Re­flec­tions on com­ing fed­eral elec­tion

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Henry Sre­brnik Henry Sre­brnik is a pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal science at the Univer­sity of Prince Ed­ward Is­land.

Three months out from the next fed­eral elec­tion, things are not look­ing good for the Con­ser­va­tives.

Prime Min­is­ter Harper has lost a num­ber of key cab­i­net min­is­ters, in­clud­ing John Baird and Peter MacKay, oil prices have col­lapsed, and Canada may al­ready be in re­ces­sion.

That spells trou­ble for a party whose main claim is that it is a bet­ter stew­ard of the econ­omy than its op­po­nents. Af­ter nine years, the Harper gov­ern­ment seems list­less.

At best, the Con­ser­va­tives can only count on a loyal base of some­where be­tween 30-35 per cent of the elec­torate. On the other hand, large seg­ments of Cana­dian so­ci­ety ab­so­lutely loath Harper; he’s been com­pared to ev­ery­one from At­tila the Hun to Hitler! (Some call this “Harper de­range­ment syn­drome.”)

De­spite that, the Con­ser­va­tives will emerge vic­to­ri­ous. The well-oiled Tory ma­chine, plus the ad­di­tion of 30 new seats in the House of Com­mons, mostly in Con­ser­va­tive­friendly ar­eas in On­tario and the West, will see to that.

How­ever, while they will come first, the Con­ser­va­tives won’t win the 169 seats needed for a ma­jor­ity.

The New Democrats will be a close sec­ond, though this will de­pend on the Bloc Québé­cois not re-emerg­ing as a ma­jor force in that province.

The Lib­er­als will hold about the same num­ber of seats as they cur­rently have; they will ba­si­cally be­come a “niche” party, sup­ported mostly by re­cent im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties in big cities such as Toronto and Van­cou­ver, an­glo­phone and al­lo­phone fed­er­al­ists in Mon­treal, and At­lantic Cana­di­ans. By the way, At­lantic Canada’s con­tin­ued sup­port of the Lib­er­als has an in­ter­est­ing his­tor­i­cal par­al­lel: in the United King­dom, af­ter the Lib­er­als be­came a mi­nor party in the 1920s, their sup­port came mainly in the “Celtic fringe” ( parts of Scot­land and Wales).

If all goes as I sug­gest, the Con­ser­va­tives will emerge with 154 seats, the NDP with 135, the Lib­er­als with 35, the Bloc with 12, and the Greens with two.

Justin Trudeau will try to en­tice Thomas Mul­cair into form­ing a coali­tion gov­ern­ment – af­ter all, the Lib­er­als will have noth­ing to lose - but the New Democrats would be wise to re­sist it: why breathe new life into their ri­vals?

In­stead, the NDP will try to top­ple the mi­nor­ity Tories in a vote of non-con­fi­dence when par­lia­ment re­sumes sit­ting and then form their own mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment (with tacit sup­port from the Bloc and Lib­er­als).

What hap­pens af­ter that is any­body’s guess. My own crys­tal ball be­comes hazy at that point. No doubt they will be in­ter­est­ing times!

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