2019, so they knew they didn’t have a prayer this time, either.

But the party did make a statement by running transgender candidate Hannah Hodson. It was a message that these were not, as she said, “your grandfather’s Conservatives.”

5) Erin O’Toole did a far better job than did his predecessor, Andrew (Smiling Harper) Scheer, who in 2019 had some Conservative campaign workers on Vancouver Island complaining about a strategy based on little but A) grinning and B) complaining about Trudeau. O’Toole articulated a relatively centrist-friendly campaign while dodging the cow-pies — gun bans, vaccine-mandate vacillation — in his path.

Yet he still didn’t move the needle much, losing support on the right as he gained it on the left. Expect the other Erin O’Toole, a woman who hosts a Colorado radio show and who often receives Twitter messages meant for the Canadian politician, to field more resignation demands.

6) O’Toole might not have won many votes when he vowed to ditch $10-a-day childcare, but he sure lost those of would-be parents.

7) This would be a really good time for NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to finally say if he would kill the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

8) This will be the third consecutive election in which Vancouver Island hasn’t elected a single member of the governing party.

9) Pause to pity the people of Nanaimo, enduring their ninth federal, provincial or municipal election or byelection in seven years, including four in the past 16 months.

10) Mail-in ballots are nice. Knowing the winner on election night is nicer. Sorry, Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

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