Harper Out As Conservative Leader Following Election Results

Prime Minister Harper
Prime Minister Harper

THUNDER BAY – Justin Trudeau is Canada’s next Prime Minister. Riding a wave of Liberal support that built over the election, Trudeau ran a campaign that maintained a positive and upbeat stance throughout. With 184 seats, the Liberals captured a majority.

The Liberals climbed over the New Democrats where were leading the polls at the start of the campaign.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has decided to step down as party leader, releasing a statement to media in Calgary last night just before he took to the stage. During his speech, the Conservative leader didn’t mention he was stepping down as leader.

So what happened?

New voters coming out for the first time brought an additional 4.2 million voters to their campaigns. The New Democrats lost about a million votes, and the Conservatives lost under half a million votes.

Voter turnout was up seven percentage points to sixty-eight percent.

In Northwestern Ontario, 2015 voter numbers were up as well. In Kenora, voter turnout was 72.9%, in Thunder Bay Rainy River it was 66.07%, and in Thunder Bay Superior North voter turnout was 69.57%.

That massive increase in voter turnout, especially in Kenora led to the defeat of Conservative cabinet minister Greg Rickford.

Elections Canada will have the riding by riding figures in the coming days, that will demonstrate if a promised First Nation vote made a big difference.

What happened to the Conservatives?

The Conservatives were reduced to primarily their western voice. Prime Minister Stephen Harper released a statement last night that he will step down as party leader.

Primarily in this election, the Prime Minister became a lightning rod for anger against the Conservatives.

Running a tightly controlled government, with massive increases in the power of the Prime Minister’s Office means that at the end of his political career, the only person to blame will be Stephen Harper himself.

Here in Thunder Bay, both Conservative candidates saw their voter support fall. Richard Harvey generated a strong second place finish in 2011. Harvey saw his support fall dramatically from 10,894 votes to 7,775 votes.

In Thunder Bay Rainy River, Moe Comuzzi saw similar drops in support. In 2015, Comuzzi received 8,876 votes, that was down from 2011 when the Conservative candidate received 10,097 votes.

The Conservatives in Thunder Bay ran for the most part a terrible campaign. At debates each candidate’s answers almost appeared to have been approved by the Conservative headquarters. The only time Moe Comuzzi seemed to show some of her own thoughts was in an apology to veterans over the closure of local offices.

In Kenora, Greg Rickford fell to a third place showing from his pair of wins in the two previous elections. It is very likely that First Nation voters came out in significant numbers, often voting for the first time, and hit the Conservative campaign very hard.

In Pikangikum, voter numbers are reported up to almost 300 voters. In 2011 about 75 people voted in that community.

Overall, the Conservatives likely after a long run in government simply no longer were as connected with voters as they should or could have been.

James Murray