Will the Conservative majority placate the West?

The West has in the past had a number of grievances against Ottawa, some legitimate, some not so much. The sense of grievance is strongest in Alberta for various reasons not the least of which was Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Program of 1980. One by-product of the resulting alienation is the growing sense that the only party that can fairly represent the West’s interest is the Conservative Party, the Liberals being perceived as the party of the East.

The Mulroney government, despite being highly favourable to Alberta, did not seem to alleviate the alienation, perhaps because Mulroney was seen as Quebec’s man. Indeed, the Mulroney government contributed to the creation of the Reform Party in Alberta. Nor have the Harper minority governments, despite their strong Western flavour, helped to cool suspicions about Eastern designs. The proposal to form a coalition Liberal-NDP government headed by Stephane Dion, after his thorough rejection in the West, did not help. The Harper administration is seen as their government by many Westerners, yet unable to act in their interests as it has been under siege by opposition forces.

Now, the siege has been lifted, a majority achieved. The Conservatives command the nation, even establishing a beachhead in the effete confines of Toronto. So, the question arises: will this consummate power combined with the humiliation of the despised Liberals offer disaffected Westerners the reassurance they seem to need that all parties must now come to terms with a vigorous West and its increasing importance to the country? Will it give them the confidence to support other parties, perhaps ones closer to their personal philosophy, safe in the belief they need no longer rely solely on the Conservatives to serve Western interests?

If so, this election may have served a good purpose after all. Yes, the country will regress under the Conservatives but progress is, after all, two steps ahead and one step back, and if the overall attitudes of the regions are healthier (keeping in mind also that Quebec rejected the Bloc in favour of a federalist party), that in itself is progress. The Liberals and the NDP did not do well in the West in this election, yet ironically it may offer them the opportunity to get back in the game.