Sum­mer­time. . . and the pol­i­tics ain’t easy

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Alan Hol­man Alan Hol­man is a free­lance jour­nal­ist liv­ing in Char­lot­te­town. He can be reached at: achol­man@pei.east­

The next fed­eral elec­tion is set by law for Oct. 19, but there is enough wig­gle room in the leg­is­la­tion that it could be de­layed. Such an oc­cur­rence is un­likely, but, it can’t be en­tirely dis­counted, par­tic­u­larly if the strength of the NDP con­tin­ues to grow.

The web site three­hun­dredeight. av­er­ages out all the public polling data each month and has been do­ing so for more than six years.

Three years ago, of the three ma­jor par­ties the Lib­er­als were in the toi­let and the Con­ser­va­tives and the NDP were vy­ing for first place. How­ever, this changed dra­mat­i­cally when Justin Trudeau be­came leader. A year ago the Lib­er­als led the pack with 39 per cent, the Tories were only polling in the high 20s and the NDP were well back with a mere 21 per cent sup­port among the peo­ple polled.

How­ever, a year is a long time in pol­i­tics and this sum­mer the num­bers have tight­ened up con­sid­er­ably. To the sur­prise of many, in­clud­ing their own sup­port­ers, the NDP is now lead­ing with 33 per cent, the Con­ser­va­tives at 29 and the Lib­er­als at 26.

The Lib­eral slip­page be­gan late last sum­mer and it has been a slow, but, steady de­cline. Last fall Con­ser­va­tive pop­u­lar­ity be­gan to grow, but peaked at 32 per cent by year-end, and by mid-win­ter it started to ta­per off. At the same time the NDP sup­port had shrunk to 20 per cent.

The changes were oc­cur­ring for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. Prime Min­is­ter Harper’s stri­dent an­titer­ror­ism cam­paign was ini­tially pop­u­lar, in­clud­ing Bill C-51 which the Lib­er­als sup­ported. Over time though, the per­cep­tion grew that the leg­is­la­tion was ex­ces­sive and be­came po­lit­i­cally dam­ag­ing to both the Tories and the Lib­er­als.

When he first ar­rived as Lib­eral leader lit­tle was known about Justin Trudeau, but, both the press and the public were pre­pared to give him the ben­e­fit of the doubt. As an ac­tor and a school teacher he has no record of public achieve­ment and as time went on peo­ple were less in­clined to cut him much slack. This was re-en­forced by a Con­ser­va­tive ad sug­gest­ing Mr. Trudeau isn’t ready for prime time

Mean­while, NDP leader Thomas Mul­cair was mak­ing ef­fec­tive use of his po­si­tion as Leader of the Op­po­si­tion and be­came the po­lit­i­cal pros­e­cu­tor-in-chief of Stephen Harper and the eth­i­cally-chal­lenged Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment. NDP polling num­bers bot­tomed out at 20 per cent at the end of win­ter, but have risen sharply through the spring and early sum­mer to the point where the NDP now leads the pack.

In re­gional break­downs, the Con­ser­va­tives are ahead in Al­berta and the Prairies, the NDP are lead­ing in Bri­tish Columbia and Que­bec, the Lib­er­als lead in At­lantic Canada, and all three par­ties are in a close race for On­tario’s 130 seats. But, in ev­ery re­gion, the NDP trend line points up, while the Con­ser­va­tives and Lib­er­als are trend­ing down.

Given these num­bers some an­a­lysts are pro­ject­ing that the NDP will get 130 seats, the Con­ser­va­tives 119, the Lib­er­als 86, the BQ 2 and the Green Party with 1 seat. Op­ti­mistic Con­ser­va­tives think they will have the most seats, but be well short of a ma­jor­ity.

If this trend con­tin­ues (given the na­ture of pol­i­tics, that’s a big ‘if ’) and Lib­eral for­tunes con­tinue to fall, then by late sum­mer don’t be sur­prised to see a num­ber of se­nior Lib­er­als de­cid­ing not to run in Oc­to­ber. For peo­ple ac­cus­tomed to hold­ing the reins of power the prospect of again be­ing a mem­ber of the third party in the Com­mons isn’t very ap­peal­ing.

Also, for Prime Min­is­ter Harper the very thought he may end up in op­po­si­tion might be enough for him to find an ex­cuse to de­lay the elec­tion, and a few weeks later re­sign, thus giv­ing his suc­ces­sor the best part of a year to try and change things.

Stay tuned, it’s go­ing to be an in­ter­est­ing few months.

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