4 key election questions

By George Journal poses “the 4 key election questions” left in the weeks remaining before the October vote. How Canadians’ thinking evolves (and how the Parties’ respective political backrooms maneuver) in response to these questions will have a direct impact on the election results.

 

By George’s 4 Key Election Questions

#1. Can Stephen Harper successfully frame the ballot box question to relate to the health of the Canadian economy?

There are many distractions that have fed headline news through the election campaign – Duffy, social media embarrassments, refugees, etc. Should the PM get his wish and turn the attention of voters in the voting booth to Canadians’ challenges with the global economic turmoil, he could still have a chance to gain the benefit of the doubt from undecided voters. Media and pundits have begun to pick apart the costings of the respective NDP and Liberal platforms. It is increasingly unclear whether we can trust the math of the NDP and Liberals. Weigh that fact against the 2 billion dollar surplus Stephen Harper just delivered and you have people thinking about their own financial prospects in an uncertain world and re-considering the devil they know.

 

#2. Can Thomas Mulcair and the NDP gain some traction in the GTA – and elsewhere in TROC?

Although national polls show the NDP deadlocked with the Conservatives and Liberals, the NDP numbers are skewed with their overwhelming support in the Province of Quebec. The reality is that Mulcair has made little headway in Toronto and southern Ontario – or anywhere else outside la belle Province. To win, he must gain traction in English Canada – most importantly in Toronto, “the most important City in Canada” as Mulcair has tagged it. (Perhaps this is why Mulcair does not wish to talk about Quebec politics and his Quebec-dominated caucus views on separation?) If Mulcair fails to move the numbers in TROC, this Quebec-career-politician will likely find the NDP will be on the short end of many close three-way races, losing many to his Outremont nemesis, Mr. Trudeau.

 

#3. Will Canadians actually vote for Justin “nice hair” Trudeau when he seems to be proving his critics correct?

The Great Liberal Savior, the son-of-the-Legend-himself, has been disappointing on the campaign trail and an outright disaster for some Grit backroom warhorses like Warren Kinsella. Though he may fully grasp the issues and ideas surrounding the most pressing concerns of Canadians, Justin Trudeau has shown no ability to articulately answer the most-common of questions on the economy, “the middle class struggle” or even Liberal campaign promises. The most recent case was his flubbing his way through that Atlantic CTV interview – a video now being widely distributed by NDP and Conservative politicos. So, the real question about Justin remains whether Canadians will vote for his pedigree in spite of what they see and hear from the man?

 

#4. Will election bravado that the NDP and Liberals are sure to deny a minority Conservative result the chance to govern impact the final vote?

The Conservatives need a majority vote or they will be kicked from office by a coalition of NDP and Liberals. Recall, this is the exact scenario that delivered Stephen Harper “a strong, stable, national majority Conservative government” in 2011. Both Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau have made crystal clear statements recently that they would “under no circumstances” support a Conservative minority government. This possibility that it is either a right-wing/Conservative government or a left-wing coalition motivates those right-of-centre Canadian voters to get out and vote. So, can Stephen Harper use Mulcair’s and Trudeau’s pronouncements this time around to move his numbers, galvanize Conservative vote and corral enough support from uncertain Canadians who would rather have a stable government than political drama in Ottawa? Is this a 2011 rerun or will be there a new twist to be made to the old arguments?

 

By George Journal is interested in receiving your views on these questions as well as trending concerns on the campaign trail. Connect with us!

 

On deficits & balanced budgets

All it took was for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to state he would not be tied to balancing the federal budget at the expense of Canadians’ standard of living and budgets and deficits become the hot-button-issue.

For the record, here is how the three parties yesterday articulated their stance on balancing the federal books.

Justin Trudeau said:

  • “Although the Liberal party continues to be the party that is committed to balancing the budget and making sure we maintain fiscal responsibility and discipline, how many years it takes to balance that budget is what we will be talking about in the coming days and weeks.”
  • “He [Prime Minister Stephen Harper] needs to come clean with Canadians which promises he’s made are now off the table because of his commitment to balance the budget in a recession, which will take the money out of pockets of Canadians and quite frankly, his poor economic policy in a time of recession. You just have to look at recent history. Conservatives run deficits, Liberals know how to grow the budget into balance.”
  • “The way to grow out of deficits is through economic growth, through investing in Canadians. That is how you avoid structural deficits. You just have to look at recent history. Conservatives run deficits, Liberals know how to grow the budget into balance.”

