Thursday, June 18, 2015

You would almost think and election is coming up

There has been alot of ink, wind and bandwidth expended in the last little while regarding politics in this country and some of it has been rather interesting.

Polls:  It would seem the NDP is on a bit of an upswing while the Liberals are in a bit of slump and the Conservatives just seem to be moribund.

As usual the punditry in this country just focuses on what is in front of their faces without looking past the present to draw their instant conclusions.  For two solid years the Liberals were ahead in the polls and they made huge gains in the half-a-dozen or so by-elections since 2011.  To read too much into these two facts is a mistake but to totally ignore them is also a mistake.  This is particularly true given the fact that an incumbent government has never trailed in the polls for that length of time in between elections.  Do the polls of the last few weeks totally erase what transpired in the last two years? Maybe, we are talking politics but I would not bank on it if you are a supporter of either the NDP or the Conservatives.  For two years the Liberals were considered the alternative to the Conservatives and it is highly questionable whether that has really permanently changed based on a few weeks of polling.

I would say this is backed up if you look at the most likely reasons for the changes.  Some pundits point to the Liberal's stance on Bill C-51 but many of these same pundits like to point out that Canadians really do not care that much about policy when it suits the narrative they are trying to push.  Others like to point to the "gaffes" committed by Mr. Trudeau but I find that rather dubious.

Opinions usually change as a result of something more visceral and you only have to look at what occurred since the fall to see the most likely cause of the current Liberal slump.

The slide began in October, after the attack on Parliament Hill.  That kind of event is right in the Conservative wheelhouse.  They were able make all sorts of noises about being tough on terror, just when Canadians wanted to hear exactly that.  Then ISIS began acting up and they figured prominently in the news for weeks and months.  Again, the Conservatives took the opportunity to appear tough.  They took a simple position of sending F-18s to the Middle East while the NDP took the exact opposite view and as is the wont of the Liberal Party they took a more nuanced approach. Personally, I thought the Liberal approach was the right one but at the same time someone in the Liberal establishment should realize that today's media does not do nuance.  They gave up reporting real news a along time ago in favour of presenting a "hook" to get you to click on a link on the many websites they place their stories on.  If you do not give them that hook they will create one and since negativity sells  it will not be good news for you.  This focus on ISIS and terrorism allowed the Conservatives enjoy a bit of a bounce while the Liberals slowly sank.  That bounce had pretty much run its course though by the beginning of spring.  

Then the election of an NDP government in Alberta happened.  That was a truly historic occasion and it deserved all of the attention it received in the media but is anybody surprised that all of that positive coverage did not impact the national polling estimates for the federal NDP?  By golly, a national poll came out 7 days after the NDP election in Alberta, which means the poll was taken right in the middle of all of that positive coverage, and not surprisingly it showed an NDP "surge".  Pundits who should know better then grasped at the "surge" narrative which gave the sudden good fortune of the NDP some legs. However, it should be noted that the NDP topped out in the polls about two weeks after the Alberta election and have since stayed there while the Liberals have bottomed out.  In other words the NDP "surge" already appears to have dissipated and the question in the coming months will be whether they will be able to maintain and grow their current levels or begin to sink back to where they were for the past two-and-a-half years.

The Conservatives:  I cannot get a read on them right now.  While I believe they are in tough I am not feeling that "kick the bums out" vibe I have felt that last few times we had changes in government.  Further it appears they still believe the Liberals are the threat to them more than the NDP as evidenced by the latest round of attack ads directed at Mr. Trudeau.  A divided progressive vote is vital to them retaining power so you would think, if the Liberals are truly in trouble, that they would be subtly trying to build up the Liberals a little bit instead of trying to bring them down.  After all, if we are to believe the polls it appears the NDP are now their greatest threat.  Maybe the Conservatives are seeing something that is not showing up in the national media.

The NDP:  It is interesting to see Mr. Mulcair trying to convince a business audience that an NDP government would not run deficits and that they would be good for business.  What is wrong with that strategy is the business community does not give a damn whether the government runs deficits. Witness the thundering silence from them when the Conservatives ran them for most of their term. What the business community cares about is what they can get from the government and it is a hard sell to convince them that a party that has promoted soaking corporations and the rich, for the last six decades, have suddenly had a change of heart just months from an election.  Further the NDP seems to be trying to out Liberal the Liberals.  Ms. Horvath unsuccessfully tried that in Ontario so you have to wonder why the federal party would pursue an identical strategy.  In addition, the base for the NDP is Quebec, which contains the most fickle voters in the country.  They have been known to turn on a dime.  It will be interesting to see how they act on October.  Finally, Mr. Mulcair is not Jack Layton. The reason for the NDP success in 2011 can be placed squarely at his feet.  Those are big shoes to fill and it is an open question whether Mr. Mulcair can do so.

The Liberals:  This is not the Liberal Party of 2011.  They have created a much better election machine at the riding level, they have resolved the fundraising issues they were having a few years ago.  They are still not up to the Conservatives but they have raised more than enough for the pre-campaign and actual campaign.  They are coming out with well thought out policies, although I have to admit to some reservations regarding their pledge to eliminate the first-past-the-post system.  They have a leader that still has that rock-star persona who packs them in at rallies and who people still want to be seen with.

It is going to be an interesting few months. 


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