This post is for American Cascadians. It explains the Canadian elections.

Canada has a parliamentary system of government: whichever party wins the most seats gets to run the government, choose the prime minister, form the cabinet, introduce the budget, and so on. The short synopsis of yesterday’s elections is: little changed. The same center-left party—the Liberals—retained power in Ottawa.

But a better-informed summary would be that Canada shifted to the right. The Liberals, plagued by a scandal concerning the abuse of funds, lost their majority-government status. Instead, they will form a minority government, as the Globe and Mail explains. And they’ll only have their way on the issues with the help of their left-hand peers, the labor-aligned New Democrats. The New Democrats doubled their small caucus in parliament, partially recovering from huge setbacks they suffered in 2000. They may, or may not, play nice with the Liberals. And even if they do, the Liberals will have to find a few more votes, perhaps from the nationalist Quebec party.

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  • The Conservatives (a party that has reformed and renamed itself several times in recent years) came on strong during the election campaigns and briefly appeared likely to prevail. But they flagged at the end and finished a distant second to the Liberals. Lacking ideological allies in parliament, they will have a hard time moving their own agenda, though they may be able to tie things in knots.

    BC followed one national trend but bucked another. As elsewhere, BC’s New Democrats rebounded somewhat from their 2000 debacle. But unlike elsewhere, the Liberals improved their BC standing, while Conservatives slipped (compared with their predecessor small “c” conservative parties, the Canadian Alliance and the Reform Party) as the CBC reported. Much of this shift reflected urban BC’s rejection of Conservatives, says the Vancouver Sun (subscription required).

    Perhaps the most important outcome: Victoria voters re-elected David Anderson, the nation’s Liberal environment minister. (Mr. Anderson is the highest Cascadian official in either the U.S. or Canadian national government.)

    Both Liberals and New Democrats are relatively good news for Cascadia’s environment and economy: both have supported Canada’s continued participation in the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, for example. But all parties have their blindspots and baggage.

    P.S. The federal Liberals are a different organization entirely from the provincial Liberal Party, which currently controls BC provincial government. Provincial Liberals are generally aligned with federal Conservatives.