Chrystia Freeland, Liberal MP said:

  • “Thomas Mulcair’s phony rhetoric is a mirage. He’s siding with Harper in favour of austerity instead of investment, jobs, and growth. Thomas Mulcair talks a lot about looking out for average Canadians, but his only path to a balanced budget so quickly is massive cuts and backing away from the NDP’s spending promises. The choice in this election is between jobs and growth or austerity and cuts. Thomas Mulcair made the wrong choice.”

John McCallum, Liberal MP said:

  • “Stephen Harper told Canadians in the 2008 election there was no recession, only to admit the truth right after the election. He’s doing the same thing again now. Just as in his PMO scandal with Mike Duffy, Stephen Harper is not telling Canadians the truth. He cannot be trusted. Canadians have had enough. We need a new government and a new plan to grow this economy.”

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said:

  • “We’ve been categorical. We will not be running a deficit. No, we will not be entertaining any thought of that. Our choices are different from Mr Harper’s. We will not be running a deficit.”

Andrew Thomson, NDP candidate and the Party’s financial “star” said:

  • “Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau “isn’t up to the job.” We’ve had eight straight deficits under Stephen Harper and now Justin Trudeau is promising to run many more. The Conservative fiscal and economic policies have taken us into debt and recession. Liberal inconsistencies show that they don’t know how to fix Stephen Harper’s damage to our economy. While Tom Mulcair has been clear that our first budget will be balanced, Justin Trudeau can’t make up his mind. That’s not the kind of change that Canadians are looking for in Ottawa.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said:

  • “Justin Trudeau now says, now that’s he’s realized that budgets won’t balance themselves, he says he’s just given up trying. He’s just going to run deficits all the time anyway. And we know what the NDP plan is. They say they’ll balance the budget but the real plan is they will bring in an avalanche of tax increases that in theory will balance the budget and in reality wreck the economy.”
  • “Since first taking office we have been focused on our plan to support jobs and economic growth. We have lowered taxes and made key investments to help small- and medium-sized businesses expand and hire.”
  • “Justin thinks budgets balance themselves, but small business owners know otherwise. Thomas Mulcair’s plan to hike taxes and pile on debt will create economic chaos, putting Canadian workers and small businesses at risk. Our low-tax plan is helping create jobs and move Canada’s economy forward.”

4 Stories Behind the Election Headlines

It should come as no surprise that with this election campaign (as with most current events), things are not truly how they appear to be in the news headlines. There is always more to the story than what’s in the headline. One needs to delve deeper into the facts of the matter to assess exactly what is occurring in the campaign.

Let’s take four election headlines that Canadians are seeing repeatedly in the early weeks of the election campaign. By George scratches the surface of these news headlines to raise a few important questions that Canadians should begin to consider.

“National Polls indicate there is a 3-way race”

While the polls may indicate “a statistical tie” among the three major parties, these numbers do not reveal the real “race.” It is the analysis of seat projections and not opinion polls that tell a more complete story about which party has the best chance of coming out on top. One needs to factor the seat projects – from regional polling numbers – to get a true indication of how the Parties are trending. And, when you do these calculations, the race to form government is actually a two-pony contest between the Conservatives and NDP; and, the Liberals trail in a distant third place.

“The majority of Canadian want a change of government”

This statement tells us absolutely nothing that was not true in the 2011 election. The majority of Canadians never voted for and have never supported the Conservatives and Stephen Harper. Therefore, it is expected that the majority opinion would want to see a new federal government and Prime Minister. As stated above, in reflecting on public opinion polling numbers, one needs to look deeper into the data to find kernels of truth that may be useful in spotting voting intentions and trends. This type of opinion polling regarding “change” is a red herring – good headline fodder for the many who are anti-government.

“Mulcair has been the PM-in-the-making for a long while”

It is always interesting in an election campaign to watch political leaders craft their life narratives as if they are on some destined, will-to-power linear paths. In this election, we have a great example in “your smiling, man-of-convictions Tom”. As an opportunistic Quebec-politician, Thomas Mulcair has gone through an extensive make-over in the last 18 months – Happy Warrior or Angry Tom?. What Canadians now see when looking at Mulcair is a spit-and-polished, backroom persona. So, it is incumbent for voters to get beyond the “PM-in-the-making” narrative and ask a couple of key questions: “Does Mulcair possess the character to be a good PM?” and “Can Mulcair critically think beyond his Quebec-mindset to govern in the best interests of Canadians in TROC?”

