An election thatʼs anyoneʼs to lose?

September 2, 2015   ·   0 Comments

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, the longest federal election campaign in modern Canadian history is nearing the half-way mark, with seeingly only one likelihood having emerged: that no one party will gain a majority of seats in the House of Commons.

The most recent opinion polls show the three main parties are essentially in a dead heat, with each having the support of roughly one in 10 eligible voters.

Interestingly, one of the polls seems to have shown that fully half of the electorate haven’t made up their minds, particularly if they are currently inclined to support the Liberals or New Democrats.

The polling by Nanos Research indicated that among those who are currently inclined to support one party, half say they might instead support another, and that such indecision is particularly widespread among those inclined to vote Liberal or NDP.

It seems that today both centre/left parties are afflicted by the problem that was once exclusively the Liberals’ – having support that was miles wide but only inches deep.

That certainly isn’t the case with ‘dyed-in- the-wool’ Conservatives who would never think of supporting the Grits, much less the once-socialist NDP. The same Nanos poll showed that 41.5 per cent of those planning to vote Conservative would not consider supporting another party.

The survey found the NDP is the second choice of 22.1 per cent and, overall, 49.5 per cent would consider voting for the New Democrats. The Liberals were the second choice of 25.6 per cent, with 46.5 per cent saying they would consider voting for the party led by Justin Trudeau.

Ironically, the 11-week-long campaign that was seen as heavily favouring the Conservatives because of their huge war chest has thus far benefited the opposition parties, with the NDP at times leading polls by a wide margin and the Liberals moving from dead last to the current three-way tie.

What does it all mean? As we see it, there’s still a strong likelihood that the Conservatives will wind up winners, in part by having such a

strong base and in part by the likelihood that by fighting one another the other two parties will merely convince eligible voters to stay home.

It may well be that the decline in support for the Conservatives can be traced to the Mike Duffy trial, which won’t resume until long after the election, and with it off the front pages leader Stephen Harper may regain favour with promises of new goodies in his next term with- out running budgetary deficits.

However, if the recent polls have a message for the Liberals and NDP, it’s surely that they must limit their criticism of each other and start spreading the word that undecided voters should support whichever of the two par- ties has a better candidate in the local riding.

With the country confirmed this week to be at least technically in a recession, the main difference in the economic policies of the par- ties seems to be Mr. Trudeau’s commitment to a major boost in spending on infrastruc- ture that will mean at least two more years of budgetary deficits. Both Mr. Harper and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair are promising to balance the next federal budget.

This certainly is an election in which the personalities of the three leaders will play an important role, one that could eclipse the importance of platforms, and one of the unusual aspects of the election is the striking difference in the profiles and personalities of the three leaders.

Of the three, Mr. Harper is clearly the least at ease with the media, having refused to hold regular press conferences (in sharp contrast to the regular ones held by U.S. President Barack Obama). It will be interesting to see whether he loosens up later in the campaign and agrees to take part in the traditional nationally televised leaders’ debate.

Messrs. Mulcair and Trudeau seem much more at ease with the media, but who knows whether that would continue if either of them came to occupy the Prime Minister’s Office.

But with six weeks remaining in this too- long campaign, let’s hope that at least some of the advertising will deal more with promises and less with attacks on the other guys.

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