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Conservative Party leader and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to supporters at his federal election night headquarters in Calgary, Alberta, May 2, 2011. Harper scored a goal on Monday that had long eluded him, leading the Conservatives to the majority government he had failed to obtain in the last three elections. (ANDY CLARK/REUTERS/Andy Clark)
Conservative Party leader and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to supporters at his federal election night headquarters in Calgary, Alberta, May 2, 2011. Harper scored a goal on Monday that had long eluded him, leading the Conservatives to the majority government he had failed to obtain in the last three elections. (ANDY CLARK/REUTERS/Andy Clark)

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Jeffrey Simpson on the lessons of the 2011 election Add to ...

"What did the last five years, capped by Monday night's election results, teach us and the political parties?" asks national affairs columnist Jeffrey Simpson in his election-night column.

Mr. Simpson took reader questions Tuesday about Canada's federal election and what can be learned from it. A partial transcript follow, or scroll down to read the full transcript.

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Moderator: Jeffrey, a lesson others have taken from Monday night's results is that the Liberals and NDP must merge in order to effectively combat the Conservatives. Do you agree with this?

Jeffrey Simpson: The two parties are quite different for a variety of reasons; more different, I think, than were the Reformers and the Progressive Conservatives, or the Canadian Alliance and the PCs. the differences include the NDP's distrust of the free market, the party's anti-Americanism and opposition to free-trade and engagement in overseas active military campaigns, to say nothing of its attachment to the trade union movement. So I don't see a merger any time soon, although I know that there are Liberals who, following the thinking of their former leader Jean Chretien, believe this is the way forward.

Shanaz Joan Parsan: How much do you believe that the ABC movement split the votes and garnered the results of last night? And other than better fundraising, what do you think is needed for the Liberal Party to rebuild and be ready in four years?

Jeffrey Simpson: Vote-splitting definitely helped the Conservatives in some ridings where the ABC vote was divided rather evenly between the NDP and Liberals. I haven't had time to study the results in details, but even a cursory glance suggests it assisted the Conservatives in some Ontario ridings. As for what it will take for the Liberal Party to rebuild, it is not axiomatically clear that there is much of a role for the Liberal Party in the future, just as it became obvious in post-World War I Britain that the country had changed in such as way as to render obsolete the Liberal Party that had been one of the great national parties of 19th-century Britain. Parties do die, you know. Ask the American Whigs.

Dave: For the 60 per cent of us who didn't vote for the CPC, is it time to talk about electoral reform? If so, how do we start given the our new government likely has no interest in the idea?

Jeffrey Simpson: Electoral reform. Interesting. For years, the NDP complained that the first-past-the-post system disadvantaged them in that they got a higher share of the popular vote than the share of Commons seats. Last night, the two almost matched: 30 per cent of the popular vote, 30 per cent of the seats. The Conservatives were advantaged by the system, but the NDP was not disadvantaged. Now that they are closer than they have ever been to power, it will be interesting to see what emphasis the party now gives to proportional representation.

Andrew G: Is there any talk of a new centrist party, without any of the Trudeau-Chretien baggage, to take the Liberals' place and challenge for the Canadian mainstream?

Jeffrey Simpson: There is no talk of such an idea.

Jay: Do you expect the next Liberal leader to be one of their 34 MPs or an outsider? In your opinion, would Justin Trudeau as leader hurt or help their cause?

Jeffrey Simpson: You heard it here first: Justin Trudeau will not be a candidate for the Liberal leadership any time soon, according to what I will just say are "well-placed sources."

CC: Last night, Jason Kenney credited a lot of Conservative support on "new Canadians" -- could it be that the Liberals represent a Canada of the past and the Conservatives, on the surface, represent those key areas new Canadians are seeking -- job security, small business support, lower taxes, etc.?

Jeffrey Simpson: The Conservatives set about five years ago building their party in some -- not all but sonme -- so-called ethnic communities. They used a variety of tools, and they were persistent, and they were successful, to their very great political credit. They reasoned -- and I always thought they were right -- that certain of these groups, notably the South Indian and Chinese communities -- were natural conservative constituencies in that they have strong family ties, they work in the private sector, they often are entrepreneurial, and they want to be respected for the contributions they are making. I think the Conservatives got all of this. And they went after what we might loosely call the "Jewish" vote with undiluted support for Israel, right or wrong.



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