“NDP is ready to govern”

The core NDP message is that their competent Leader is prepared to step into the Prime Minister’s Office. For the most part, media has not challenged whether the NDP are ready to govern, but has simply regurgitated the repeated claims of Mulcair’s competency. However, if one reviewed the list of NDP MPs and candidates and their life-experiences, it would be quickly recognized that there are great challenges in finding qualified people to fill key posts in Cabinet, such as finance and industry portfolios, or Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defence. More significantly, you would note that this caucus would be led by a strong majority of young, inexperienced Quebec MPs; which leads one to wonder what this Quebecois-slanted governing caucus would mean for decisions regarding Ontario transfer payments, western oil and gas development, or international foreign policy? Truly, a Party requires more than a competent Leader to govern and the proof of the NDP’s governability is found in their light-weight, Quebecois-lead-caucus pudding.

By George Journal provides more election news and commentary in its posts tagged: “Election 2015”.

Mulcair: Happy Warrior or Angry Tom?

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With the NDP now out front and the real possibility that it could form the next federal government, what of Thomas Mulcair? What should Canadians know about this man to properly judge whether he can be a trusted Prime Minister?

The spin doctors have been busy remaking the Mulcair image, trimming his beard and buffing up his smile. Angry Tom has become Determined Tom, the Happy Warrior. Mulcair’s impatient nastiness has become an anxious, deep-seeded set of convictions. His Quebec-centric thinking has become a pan-Canadian vision. His personal story has become a prelude to a prime-minister-in-waiting plot.

There have been many flowery exposes of the man – and we can expect many more from the mainstream media. Thomas Mulcair, himself, has written a memoir that extols his virtues. It all makes for a wonderful subtext to the greater “anti-Harper” narrative the media is shilling these days.

But what does a careful look at his record tell us? What does the recent history with his NDP caucus reveal about how he would handle his Party and Parliament from the halls of the PMO? Some political pundits and media commentators have been asking these specific questions.

Charlotte Gray, for example, wrote a November 2013 Walrus magazine feature entitled, “Prime Minister in Waiting: Can Thomas Mulcair finish the project Jack Layton started?”  Gray’s piece provides a balanced view of how through 2012-13 Thomas Mulcair was picking up from Jack Layton’s legacy. This is an insightful piece for its exploration of the political rationale that has gone into positioning the NDP Leader in relation to the Trudeau Liberals. It should come as no surprise that Mulcair’s policy statements through the last few months have been developed and contrived to steal away centralist voters from the Liberals. For Mulcair, getting the spin right is important. Gray paints a picture of a man who is less a Leader of conviction and more an astute, calculating politician.

Another insightful piece from just this past week is Terezia Farkas’s critical look at the NDP’s Leader: Can Canadians Trust Thomas Mulcair With the Country’s Top Job?  Farkas reveals the Mulcair warts in his air-brushed image: his temper, his “slow-boil” outbreaks, his inability to admit he is wrong, his politics of convenience. She adroitly asks: Should Canadians judge Thomas Mulcair by his campaign image or by his character?

Lastly, to get a first-hand accounting of Mulcair’s character, take 10 minutes and watch this segment of CBC’s At Issue Panel from May 2014 (before the NDP spin-miesters sat their Leader down). Jennifer Ditchburn, Chantel Hebert and Andrew Coyne join Peter Mansbridge to review Thomas Mulcair and his prickly personality. Click here.

You will see these veteran reporters describe the Thomas Mulcair they have come to know in covering him for years. Warning: this exchange is not what you will read in the NDP’s flattering campaign pieces. Muclair is described as “imperious”, “brittle, condescending and patronizing”, “smarty and arrogant”. Coyne makes the comment that he “doesn’t have a sense of humour about himself” and when responding to criticism “where he either strikes a graceful or graceless tone, he tends toward graceless.” Chantel Hebert observes that he is often “dismissive in his tone” and asks pointedly, “What he’d be like if he were Prime Minister?”

What these three pieces reveal about Canadians’ current view of Thomas Mulcair is that the NDP have indeed skillfully re-mastered their Leader into a more likeable fellow. He’s everyman’s prime-minister-in-waiting. Whether this image survives the heat of the campaign will be something to watch. For Canadians will either be moved to vote for the “Happy Warrior” image, or they will pass Mulcair by because of his “Angry Tom” character flaws.

 

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)