Stephen Harper has long had two goals, a short-term goal of winning a majority government and a long-term goal of destroying the Liberal Party. Last night he achieved the first and got a good start on the second, both in convincing fashion.
Of course he couldn't have achieved either without a lot of help from the Liberals themselves. They decided to push for an election when they were low in the polls, with a leader who couldn't connect to ordinary Canadians and a platform so vague it seemed indistinguishable form the Tories. Nonetheless, even though I'm an NDP supporter, I take no satisfaction in seeing the Liberals brought so low. Liberalism—the small "l" variety—does after all represent the best in human nature.
In any case, their loss could turn out to be a blessing. Since 2006 they have floundered in their attempts to rebuild their party with another election always looming in the background. Now they have four clear years to concentrate on revitalizing their party, creating a strong grass-roots base, and solidifying their funding.
After all, life is short but politics is long. I can remember when the NDP had so few sears in the House, they lost their party status, and look at them now—102 seats and forming the Official Opposition. They even received a special treat: for the very first time they have more seats than their proportion of the popular vote would justify. And we all remember when the post-Mulroney Conservatives were nearly wiped off the map. And look at them now, or at least the new Reform-leavened version. And then there were the UK Liberals who were overrun by Labour early in the last century. It's taken them decades to recover but now they are back in government, albeit in a coalition.
Rebuilding will be made more difficult for the Liberals by a mass media in this country that has over the past few decades become increasingly right-wing and partisan. (Witness the sleazy attempt by the Sun papers to halt the NDP surge with a smear of Jack Layton.) Nonetheless, they now have the time and the opportunity. Whether or not Harper ultimately destroys them, as he would dearly love to do—he's just that kind of guy—will be largely up to them.