Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ottawa Centre: "Didn't you hear us last time?"

I think it is fair to say that a lot of people across Canada are scratching their heads this week, wondering what the point of this election was--what it accomplished.  I suspect there are actually some answers to those questions, but they will probably take time to emerge.  In the long view, this election may be thought of as a significant one, perhaps as the time when it became obvious that the structural divisions that befuddled the right for the past 15 years have now taken firm hold of the centre-left.  However, in the short run all that is immediately evident is that the Canadian electorate rejected the opportunity to make any major changes to things, and instead voted quite firmly for the status quo.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the Ottawa area, where every single riding returned an incumbent MP.  Within the region, Ottawa Centre wasn't satisfied merely to produce the same outcome as the previous election.  No, we apparently did our darndest to produce the same vote counts as for the previous election.  Take a look...

2006 2008 Change
NDP 24609 25399 790 3.21%
Liberal 19468 16633 -2835 -14.56%
Conservative 15105 15065 -40 -0.26%
Green 6765 6348 -417 -6.16%
Marijuana 387 378 -9 -2.33%
Marxist-Leninist 69 95 26 37.68%
Communist 102
-102 -100.00%
Independent 121
-121 -100.00%
Rejected 324 266 -58 -17.90%
Total 66950 64184 -2766 -4.13%

Aside from a group of about 2800 Liberal voters who apparently chose to sit on their hands (the drop in total vote being remarkably close to the drop in the Liberal vote), the differences are in the noise.  Fewer than 800 votes changed hands (1.2% of valid votes cast), and they all went to the incumbent.

One could take that as a rebuke to the electoral process itself--or at least a rejection of the decision to call an election.  ("Damn it, we voted like this, and we meant it!  Now stop bothering us.") But the overall turnout remains pretty high in Ottawa Centre.  At 71%, it is well above the national average, at least.  So if Ottawa Centre voters are perhaps hide-bound traditionalists, they remain engaged hide-bound traditionalists.

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