Summertime. . . and the politics ain’t easy
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.