A two-horse race?

Two_Horse_RaceHas this become a two-horse race with the Liberal’s pony falling too far behind the pack to make a run for it this Fall?

There’s been a lot of polls that indicate, surprisingly, the NDP have taken the lead in popular opinion and the Liberals have sank to third. In fact, the distance between the NDP and Conservatives and the trailing Liberals is widening… and this has got all the pundits’ tongues wagging.

One the most compelling set of number were released by Abacus which recently polled Canadians who were undecided on their voting intentions. They found that most of these voting subset are deliberating between only two of their choices – the Conservatives and NDP – so much so, that Abacus has coined this voting group as “Blue-Orange switchers”.

Why not red voting intentions? Their polling suggests the Liberals support is waning based on a negative impression of their Leader Justin Trudeau. Just 4% had a positive evaluation of Trudeau while 72% had a negative evaluation. So, nearly three-quarters of Canadians who have not made up their minds as of yet will likely not consider voting Liberal.

By comparison, Prime Minister Stephen Harper got 52% thumbs up with this group – and 14% thumbs down. NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair got 43% thumbs up and just a 4% negative rating.

So, who will these Blue-Orange switchers vote for? Abacus found 39% of Blue-Orange switchers are ready to vote Conservative, 26% would go NDP but a big chunk — 28% — are undecided. This undecided, however, have decided not to vote Liberal.

Abacus predicts the Tories and New Democrats will fight for undecided Blue-Orange Switchers in ridings in Quebec City, in factory towns in southwestern Ontario, in prairie cities like Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon and Edmonton and all over the increasingly important battleground of the Vancouver suburbs – Port Moody, Richmond, and Surrey (see the full polling numbers by clicking here: Abacus Poll).

Pollster Nik Nanos also is forecasting a two-horse battle with his recent numbers. On the question of a Party’s ability to produce a stable government, Canadians believe that both the Conservatives (29.4%) and the NDP (29.0%) are most likely to produce a stable federal government, one in four (24.5%) Canadians believe that the Liberals are most likely to produce a stable government after the next federal election.

On the question of who Canadians would prefer as Prime Minister: 28% said they preferred Mulcair as PM, followed by 26 per cent who said they preferred Harper and 25 per cent who said they preferred Trudeau. See the full series off questions and numbers from this poll by clicking here: Nanos Research Poll

Lastly, consider Eric Grenier’s work on the blog threehundredeight.com. (His polling analysis has been picked up by CBC, which has just made it easier to watch the horse race from the comfort of a single computer screen.)

Mr. Grenier’s analysis of all national polling numbers showed the NDP in a polling lead with 32.6 per cent support, followed by the Conservatives at 28.6 per cent, and the Liberals at 26.3 per cent support.

If an election were held today, this could translate into 127 seats for the NDP, 117 for the Conservatives, 90 for the Liberals, three for the Bloc Québécois and one for the Green Party.

BTW – you can now follow the voting preference trends on a weekly basis on CBC Poll Tracker.

It will be very interesting to see if there is any noticeable shift in September when Canadian begin to tune into the political rhetoric – and the excitement of the race.

(ed. – Photo Attribution: By John Picken [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Paul Wells on Stephen Harper

Paul Wells book on Stephen Harper’s politics – The Longer I’m Prime Minister – is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand the man and his modus operandi in office. Here are ten quotes extrapolated from Paul Wells’ book – but, to get an insightful glimpse into the Prime Minister, get the book – read it.

  • “You know, the longer I’m prime minister…. the longer I’m prime minister.” – Stephen Harper
  • He is a very particular fellow: fiercely intelligent, combative, secretive, intense. – Paul Wells
  • He survives politically in large part because he is uninterested in debates that are of concern only to people who live within ten kilometers of Parliament’s Peace Tower. – Paul Wells
  • The point of everything he does is to last. The surest rebuttal Harper can offer to a half century of Liberal hegemony is not to race around doing things the next Liberal could undo. The surest rebuttal is to last and not be Liberal. – Paul Wells
  • “My models aren’t Conservative prime ministers. My models are successful prime ministers.” – Stephen Harper
  • He needed to last, because most of what he wanted to do could not be done quickly. He wanted to disabuse Canadians, especially immigrants, of the expression that they would be governed Liberals. He wanted to implement deep changes… a degree at a time as if boiling a frog; and to make those changes as hard to reverse as it would be to reconstitute the frog. (This is politics as boiling a frog: if you raise the temperature a degree at a time the frog won’t notice.) – Paul Wells
  • “One of the things I’ve learned is that surprises are not generally well received by the public. So, we intend to move forward with what Canadians understand about us, and I think with what they are more and more comfortable with.” – Stephen Harper
  • “His focus, in terms of the legacy he’s trying to create, is very much on identifying what he sees as the long-term challenges and opportunities for the country. Yet his strong bias is towards arch-incrementalism. He backs away from ideas which he feels may be controversial. And that creates a lot of frustration.” – un-named Harper advisor
  • “Stephen Harper is Mackenzie King without a ouija board.” – Tom Flanagan
  • What has he accomplished? It is in the nature of Harper’s project that he would have less to show for his time in office than some of his predecessors. They saw themselves as builders; he is a skeptic and, to use the gentlest available word, an editor. – Paul Wells

