Thursday, June 10, 2004

Think The Unthunkable!

What in the past few months would have been unthinkable has now, paraphrasing the poignant words of Ezra Levant, publisher of the Western Standard, “been thunk [sic].”Though I’m sure think no longer or never had that tense, many can no longer deny the now natural thought, once inconceivable, of Stephen Harper as Prime Minister. CPAC (Canadian Political Affaires Channel) has had a rolling poll (daily) through out the campaign in which 600 hundred respondents are asked who their party of choice for government would be in the upcoming election. Some concerns about the poll’s methodology can be made, however, the general trend that is being found in more rigorous polls—i.e. Ipsos, Leger, Globe and Mail, and National Post—also appears in the CPAC polls: The Conservative's momentum is increasing. Only three weeks prior, The Liberals were polling nationally at around 38%, the Conservatives at 30% and the NDP at 16% or 17%. But now, the Conservatives are polling at 37% nationally and, also, in the province of Ontario, a traditionally Liberal stronghold. The Liberals are now polling around 32% to 33% in Ontario and nationally, appearing to be continual losing ground against the Conservatives. This is due in no small part to the recent Ontario budget tabled by the provincial Liberals, which has caused a furor against Liberal MP’s alike. That a Liberal loss on June 28th will weigh on the conscience of Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario, is an ineluctable truth.

This was not always the case. Only a few weeks back many political commentators believed that, despite the Liberals deflating poll numbers, the Conservatives would hit the ceiling at 30% nationally. As the second week wore on, the Liberal campaign began to tear at the seams. The Liberal war-room made some egregious miscalculations, the first one being an invitation offer to Stephen Harper to attend the 60th anniversary D-Day ceremonies in France, Courseulles Sur-Mer. Harper, on principle, declined the offer, acknowledging that both the Prime Minister and the Governor General, as a matter of form, should represent Canada. This wasn’t at all unreasonable. Why would the leader of the opposition be invited to an event like this, or, for that matter, if the leader of the opposition was invited, why shouldn’t all the leaders of political parties in parliament be invited?

The Liberal war-room strategists were attempting to bear hug Harper in order to bring him into their political constellation. This, they assumed, would reflect well on Martin, and if Harper declined, stain the Conservatives. However, what it did, besides looking utterly pathetic, gave Stephen Harper all the power; moreover, his reason not to attend was, even for a political Liberal like myself, sound.

Another contemptible misstep by the Liberal war-room strategists was the organized ambush of Stephen Harper as he and his campaign team were mainstreeting (walking up and down streets shaking potential voters' hands). What made it inexcusable, and utterly pathetic, once again, was the fact that two cabinet ministers were sent to do the foot work. Judy Srgo, Minister of Immigration, and John Mcullam, Minister of Veterans Affairs—though I’m sure not for long—were tasked to do the thankless job of heckling Stephen Harper. John Mcullam, ever the social butterfly, came within inches of Harper’s face, attempting to hand him a letter, which Mr. Harper, rightly, didn't take.

At the end of the second week, the state of the Liberal campaign would have been rightly diagnosed terminal.

Therefore, the only recourse available to the Liberals, since there message hasn’t, as Liberal war-room chief strategist David Herle says, broken the “wall of cynicism”, is to go negative. Last night Liberal attacks ads appeared during the supper hour, with the sole purpose of souring the Canadian electorate’s taste for Stephen Harper. The ads target Harper’s agenda, which they believe is hidden, on social issues such as abortion, gay marriage, official bilingualism, and hate crime legislation—the prevailing thought is that Harper, and thus a Conservative government, would be against these issues, respectively. The rasion d’etre for the Liberals, now, is to define Harper as an intolerant, social conservative who will destroy the long, cherished principles of Canada: equality, inclusion, and multiculturalism.

Now to the pertinent electoral math: Today’s Ottawa Citizen has an article that predicts the seat count in the Conservative’s favor at 117. The Liberals have dropped to 112 since earlier counts had them between 118-125 seats. Since there are 308 seats in the House of Commons, and 155 is a majority government, it looks like neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals could form a majority government, today—though either of their fortunes could change after the candidates debate scheduled for next week. The Conservatives have broached the topic of forming a coalitional government with the BQ, who are projected to get 54 seats in the latest poll analysis. This is highly unlikely considering the diametrically opposed politics of both parties. The Liberals have also not ruled out forming a coalition with the NDP, who are projected to grab 24 seats; although this largely depends on whether or not the Liberals amass at least 130 seats.

It is convention for the Governor General to,failing that a majority of seats aren’t won by any party, ask the party with the most seats to form a coalition government. If the Conservatives won more seats than the Liberals yet still didn’t have enough for a majority, the Governor General would ask the Prime Minister, Paul Martin, to get a vote of confidence from parliament, which he clearly wouldn’t win, or resign as Prime Minister and allow the party with the most seats, the Conservatives, to form a coalitional government.

But now, if it seems like the Conservatives keep riding this implacable momentum with no clear policy objectives or platform, then it is, because they are—check their web site, it’s scant on policy; though the small fact of not having a policy convention is a contributing factor. The election is theirs to lose. However, once you do have momentum, it’s far too easy to lose it—just ask Paul Martin.

2 comments:

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