Welcome to our full issue on the 2011 election. We’re very confident that in years to come this issue of Policy Options will be a frequent and important point of reference. Twenty years from now, political junkies may still be downloading articles from our online archive (www.irpp.org).

What they’ll look back at is an election that realigned the Canadian political landscape. In their wisdom, Canadians elected a majority Conservative government. Thanks to their orange surge in Quebec, the NDP vaulted into second place as Official Opposition for the first time ever. And the Liberals, for the first time in their history, have been relegated to third place. The Bloc Québécois, swept by the orange wave, has been reduced to a rump of four seats. No one will be unhappy if they disappear altogether from the federal scene.

To tell the story of the election, and what it means going forward, we’ve assembled an impressive team of more than 25 writers, who’ve given us the largest issue in the 30-year history of Policy Options.

It’s not something we could do every month, and indeed it couldn’t have been done without our indispensable Production co-ordinator, Chantal Letourneau, Associate Editor Sarah Fortin, as well as our copy editors Francesca Worrall and Felice Schaefli, proofreader Barbara Czarnecki, translator Michel Beauchamp, designer Jenny Schumacher and webmaster Nicola Johnston. They’re a superlative team. Thanks also to Stephen Harper’s photographer, Jason Ransom, for many of the campaign images that appear in this issue, including the covershot. Thanks as well to the Gazette in Montreal and Michael Porritt in the paper’s library for the images of Jack Layton, Gilles Duceppe and Michael Ignatieff.

Our writers have risen to the occasion, none more so than Robin Sears, who has given us a riveting 12,000 word account of the campaign. From Toronto, NDP strategist Brian Topp takes us inside the Jack Layton campaign and tells us how they did it. Nik Nanos looks inside his own polling numbers from the campaign. He writes that what began as a boring election became a seismic shift. I was fortunate to spend a few days on the ground in the Greater Toronto Area with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. The Conservatives gained 19 seats in the GTA, which delivered their majority. Patrick Gossage reflects on what the Conservative showing in Toronto means for the Liberals, and for the largest metropolitan area in the country.

Geoff Norquay looks at the various ballot questions offered by the parties, and concludes Stephen Harper had a question everyone understood — majority or minority? — while Michael Ignatieff’s chosen ballot question, contempt of Parliament, was a process issue voters didn’t care about.

From her seat on the Conservative leader’s tour, “inside the bubble,” Marjory LeBreton writes that most of the national media missed the story on the ground, and wonders if the present model of campaign tours, reporters following leaders around for 37 days, hasn’t been rendered obsolete by new media. Speaking of which, Yaroslav Baran checks in with a trenchant assessment of social media, and their impact, as compared with their noise, in the campaign. From the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, Stuart Soroka and his colleagues weigh in with their assessment of newspaper coverage of the campaign. From Concordia University, Jim McLean looks at the media frames around the election, and concludes that while the Liberals offered a red door, Jack Layton proposed “la porte orange.”

From the Gandalf Group, David Herle and his colleagues consider the polls, and their impact on the campaign. Public opinion research, they write, should be more enlightening than merely coverage of the horse race.

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From the Université de Sherbrooke, Jean-Herman Guay looks at “the electoral stupor” that greeted the huge NDP breakthrough in Quebec. And from Alberta, Frédéric Boily analyses the other wave, the blue one, “that has once more engulfed the western provinces.”

That’s all by way of looking back, perhaps with some lessons learned. Looking ahead, Jaime Watt reports from Ensight Canada’s post-election focus group research across Canada that while Canadians may have given Harper a mandate, they are also telling him to mind his majority.

Former Harper strategist Tom Flanagan sees the emergence of a new Conservative coalition — Ontario and the West, that could dominate Canadian politics for a very long time. Adam Daifallah looks at what Harper has delivered as measured against expectations on the right. Derek Leebosh of Environics looks at the NDP wave in Quebec and suggests their overnight success was the result of decades of hard work. Former Liberal strategist Scott Reid looks at the long road back for the Liberals, and concludes they should play a long game. From Montreal, Eric Bédard wonders if we’re not seeing the end of the Liberal consensus. Wayne Hunt looks at the British referendum on electoral reform, and the lessons it could hold for Canada.

Charles McMillan looks out to a Conservative Canada in a new world economic order. David Jones writes that Washington is relieved by the Conservative majority, and Velma McColl notes while the environment and clean energy issues were ignored in the election, they’re not going away. Finally, Kevin Lynch looks at an economic policy agenda for a changing world.

To begin our special issue, our Q&A with the Prime Minister. Enjoy.

Photo: Shutterstock

L. Ian MacDonald
L. Ian MacDonald is a former editor-in-chief of Policy Options (2002-12) and is currently an editor and publisher of Policy Magazine.

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