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Wednesday, February 28 2024 @ 02:06 MST

Election Thoughts

Canadian PoliticsMany of you are probably surprised that I haven't written more about the election, being a political scientist and all. There's a couple of reasons why I haven't, mostly that I was on holidays over the winter break and was just too lazy to think of anything. I now, however have some things to say about the campaign so far. First on the topic of negative ads. I find that the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) has unmitigated gall on this one. It runs negative ads against the Liberals for a couple of weeks, then acts all hurt when the Liberals follow suit. Now it could be argued that the Liberal ads stretch the truth somewhat, but it's an election and one expects that. Either way both parties are acting like spoiled children, which was not entirely unexpected. It remains to be seen how effective negative ads are in the first place. They're more likely than not to backfire (see the Tory ads which made fun of Jean Cretian's facial paralysis).

Second on the Tory lead. In recent days the CPC has moved ahead of the Liberals in the polls. Now this is concerning, in that it means there might be a Tory government in Ottawa, but all is not lost as their lead is slight and indicative of a minority government. More on that in another post. The big question, of course is why are the Tories leading? Could it mean a shift to the right in this country? I suspect that is not the case. Canadians tend to be a rather politically centrist lot. This means that parties on the ends of the political spectrum (CPC, NDP) tend not to gain a lot of support of the centre of the road voter, which is where all the votes are. I see three main factors in the Tory lead.

1. Liberal corruption. Real or not, the perception of the Liberal Party as being corrupt is causing people to seek out other alternatives. People with what can be called centrist political leanings want to punish the Liberals. They're sending their votes to the Tories, as well as the NDP, Greens and Bloc (in Quebec). There is also only so much more that this will play for the Tories. so this will only get them a couple of points in the polls.

2. Controlling the wing-nuts. Traditionally the CPC has kept itself out of office by having it's more outspoken neo and theo-conservative elements spouting their mouths off. This hasn't happened yet in this election. It would appear that Mr. Harper has taken his candidates aside and forced them to read the Golden How and Why Wonder Book of Keeping Your Mouth Shut. All it will take is a Rob Anders or a Myron Thompson to open their mouths in front of a live microphone and faster than you can say reactionary nut-bar, Stephen Harper gets another few months in Stornoway. The same can be said of Ralph Klein as he has also declined comment on the election, lest he cost the Tories a few votes outside of Alberta.

3. The Liberals (again). From the outset, the Liberals have been running their campaign as an example of what not to do to win an election. Persistent leaks and a lackluster performance by Paul Martin haven't done the Liberals any favours. Some of the votes have gone to the Tories and some to the NDP. The upshot being that the Grits are down in the polls. If the Liberals can get their act together in the next day or so, they'll have a chance. If not, Paul Martin will get a view of the house from the left side of the Speaker.

Something else I thought I should comment on is Stephen Harper's comment that he will form “strategic alliances based on issue” with other parties in the house. Now I suspect that Mr. Harper released this to make him look less scary and that he's willing to work with all parties to keep government going. I suspect, however, that what he's really doing is just stating the obvious. The Tories have no natural allies in the house. The NDP is too far to the left to find much common ground. The Bloc is a centre-left party and unless the issue is giving more power to Quebec, there's not much there either. That leaves the Liberals. Now there is a chance for this pairing as the Liberals tend to be centre to centre-right. The problem is that the CPC is run by people who, at least from their public statements and actions, have a pathological hatred of the Liberals. I say this because it wouldn't matter what the Liberal did, even giving in to all of Alberta's demands and acting just like the Tories, they would hate the Liberals. Couple this with the fact that they Tories would lose votes in Alberta if they were seen to be cooperating with the Liberals and the Tories' best chance at an alliance is stillborn.

This leaves Harper and Co. to make what alliances they can to stay in power, which will be tricky as to the home crowd in Alberta it will be seen as pandering to either separatists, socialists or Liberals. It's a lose-lose proposition for Stephen Harper on any issue.

This comes to my final thought on the election. My prediction as to the election outcome. I believe that we will end up with another minority government (barring any major missteps by either the Grits or the Tories). It may very well be the Tories as the government, but that remains to be seen given the undecided voters are ranging in the mid teens at the moment. The Tories were riding high at this point last election, only to see it evaporate at the last moment. That could happen again if Ontario voters get a whiff of social conservative control of the party.
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