Before Christmas, Chris George attended a breakfast where Paul Wells spoke – and here is the By George Journal post on that address.

3 things to watch for with the Cons


1. Managing the Fall election call

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and PMO spokesmen have categorically stated on numerous occasions, that the PM has no plans for a vote before October 19th (the date mandated by 2007 legislation that establishes the third Monday in October every four years as the country’s federal election day). Still, as By George has written in a past post, this is one of the 5 key questions in Ottawa these days. So, assuming the PM sticks to a Fall vote, the Conservatives will need to be nimble in dealing with the potential of an economic recession precipitated by oil and a housing price collapse, explosive testimony from the disgraced Senator Duffy trial, and the cascade of disgruntled groups like Aboriginal Leaders, union bosses, and Liberal Premiers raining on the PM’s good-news parade. There is a saying that a week is a lifetime in politics; but for the Conservatives who will attempt to keep everybody off balance while adhering to the fixed election date, these next nine months may very well prove to be an eternity.

2. Framing the Opposition with an orgy of pre-writ advertising

So, accepting the pre-writ and election periods run to October 19, this federal campaign will go down in the record books as the country’s longest and most expensive. The Leaders are now criss-crossing the country and there is not a day go by that we don’t hear some pronouncement designed to win over voters’ support. All Parties have assembled their election teams and, rumour is, they will soon be running their attack ads. Former PMO staffer Keith Beardsley is quoted in The Hill Times stating: “All the parties are just going to go crazy with the advertisements. They’re going to do as much as they can before the [writ is dropped]. It’s almost like [the Conservatives’] standard operating procedure. They saturate the airwaves as much as they can [pre-writ], do as much damage and essentially put a frame around the opposition leader. Now the other parties are on the defensive and they’re countering your ads rather than coming up with their own. They’re dealing with the issues that you raise rather than focusing on their own.” [Click to read the Hill Times article.] This orgy of advertisement spending and election activity through the nine months will be every politico’s dream come true. However, we will need to stay tuned-in through this time to access how the unprecedented campaign advertising impacts the election outcome.

3. Polling numbers in Ontario and the West

Polls are truly deceiving. National polling numbers have shown for some time that Liberals are primed to be voted in with a strong minority or a majority government. But political backrooms are not as interested in national numbers as they are in regional breakdowns. To better understand how voting preference can translated into seat counts and the fates of the Parties, it is important to keep an eye on how the Parties are performing region to region. A quick scan of recent polls tells us the Liberals dominate in the East, and the NDP and Liberals are both polling strong in Quebec. The Conservatives remain ahead in the West, and in BC the three Parties split the support. Given the seat counts in the respective regions, seat-rich Ontario becomes the critical territory to win for all three Parties. On that front, recent polling shows the Liberals at 39 per cent and the Conservatives at 35 per cent in the province. With these numbers, it is plausibly for both Parties to win 50 to 60 seats. So, in the weeks and months ahead, we can assume that every announcement, every action taken in Ontario (including the public exchanges with Premier Wynne) is designed to move the numbers. For the Prime Minister, to win 60 or more Ontario seats and the lion’s share in the West will add up to another Conservative victory in October. You can bet all Conservatives are factoring this.


5 Key Questions in Ottawa

Canadians know that this year there’s to be a federal election and that we must decide between very different people and approaches on how we will want our Nation to develop (ed. – more on this in the weeks ahead). As we hang our new calendars on the wall, there are some key questions being pondered by politicos and pundits in Ottawa. Many Party strategists are struggling with these questions, which will have a direct impact on the outcome of the impending vote.

1. Will the PM wait until October to call the election?
The election is mandated to be held on October 19th of this year – a new law passed by this Government. However, In the past, our country’s tradition is that the Prime Minister has the prerogative to call the election. This year, PM Harper may wish to ignore his new law and call a snap election – and he has good (political) reason to do so. In fact, there are many reasons: the sputtering economy and lower oil prices are dramatically altering the country’s fiscal situation; the trial of Senator Mike Duffy is slated to begin in April; each month that passes the Liberal Party’s war chest gains millions more for their campaign; and, recent polls show the support for PM and Conservatives within range of their Grit opponents for the first time in more than a year. All that being said, the PM has been adamant that he will not call an early vote (which is all the more reason to think he might).

