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Headshot of me wearing red lipstick Kara Babcock

The afterglow of my first election

The polls are closed, and the votes are mostly tallied. Last month, Stephen Harper called an election; this month, he was re-elected with yet anohter minority government--a stronger minority, but still a minority. In the ensuing chaotic coverage, some interesting trends have emerged. The new hot issues are Liberal leadership, government functionality, voting reform, and voter turnout.

The Liberals lost eighteen seats (at the time of this writing), which is a blow for them. Still the official opposition, yet weakened. Additionally, Dion declared in his concession speech that he would be willing to work with the Conservatives on the economic "crisis" that we're facing. While I commend Dion for extending the olive branch, two questions come to mind: does this mean the Conservatives will have a de facto majority? And will this matter at all in a week or two when the Liberals get a new leader? For indeed, if there was anything the majority of pundits agreed that Dion is done. My opinion of Dion improved during this campaign; however, that still doesn't mean he's a strong leader.

The next question is: will this government be functional? Harper's cited reason for calling the last election was that government no longer worked properly. The Conservatives have made some gains and the Liberals some losses. With a potential new Liberal leadership, will the government work together better? I'm going to be optimistic here. I predict that the government will indeed work well for at least a year, hopefully two (as the CBC panel's predicting). There's several reasons for this: firstly, none of the party leaders are eager for another election. I'm ready for another one, but I don't think it's in Canada's best interest right now. Secondly, although Harper has made gains, his experience with the last government will hopefully temper his attitude when it comes to cooperating. I'm hoping he'll play nicer with the Liberals when it comes to the economic issues on which he needs their support.

A lot of the talk on Twitter concerned reforming the electoral system. People were disgruntled with the low voter turnout. Complaints abounded regarding the new ID rules, which some people thought were the primary reason so many didn't vote. While I don't know about that, I can understand why the ID rules are a concern. Many are advocating reforms to the system, things like proportional representation, to mitigate the influence of parties like the Bloc Québecois, who have forty-eight seats (at the time of this writing) but only ten per cent of the vote.

As I mentioned above, I spent most of the night glued to Twitter's search engine following some Canadian election hashtags, and I tweeted quite a bit myself. The Twitter coverage was actually much better than the coverage on television! Real reactions from real people across the entire spectrum. CBC's TV coverage was unhelpful. Their graphics lacked relevant statistics and were uninformative. Their opinions weren't very insightful. The CBC website was much more helpful, with an interactive map showing the current disposition of the ridings, plus very detailed statistics for each riding--I commend the CBC's web team.

I was very disappointed with Susan Ormiston's Ormiston online coverage of the online reaction. Ormiston displayed a remarkable lack of competence using the technology she had in the nerve centre tonight. In her defence, some of that incompetence may be due to the technology itself. From the looks of things, she wasn't very well equipped to cull and display particular tweets or emails very nicely. It looked like some sort of hastily-created mashup in a notebook program with a couple special effects.

In addition to the poor presentation, whatever happened to actually covering the Internet reactions? At the beginning of the special coverage, they went to Ormiston, who explained how throughout the night they would refer to her for the reaction of people on Twitter, on blogs, through emails, etc. I think they referred to her a total of about three times. So much for listening to public reaction. Although the Internet is helping people have their voice heard, I don't think that we're quite at the point where social media is becoming the new paradigm for politics. Not yet. Maybe in the next decade, but first we need a generation of newscasters adept at manipulating and participating in the paradigm.

Well, I have class in seven hours, so I should go to bed. To all of those who voted, no matter for whom you voted, I thank you for participating in our democratic system. To those of you who didn't vote, I'm disappointed.

I shall close by quoting Kevin McCann tweet, which may be the best comment of the night:

U.S. friends, Canadian election is over after just 6 weeks. 60% voted left-of-centre; right-of-centre government gets in.