Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The election is over, what now?

With the election ending in a victory for the Liberals it is now time to take a look at what the future might hold for each of the three main parties.

The Liberals are back!  Their victory was convincing and it has been accompanied by an almost palpable feeling of relief amongst Canadians.

In the short-term the Liberals will do no wrong.  They will enjoy the usual honeymoon that comes along with a change in government and they will have all sorts of low hanging fruit left over from the last administration with which to establish their bonafides for governing.

However, in the medium to long-term the Liberal government is going to face many challenges.  First and foremost they are inheriting a weak economy that unlike 1993 is not on the cusp of the second longest economic expansion of the post-war era.  The economy is more likely to go down than up in the next year or so although we should see an improvement after that.  That is going to present a great challenge to them.  Fortunately, they have promised to stimulate the economy for the next few years by investing in infrastructure.  That might mitigate some of the upcoming economic downturn and it might act as a bridge from now to the upturn that should happen in a couple of years.

The second big challenge is the TPP.  The usual suspects will be out in force to oppose that agreement and as history has demonstrated they have the easier argument than those who would support the agreement.  Fortunately, there is no rush to ratify the agreement.  There is no way the Tea Party controlled American Congress will give President Obama a trade victory by ratifying it during the final months of his term.  That will leave it to the next president and most of the credible replacements for the President have come out against the agreement.  The Liberals can safely wait until 2017 or beyond before bringing any enabling legislation forward for the agreement.

The NDP is back, to their traditional place in the House of Commons.  

It is an open question of whether Mr. Mulcair will be able to hang onto his position.  The NDP usually does not eat its leaders like the other two parties do but the NDP have never been so close to winning government only to see it slip away either.  That is going to make things very uncomfortable for Mr. Mulcair in the coming months.  The only saving grace for him is that most of the most credible replacements for him all lost their seats in the election. As well, the NDP has not been successful as the conscience of the Canadian Parliament and they have now suffered failure pursuing a more pragmatic approach as well.  Is there a third way?  I cannot see it.  I suspect the NDP will be in third place for the foreseeable future.

The Conservatives are screwed.

History has demonstrated that a political party that is defeated after holding government for an extended period of time wanders the political wilderness for a great deal of time afterwards.  It will take that time for the party to renew itself and get rid of the dead wood and hangers on that always infest a party long in power.  Many names have been put forth to replace Mr. Harper but I would bet that none of them will ever see the inside of 24 Sussex.  The next Conservative Prime Minister has not entered anybody's radar at this time. That will probably not happen until after 2019.

Added to the Conservatives' problems is Stephen Harper pretty much tore the Conservative house down in his attempt to cling to power.  The Conservatives spent more than a decade attempting to shed the redneck, intolerant image that it was saddled with when the party was formed.  They threw all of that away with the Niqab, Cultural Barbarity tip line and taking away citizenship gambits of the election.  All of their work reaching out to new Canadians has been wasted.  All of their efforts to put forward an image of being a tolerant, big tent party has been for naught.  It is going to take a great deal of time to repair the damage that was done during the election.

Finally, it is an open question as to whether the Conservatives can remain united without the discipline of power.  The party is inevitably going to go through some upheaval over the next couple of years and no one knows what long-term impact that will have on the party.  

All of the parties are going to have to adjust to the new reality.  It is going to be interesting to watch how each one makes those adjustments.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

In the end it wasn't even close

The election produced the outcome that I predicted on August 2.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Final Week of the Election

We are one week away from election day.  That means there are six more days where we will have to endure the endless blathering of all of the party leaders.

The polls seem to indicate that the Liberals have the momentum and that they could very well win the majority government that I predicted on August 2.  Of course, polls are not the best way to predict an election outcome as they are a snapshot in time and by the time they are published they are already out of date.  

To supplement what the polls are indicating it is always a good idea to see what the parties are doing.

For the Liberals it has been business as usual since the campaign has begun.  I do not believe anybody can objectively state that they have seen anything resembling discomfort in their campaign since it started.  They have stuck to their script and it seems to be paying dividends.  It is interesting that Mr. Trudeau actually had a campaign stop in Nepean today. That has been a Conservative stronghold since 2004.  Usually leaders do not waste their time in these ridings unless they believe that they might be able to swing it to their side.  

If the Liberal internal polls are indicating what we are beginning to see in the public polls no one should be too surprised if today's foray into a Conservative stronghold is only the first of such forays over the next six days.

The Conservatives on the other hand are beginning to look like a party that expects to lose. It is just little things.  Stephen Harper has changed tack a bit in recent days and stated that this election is not about him but it is about issues that Canadians find important.  What a silly statement from a man who has run three straight elections telling Canadians that those who would replace him are "Not a leader" or "Just visiting" or "Just not ready".  However, Mr. Harper is somewhat correct.  One of the most important issues of a large number of Canadians is to be rid of him as the leader of our government.  So, he is correct that this election is about issues important to Canadians, it is just that his removal seems to be one of those issues, perhaps the most important.

