Monday, May 9, 2011

Moral of the story: Olympics are good if you're a Tory

There evidently is an Olympic omen on the right when it comes to federal elections in Canada.

The first election after the 1976 Montreal Olympics was contested May 22, 1979 when Joe Clark upset Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau as the Clark Progressive Conservatives beat the Liberals 136-114 to win a minority. The NDP, under leader Ed Broadbent, held the balance of power with 26 seats.

The 1988 Winter Olympics were held in Calgary and PC Prime Minister Brian Mulroney went to the polls on Nov. 21, 1988 in the election fought on the divisive issue of free trade with the United States. Mulroney steamrolled to a 211-seat landslide in 1984, but in 1988 won re-election with a 169-seat majority.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservatives finally got their majority in the May 2, 2011 election, winning 167 seats. Harper now has 100% of the power with 54.2% of the seats in Parliament after getting 39.6% of the votes from 61.4% of the registered voters who cast ballots. That's how the first-past-the-post system works, folks.

Now that Quebec is coloured with the orange of Jack Layton's NDP, will the Tories try to gain favour during the next four years by backing La Belle Province's bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics?

Throughout the campaign, Harper sported a black, HBC-made Team Canada jacket from the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics collection. Who can forget his all-terrain vehicle ride or his syrup-sucking? Such famous images, like these two, were featured prominently on the Conservative party's campaign website. Harper was doing his best to remind Canadians of the Games and attach himself to the 14-gold medal success of the host nation's athletes. To this day, Harper's government has still not disclosed the final bill to taxpayers for the Games.

The Vancouver Games, however, weren't the springboard to victory for two other candidates who were part of the five-ring circus last year.

Tory Gary Lunn, who was the junior minister of sport, was handily beaten by Green Party leader Elizabeth May in Saanich and the Gulf Islands. May, the Hartford, Ct.-born, former Nova Scotia candidate switched coasts and upset the smug Lunn by more than 7,000 votes (May 31,890; Lunn 24,544) to become the first elected Green in Canadian federal politics. Lunn, you may remember, made VANOC CEO John Furlong the guest of honour to open the campaign office.

In North Vancouver, ex-VANOC vice-president of strategy and partnerships Taleeb Noormohamed (17,665) came a distant second to incumbent Tory Andrew Saxton (28,996).

The Olympics, meanwhile, featured a heavy emphasis on aboriginal involvement (despite there being no full-blooded native on Team Canada). Some believe the Four Host First Nations inclusion strategy was a clever move to prevent tribes-without-treaties from resorting to roadblocks. Others said it only made sense. Could it, however, have played a small part in the election of a record seven aboriginals to Parliament?

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