It’s too soon to count out Scheer, Con­ser­va­tives

The Expositor (Brantford) - - OPINION - lgo­ld­[email protected]­media.com LOR­RIE GOLD­STEIN

Pre­dict­ing that An­drew Scheer and the Con­ser­va­tives are done like din­ner head­ing into the Oct. 21 fed­eral elec­tion is dumb.

Pre­dic­tions such as “Why An­drew Scheer will never be Prime Min­is­ter” (iPol­i­tics.ca, May 3, 2018) and “Face it Con­ser­va­tives. Pick­ing Scheer was a mis­take” (iPol­i­tics.ca, Jan. 5, 2018) are fool­ish. How do we know? Be­cause in the months lead­ing up to the Oct. 19, 2015, fed­eral elec­tion in which Justin Trudeau took his party from third place to gov­ern­ment, we saw equally dumb pre­dic­tions such as “Justin Trudeau may not last long as Lib­eral leader, po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist says” (straight.com, July 28, 2015) and, “Back­ers fear that miss­ing-in-ac­tion, Trudeau los­ing bid to lead Canada” (Reuters, July 29, 2015).

De­fin­i­tive and near-de­fin­i­tive state­ments from the chat­ter­ing classes — present com­pany in­cluded — about what’s go­ing to hap­pen in an elec­tion months be­fore the elec­tion are silly, be­cause elec­tions mat­ter.

Be­cause polls tell us only what’s hap­pened, not what’s go­ing to hap­pen.

And be­cause when it comes to pre­dict­ing elec­tion re­sults months in ad­vance, and oc­ca­sion­ally even a day in ad­vance, no­body knows any­thing. Just ask Hillary Clin­ton. What forms the pre­vail­ing me­dia nar­ra­tive about an elec­tion lead­ing up to the elec­tion is what the polls say.

In the 2015 fed­eral elec­tion, the pre­vail­ing me­dia/poll­ster nar­ra­tive head­ing in was that it was go­ing to be a bat­tle be­tween Con­ser­va­tive Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper and NDP Leader Tom Mul­cair — the lat­ter poised to be­come Canada’s first NDP PM — with Trudeau and the Lib­er­als as also-rans.

Two and a half months later (cam­paign­ing be­gan on Aug. 2 for the Oct. 19 vote), Trudeau be­came Canada’s 23rd prime min­is­ter.

Harper an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion as Con­ser­va­tive leader that night, fol­lowed by his exit from pol­i­tics in Au­gust 2016.

The NDP booted Mul­cair out as party leader in April 2016 — a de­ci­sion many now ap­pear to re­gret — with Mul­cair speak­ing for the last time in Par­lia­ment in June 2018, and serv­ing his last day as an MP two months later.

In the leadup to the 2015 elec­tion, I wrote (hap­pily) on July 29, 2015, in a col­umn iron­i­cally ti­tled “The fall of Justin Trudeau” — in the mid­dle of a del­uge of me­dia sto­ries say­ing Trudeau was fin­ished — that:

“What’s hap­pened is that the me­dia, tak­ing its cue from the polls which now show the Lib­er­als in third place be­hind the NDP and To­ries, have done an about-face on the pre­vi­ous me­dia nar­ra­tive about Trudeau.

“That’s from just a few months ago, when, ac­cord­ing to the polls, Trudeau’s Lib­er­als were in first and many in the me­dia were declar­ing him a sure thing to oc­cupy 24 Sus­sex Drive after the Oct. 19 elec­tion. “Now, we’re told, he’s a sure miss. “But I wouldn’t bury him, or any­one else, just yet.”

Which is why it’s dumb to bury Scheer now.

It’s cer­tainly go­ing to be a chal­lenge for Scheer to de­feat Trudeau, one of the rea­sons be­ing that Cana­di­ans typ­i­cally (al­though not al­ways) re-elect an in­com­ing prime min­is­ter after he’s won his first elec­tion.

In Canada’s re­cent po­lit­i­cal his­tory, this was true of Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive PM Brian Mul­roney (two ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ments in the 1984 and 1988 elec­tions), Lib­eral PM Jean Chre­tien (three ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ments in the 1993, 1997 and 2000 elec­tions) and Stephen Harper (mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ments in the 2006 and 2008 elec­tions and a ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ment in the 2011 elec­tion).

But any­thing’s pos­si­ble. Just ask Justin Trudeau.

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