The other statement that Mr. Harper has made about polls not winning elections is clarion call of a political loser.  

Mr. Harper campaigned yesterday in the three Toronto ridings held by Conservatives yesterday. When, in the final days of an election campaign, a leader campaigns in a stronghold of political opponent if is because they believe it is ripe for a change in MP.  When a leader campaigns in one of their own strongholds it is for the same reasons.  

Finally, Mr. Harper has announced he will no longer be interviewed by the national media and it has been reported that he has stopped taking questions at his campaign stops.  He did the same thing in 2004 when he realized that we was going to lose.

The Conservatives are at a crossroads in the election.  Do they continue to fight to win or do they begin to save the furniture?  To slow the apparent momentum of the Liberals they will have to do something really desperate and history has demonstrated that such actions often just lead to more crushing defeats.  However, if they begin to focus on the places where they are the strongest they might be able to mitigate some of the damage they could face.  

The next week will reveal what they have decided.

For the NDP I would just point to Mr. Mulcair's statement that he is still running and expecting to win a majority government on October 19.  

That statement is an example of what I would consider to be an iron law in Canadian politics. 

"When a political party, which is shown to be in third place for an extended period of time in the public polls, states that they are still running to win a majority government they are actually admitting that they have no hope of achieving that goal."

There is still a week to go and anything could happen.  It would not surprise me one bit to see the Conservatives try to use the levers of government to change the momentum. George W. Bush used the Department of Homeland Security in the US, on several occasions, whenever John Kerry showed any signs of momentum so I would not put it past Mr. Harper to try something similar.  The question would be whether the RCMP and/or CSIS would be willing to play along.

Barring something like that Liberal supporters will be celebrating winning the election with a majority government on October 19.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

The Election's Second Month

We are now exactly 60 days into the 2015 election campaign.  It has been an interesting second month.

Generally speaking it is looking like it is shaping up to be like every other election of the last 50 years, with the 2011 election being an aberration.  That is, a two way race between the Liberals and Conservatives with the NDP barely relevant in third place.

The Liberals have managed to:

  • Set themselves apart from the other parties with their plans for the economy.
  • Largely establish themselves as the real agent of change.
  • Allow Justin Trudeau to establish himself as someone who can handle the job of PM.  
  • Make the Liberal Party not only relevant but to make it a contender for government.
The Liberal campaign has been focused and positive and it has been resonating with Canadians.  So far they have run a nearly flawless campaign so I am really looking forward to what they have in store for the final two week sprint to the finish.  If the final two weeks are anything like the first two months things could be very ugly for the Conservatives and NDP on October 19.

The Conservatives have so far managed to stave off the "Conservatives are losers" narrative so that is an accomplishment.

However, I cannot help but notice that they are continuing to throw an inordinate amount of red meat as their base.  By contrast at this stage in the 2011 campaign they had already moved on to convincing those outside of their base to vote for them.  So that begs the question of why they believe it is still necessary to placate their base.

One hint might be the fact that every poll that measures the desire for change is indicating that it is between 70 and 75%.  To put that into perspective the last time we had a change of government, in 2006, the Martin Liberals never had a "desire for change" score higher than 65%.  Further some of these polls are also indicating that the percentage of respondents that do not want change is less than 25% with one poll even putting it at 18%.

Political parties keep polling firms on retainer during election campaigns.  They poll Canadians in order to gain real and useful data with which they can tweak their message to maximize its impact.  I believe the internal polls of the Conservative Party are saying in no uncertain terms what the public polls are hinting at, which is, that the Conservative base is not as solid as many believe it is.  I personally know a half-a-dozen people who voted Conservative the last two times who will not be voting that way this time.  I suspect the Conservative base is not as happy as the party would like and they believe there is a real danger that a significant number of Conservative supporters may not bother showing up on election day or worse yet voting for someone other than a Conservative candidate.

I think the NDP might have blown it.  They were so close but I think the dream is gone. They made the mistake of believing the hype and they have been running a front-runner campaign when they were never really the front-runner.  Further they banked on maintaining the same high level of support of the Quebecois as they received in 2011 and as the polls indicated they might receive again this time. That was just plain stupid considering how volatile Quebec voters can be.  Now the NDP has begun a steady fade.  I am pretty certain that they have not yet hit the floor with regard to where the support will wind up.  Historically, they have generally been in the 20% range and I would not be surprised if that is where they finally end up by the time this is all over.

At this point in the campaign the Liberals are right where they want to be.  
  • They are in contention.
  • Mr. Trudeau's star is rising.
  • Their main opponent has not begun the effort of building the voting coalition of 2011 that took them to their majority.  Instead, it looks to me like they are running more of a save the furniture type of campaign.
  • The desire for change is at unprecedented levels in the country.
  • The NDP is looking less and less like the most viable party to replace the Conservatives.  As that sinks in with those desiring change the Liberals are going to take off at the expense of the NDP.
On August 2, I predicted a Liberal majority government.  I still believe that is the most probable outcome of this election.