Opinion: Election postmortem

Conservatives have to take a close look at how they ran their campaign.

Every election has its winners and its losers.

This one had it in spades.

Justin Trudeau’s dramatic win Monday may have been expected by some, but few of the even most seasoned pundits expected a victory of this scale.

While Chilliwack voters were still casting ballots, Trudeau and his Liberals were being crowned the next government of Canada.

Coming from third, with just 35 seats, the Liberals vaulted over the ever-hopeful NDP, to oust the Conservatives and claim victory.

Never has a party come from third place to form a majority.

And if Trudeau was a winner Monday night, Stephen Harper was the clear loser.

Going down to defeat were several high-profile Conservatives, including former cabinet ministers like Finance Minister Joe Oliver, Veterans Minister Julian Fantino, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.

The carnage could be sensed at Mark Stahl’s victory celebration. While supporters cheered the declared election of Conservative Ed Fast in neighbouring Abbotsford, they had to wait in Chilliwack until nearly half the polls were counted.

In the end, the results weren’t that close (42 per cent Conservative, 34 per cent Liberal). However, they showed a continued erosion of support from the heady days when the elder Chuck Strahl garnered more than 62 per cent of the vote in 2008.

Conservative supporters here were bruised but not beaten by the loss. Strahl commended them on their courage to stick by their principles in the face of stiffening political change.

But surely more can be taken away from Monday’s rout.

Harper and his campaign team misread the Canadian electorate. His bitter and patronizing campaign against Justin Trudeau only offended those who watch American attack ads with disgust. And his decision to make the niqab an election issue only ignited traditional Canadian support for multiculturalism.

The Liberals have much work ahead of them as they make good on the promises they made.

But Conservatives, too, need to take time and assess whether their tone and tactics are what Canadians want.