2. Will the recent tax breaks and spending spree deny the Conservatives a balanced budget? (No. But is it realistic to think the budget is actually balanced?)
The Conservatives plan on delivering an early February budget, one that will serve as an attractive election document. They have already announced many new tax breaks for families at a cost of $4.6 billion next year. They have also recently announced a new country-wide infrastructure investment program of almost $6 billion – that is on top of the federal $70-billion, 10-year plan in place for infrastructure spending. Juxtapose the tax breaks and spending with the falling dollar, the falling price of oil and the stagnant economy and it leaves one to wonder what this all means for our country’s books? Just how much will the Conservatives need to fudge the numbers in order to deliver their balanced budget a few weeks from now?

3. Can Justin Trudeau be scripted?
He is every politicos’ nightmare, a walking accident about to happen. The Liberal Leader is a breath away from another of his quips: Harper is “trying to whip out our CF-18s and show them how big they are.” It is clear that if the Liberals are to win on the coattails of Pierre Elliot’s ghost, Justin will need to be tightly scripted (ironically akin to PET’s last “peek-a-boo” campaign of 1980). The public needs to believe Justin is capable of having serious thoughts and does not simply take one foot out of his mouth to insert another. Given Justin’s nature, this will be a Herculean task for the Grit handlers and, perhaps, the one that will most determine the outcome of the vote.

4. Is the NDP a spent force – before they even start campaigning?
The bodies keep piling up for NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. Deserting Sudbury MP Glenn Thibeault is just the recent blow the NDP caucus has had to endure as there are now more than a dozen profiled Dippers running from Mulcair’s-Campaign-of-One. Ripping a page from the modern-day campaign playbook, the NDP is developing a Leader-centric narrative with talented Mulcair starring as the next Messiah. Trouble for the Party is that there are an increasing number of his apostles checking out; eroding the confidence of Party’s grassroots and their power of incumbency. With serious doubts that the new NDP Leader can repeat Jack Layton’s last campaign performance, one must ask whether these Dippers have already seen their best days?

5. Has the country had enough of Stephen Harper?
Stephen Harper is currently the sixth longest serving Prime Minister in our history. For years there have been more people who dislike the direction he is taking the country than there are supporters of his bold Canada. However, are there enough Canadians who are ready to vote “enough”? Unquestionably, the next election many will belabour the faults of this PM and his prickly personality. The Conservative will want the ballot question something other than a referendum on the longevity of SH. Former PM Brian Mulroney recently provided insightful context when he said, “In 1984, all I had to do was mention Pierre Trudeau’s name and I got 50,000 more votes. My policy was that I wasn’t Pierre Trudeau. And 10 years later, Jean Chrétien’s policy was that he wasn’t Brian Mulroney. Justin Trudeau’s program is that he’s not Stephen Harper.” No doubt that is how the election will play out. We will need to wait and see the outcome of the vote to know whether that was, indeed, enough.

Parliament resumes at the end of January and everyone in Ottawa is holding their breath – and asking the questions of how this year is about to unfold.

PM Stephen Harper – 8 years and counting

pm_stephen_harper_3Tomorrow marks Stephen Harper’s 8th-year anniversary as Canada’s Prime Minister. It has been eight years since the 2006 election which was held on January 23rd.  Incumbent Prime Minister Paul Martin formally resigned and Mr. Harper was formally appointed and sworn in as Prime Minister on February 6th. Through the eight years, Stephen Harper has had three mandates – serving for two short minority Parliaments and now serving a term as a majority government through to Fall 2015.


Stephen Harper now sits as 9th on the list of Prime Ministers by time in office. By the end of this term of government, he will rise to 6th on that list. Here is the list of the top-10 Prime Ministers (as of tomorrow) by time in office.

  1. William Lyon Mackenzie King – 21 years, 154 days  
  2. Sir John A. Macdonald – 18 years, 359 days
  3. Pierre Trudeau – 15 years, 164 days
  4. Sir Wilfrid Laurier – 15 years, 86 days
  5. Jean Chretien – 10 years, 38 days
  6. Brian Mulroney – 8 years, 281 days
  7. Sir Robert Borden – 8 years, 274 days
  8. Louis St. Laurent – 8 years, 218 days
  9. Stephen Harper – 8 years
  10. John Diefenbaker – 5 years, 305 days