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Liberal supporters watch election results roll in on May 2, 2011, in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Liberal supporters watch election results roll in on May 2, 2011, in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS)


The Tories stomped us, <br/>but we shouldn't make <br/>sour grapes into whine Add to ...

About the only theory that I didn't hear put forward by liberals and progressives this week to explain the election results was that the Conservatives won because they got the most votes and that this happened because a lot of voters liked what they appeared to offer.

I don't write "appeared to offer" to slight the Conservatives. All parties make offers during campaigns, and few deliver everything. I don't think voters liked all of the promises in the Conservatives' platform, but clearly they liked enough of them.

I didn't hear much excitement about the pledge to extend the child-fitness credit to adults - a slight to Canadians who stay fit by shovelling their driveways or walking to jobs that are physically demanding, or people who would never consider spending $500 a year to belong to a gym, perhaps because they have daycare and electricity bills to pay.

The promise to extend the fitness credit to the arts is equally silly: I refuse to believe that we're in a global economic recession as long as there's a single Paint Your Own Pottery store left on the planet.

I don't think Stephen Harper has a hidden agenda. I take him at his word that he doesn't want to reopen the debate on abortion or on gay marriage. Why would he? There's little to suggest that he's particularly ideologically driven.

Yes, the Conservatives sidle up to traditional conservative ideas, such as mandatory minimum sentences for criminals, but I've never been convinced by many Conservatives speaking on this issue that they sincerely see longer jail times as a path toward making Canada a better place. Perhaps this is because Mr. Harper keeps his MPs as dispassionate on these issues as he can. I assume he'll continue to do so.

I think the less sinister, more dreary truth about Mr. Harper is that he really does just want to "focus on the economy" in an almost Rain Man-like way. But governing a country isn't a single-issue task. (This may be why he's frequently moody.)

I'd argue that one of the mistakes in the Liberals' election strategy was to cede the territory of the economy to the Conservatives so easily, instead of fighting Mr. Harper where he lives: in the numbers, on the deficit, on the unemployment figures.

The question that we should have asked ourselves before we handed the Conservatives a majority isn't "How well are we weathering this recession?" but "How well would we have weathered this recession had we entered it after a four years of a Conservative majority?" But then, I don't know that many voters didn't ask themselves that exact question, and decide it in the Conservatives' favour.

Sometimes it feels as if Stephen Harper is like the guy you date for four years and then, one day, you look up and say, "Good god, I guess that makes him my boyfriend!"

There was even a moment during the debates when he brought up the whole four-year thing and the majority and I thought, "Wow, did Stephen Harper just ask us to move in with him?" Well, that's what Canada did.

The Conservatives won a majority. I didn't vote for them. I don't like their record on the environment. I want my long-form census back, all mandatory and scientific. I want us to help women in developing nations have control over how many children they have. I want women here to have better access to abortion. I want funding for Insite. I want marijuana decriminalized and a national daycare program. I want more respect for our democratic system. I got one vote and, yes, I'm saddened by the outcome, but that's democracy.

A four-year Conservative majority isn't the end of the world. I don't believe that, as Heather Mallick wrote in The Guardian, "a Canadian version of George W. Bush, minus the warmth and intellect, is now prime minister." Or that "a cold new dawn" awaits us (although, like many Canadians, I like cold dawns).

I think Mr. Harper is bright and intends well for Canada, although I view his vision of Canada as pinched and unimaginative. No "war," as Ms. Mallick calls it, has begun.

The Conservatives fought a vicious campaign against a poorly defined opponent. The NDP rise was partly a rejection of both those things. However, the only way irreparable damage will be done here is if many of us dismiss the Tory majority, and the fellow citizens who elected it, as somehow less Canadian, less well-informed and less well-intentioned than ourselves, instead of trying to understand why they voted the way they did.

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Follow on Twitter: @TabathaSouthey

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