Veteran Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder and her NDP colleagues, all 102 of them, are in a uniquely odd position.
They’ve just experienced the biggest election in party history, propelling them to official Opposition status.
Yet while the party’s popularity has grown steadily under Jack Layton, translating into more seats each election (19 in 2004, 29 in 2006 and 37 in 2008), the culmination of that steady increase in numbers – Monday’s 102-seat performance (more than doubling the party’s record of 43 under Ed Broadbent in 1988, which is, ironically, also the last time the Conservatives won a majority) – corresponds with a sudden and remarkable drop in influence.
With the Conservatives winning a 167-seat majority, due to the collapse of the Liberals (34 seats, down from 77) and Bloc Quebecois (four seats, down from 49), the impact of the NDP accomplishment is counter-intuitive.
The NDP’s growing power leaves it with less power.
Layton can put whatever rosy spin on it he chooses, but his party held the balance of power for much of the last decade, since 2004’s Liberal minority, and will now find swaying the Tories to compromise on key policy issues markedly more difficult.
As Layton moves into Stornoway, the residence of the leader of the official Opposition, and the euphoria of Monday’s historic results subsides, he and his party must prepare themselves for four years of increasing frustration.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has pledged a commitment to work ‘with’ the opposition, but there’s only one reason political parties hunger for a majority – to push their own legislative agenda through Parliament without having to worry about compromising policies and principles to earn a minority party’s support.
This is our new political landscape.