The parties claiming victory today owe more to a flawed electoral system and voter apathy, then to any message they delivered.
The Conservatives picked up 16 more seats on a total popular vote share gain of 1.37% and the NDP picked up another 7 on a total share gain of 0.79%. All parties, with the exception of the Greens, pulled in less total votes than they did in 2006.
This, to me, is a failure on all counts. Facing an uncertain economic future, less Canadians bothered to vote and, of the ones who did, voted almost identically as they did in 2006.
Stephen Harper still believes the Conservative Party is a Western-based protest party rooted in rural populist values (it isn't) continually hampered by imaginary media bias and Liberal-appointees in every shadow (they aren't). Stephen Harper continues to struggle in articulating a palatable conservative message to all Canadians. He failed to deliver a majority conservative government in his third try at it, all the while having favourable conditions for victory in each case. The fault is his, and his alone. He controls the message, he takes 100% of the blame for the party's failure.
If the Conservatives want to move forward, they need a new leader. Not right now maybe, but one that can articulate that message over the noise.
I joined the Liberal Party because I do not buy into the version of the Conservative Party I described above; I still like my politics pragmatic but right-of-centre. I have no ties to a particular past leader or leadership contender; I joined after Stéphane Dion became leader and his leadership was not really a factor in my decision to join.
That said, in my opinion, the Liberal Party ran this election similar to how the John Kerry Democrats ran the United States presidential election in 2004. The Liberals showed up, smiled, told us how evil the Conservative Party (and the NDP) was, and expected Canadians to reject the other guy just, well, because.
To be honest, I think the Liberal Party needs to open up a little more. Look a little less aristocratic and maybe a little more rustic. Will it take a new leader? Maybe one with no ties to the old guard? Perhaps an official position on democratic reform might eliminate this question? I don't know. That's an opinion for another day.