Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Handicapping the election

With an election campaign seeming to be inevitable maybe its time to take a look at the main combattants in it.

Conservatives: The Conservatives are entering this campaign mired in scandal. True it is not a big, headline grabbing scandal like Adscam but it is a bunch of smaller ones that inconveniently for them fit nicely into a rather negative narrative about their government and its ethical compass. Scandals kill governments and distract parties during elections campaigns so I am certain that there is a fair amount of unease going into this campaign with these scandals still developing.

As well, the Conservatives are on the wrong side of several key issues. Corporate tax cuts, F-35s and prisons are not on the list of priorities for Canadians so the Conservatives could have some difficulty trying to sell these to the electorate.

Then there is Stephen Harper. Even his friends would say he is not really liked or a likeable man. That fact is probably the key reason why he has been unable to achieve the majority government him and his party so crave. This fact has not changed and he is now going into his fourth election as leader of the Conservative Party. If this election becomes a referendum on Stephen Harper the Conservatives could be in tough.

All that being said the Conservatives have almost double the number of seats as their next closest and chief opponent. That is a hell of an advantage to begin with going into a campaign. There will have to be a massive swing in seats for the Conservatives to lose government and it would probably take the Conservatives having the wheels really coming off of their campaign to have that happen.

I see the Conservatives in the same position that Paul Martin was in before the 2004 election. In seems likely that the Conservatives will be returned with a much smaller minority facing a much stronger Liberal Party.

Liberals: It would appear the Liberal Party is stronger than it has been since Mr. Chretien left the scene. There is a certain swagger in their step on the eve of this election and I believe that the reason for that is they know the Conservatives are very vulnerable on a number of fronts.

The wildcard in this election will be Mr. Ignatieff. He is a journalist and author making him a natural communicator. He is not very well known outside of the political classes so he has an opportunity to use those skills to define himself to Canadians. Unlike Mr. Harper he is a likeable fellow and if Canadians begin to like him the Conservatives are in real trouble. As well, if he can use his communications skill to forcefully push the Liberal message they could enjoy some success. Of course, that message better be a coherent one that resonates with Canadians or all of his communcations skill will be for naught. That is my biggest complaint about the last three Liberal campaign. They had no direction, no theme, they just threw seemingly random policy proposals out there hoping some of them would stick.

The Liberals have a rather tough hill to climb and they would have to run the perfect campaign to reach the summit so I am not really expecting them to do so this time around. If they run a decent campaign they should be able to pick up quite a few seats, perhaps even reaching the century mark again, and setting themselves up to retake government, probably in 2014.

NDP: The fate of the NDP will rest with the desire amongst progressives to finally be rid of the Harper government. If that feeling is strong many progressives will turn to the only party that has any chance of defeating the Conservatives, namely the Liberals. If that happens the NDP suffers. If that feeling is not strong the NDP will probably not take as big of a hit.

However, the NDP probably did hit its high water mark during the 2008 campaign so it can probably expect to lose some seats this time around.

Watch out for Jack Layton. He is battling health issues and that could effect his ability to campaign and there is no predicting how it might effect the internal party politics of the NDP.

The Bloc: They seem to be the most comfortable of the four big parties. However, I would not take anything for granted when it comes to Quebec voters.

Greens: Sorry Green Party supporters, with the environment no longer so prominent in the minds of Canadians the Green Party will be hard pressed to make any big inroads during this election. Like the NDP, if progressives decide they have had enough of Mr. Harper and go to the only party that can push him out the Greens will suffer.

They will again fail to win a seat in Parliament.

There you have it. Take these opinions as you like. I know myself that I will come back to his post later this spring and either say to myself that I am a freaking genius or ask whether I am willing to share what I have been smoking because it would appear it was really good shit.

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