Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Ennui

Political fatigue has set in during these last few days of the Federal campaign. Questions abound: Is Ralph Klein going to violate the Canada Health Act? Will Martin stop being so equivocal and take a position? In an effort to expand NDP influence in a likely minority government, will Jack Layton shave off that ridiculous moustache? Does Gilles Duceppe own a tie? Will the impassive and telegraphically mechanical Stephen Harper cut a deal to govern? What does Ralph Klein have to do with this line of questioning?

I guess it has much do to with Mr. Klein, the intoxicating Premier of Alberta, proffering his desire to revisit quasi-private funding for health care in his province. Such a proposal, which was to be unveiled two days after the election but was pushed up for today to avoid controversy, would have, in Mr. Klein’s own words, “contravene[d]" the Canada Health Act. Today, however, the language of the proposal was muted and revised, since it made no mention of Alberta’s intention to “contravene" the Canada Health Act. This will probably have no effect on the outcome of the election; but it released Stephen Harper from the scepter of possibly colluding with his Albertan brethren, Mr. Klein, to destroy health care.

What has been of some interest, though, is how effective the Liberal attack ads have been in driving down Mr. Harper’s favorables. The SES/CPAC poll has tracked a precipitous fluctuation in Canadians' choice for Prime Minister.

At the start of the election Mr. Martin enjoyed a 14 point lead, as 31% of Canadians (from the poll sampling) thought he’d be the best choice for Prime Minister—of the possible candidates. Yet as the campaign wore on and Ontario was hit with regressive tax hikes, in the form of an Ontario Health Premium—by a provincial government that just happens to be Liberal—Ontario voters weren’t happy. Election are won or lost in Ontario.

Needless to say, Mr. Martin’s favorables started reclining as Mr. Harper’s started picking up. Although, it seems, now, that sometime after the English language debate—or possibly the French Language debate—and after a series of gaffes on child porn, bilingualism, and health care, Harper’s favorables have been in a steady recline; oh, and yes, the negative ads by the Liberals which evoke in the minds of undecided voters the previous fiscal disasters of Conservative governments, helmed by Canadian conservative demigods Brian Mulroney and Mike Harris, also hurt Harper.

Harper’s favorable were up around 27% when Martin’s declined to 26%, but now Harper’s are down to 20% and Martin is right around 29%. Unsure is polling well at 25%--I should have legally changed my name to unsure and ran. So it looks like the bottom has fallen out of the Conservative campaign, which until last week was running virtually flawless.

Political junkies, like me, still persist in analyzing all the ephemera flying out of the campaign war rooms. Sane, reasonable people, instead, have already decided--that is, decided to stop watching the frivolous minutiae of the last days of this campaign.

As a phalanx of the punditry, the politicos, and the media breathlessly anticipate what will most certainly be an anti-climatic election finish, the electorate is dutifully ignoring the news and busy preparing for the Canada day long weekend. There is an old Chinese proverb that invokes today’s state of affairs: The dog barks but the caravan goes on. Or this one I especially like: The moon would not shine if it paid attention to all the dogs that barked at it—people will pay attention when it matters: on June 28th.

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