Which will it be, party or candidate?

September 30, 2015   ·   0 Comments

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, the federal election is less than three weeks away. In fact, only 18 days remain in the longest campaign in memory, and despite the length the parties seem to be in roughly the same place they were at the outset, each enjoying the support of roughly three voters in 10.

In the circumstances, perhaps the biggest unanswered question beyond which of the three main parties will win the most seats is what voters will do when considering the age-old question: Should I vote for the party or the local candidate?

One certainty that has emerged from the campaigning to date is that everyone seems to be courting the “middle class” in what we once thought was a classless society.

Another is that there is precious little to differentiate the positions of the Liberal, Green and New Democratic parties. All three are critical of the Conservatives and leader Stephen Harper, portraying them as far to the right of the Progressive Conservatives under such leaders as John Diefenbaker, Joe Clark and Brian Mulroney, and they differ mainly in where they place their emphasis. For the Greens it’s climate change, for the Liberals it’s infrastructure funding and for the NDP it’s child care.

At the beginning of this too-long campaign, the New Democrats appeared to be the team to beat, having a slight edge in the polls over the Conservatives and with the Liberals in third place. For whatever reason, the positions seem to be changing, with some polls putting the Grits ahead, the Conservatives a close second and the NDP down where the Liberals started out.

That may be pretty significant on polling day, when the anti-Harper vote could go mainly to the party seen as having the best chance to form a minority government.

But clearly much will depend on whether voters tend to vote for the party or the local candidate, particularly in ridings where the Conservatives won in 2011 by small margins. In such ridings, much ay well depend on public perceptions of the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses.

For example, candidates with some experience in local politics, be it as municipal councillors or as school board trustees, could be in a stronger position than candidates whose prior involvement in politics has been as “backroom” boys and girls or, in the case of the NDP, as union leaders.

One complication  that has arisen in the current campaign, partly because of its length, is the loss to the parties of candidates whose past miscues are turned up by critics who have examined their postings on social media. We doubt there has ever been a federal election in which so many candidates chosen by party leaders or nomination conventions have failed to make it to election day.

In Dufferin-Caledon, history alone would suggest that Conservative incumbent David Tilson will have little difficulty in being re-elected, if only because of his close attention to, and frequent attendance at, local events.

There’s also the fact that in this part of Ontario the only time the Liberals have edged out a Tory candidate is when the conservative ranks were divided between the Progressive Conservative and Reform/Canadian Alliance parties.

At present, it seems the only Tilson challenger with any chance of scoring an upset is the Liberals’ Ed Crewson. Undoubtedly the strongest candidate the local Grits have produced in a long while, Mr. Crewson’s long, successful tenure as mayor of Shelburne is reflected in a sea of red lawn signs in his hometown, and we suspect he will also do fairly well in the Bolton area, with the Orangeville area remaining solidly pro-Tilson.

In these unusual circumstances, it will be interesting, indeed, to see whether any significant number of voters who would normally support a Green or orange (NDP) candidate might switch to red in hopes of seeing an upset in what might be seen as one of the safest Conservative seats east of Alberta.

Of course, a lot can happen in the remaining 18 days, during which we’ll have to put up with even more attack ads and it’s always possible that one of the three party leaders will make a major faux pas.

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