6 Months to Election Day

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Exactly six months from now, Canadians will go to the polls to elect a new federal government. Already, each of the major parties is telling us that this will be the most important election in Canadian history, and although the more meta-aware candidates recognize that this line is said almost every election year, could they be actually right this time? There are 30 new seats up for grabs thanks to the re-configuration of district lines, making a majority sweep just a little bit harder to achieve. On the issues, there’s the Stephen Harper legacy, whether or not a balanced budget is enough to make people forget the myriad of scandals his government’s incurred over the last decade. And the Opposition, is Thomas Mulcair’s prosecutorial method of holding the government in line going to keep the Orange Crush crushing, or is the face of youth and vitality in Justin Trudeau going to be more appealing?

In the recent poll of polls on ThreeHundedEight.com,  it seems that the Conservatives have the edge, but only one possibility projects them to get back into majority territory, and it is the absolute best case scenario:

Projection Back

Here’s the problem though, can the Conservatives seriously expect everything to go their way between now and October 19? The trial of Senator Mike Duffy threatens now to continue on into summer, which sharpens the likelihood of a verdict immediately before or during the election, and that is not good news for the government. The ongoing protests against Bill C51 also threaten to galvanize anti-Harper voters to get out to the polls, as if they didn’t already need the encouragement. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see what long-term effects there will be from Tuesday’s budget, if the economy bounces back it’s a win for Harper et al, if things keep stalling, then a lot of people are going to be wondering why the government spent so big on giving tax breaks/incentives to people who were already doing alright in the first place.

The other thing the above poll makes clear is that the Conservatives are the only ones with any hope, not matter how small, of forming a majority government at all. The great expectations of either the Liberals or the NDP is that if they want to unseat Harper, as the numbers stand now, then they’ll have to co-operate via that dreaded ‘C’ word, coalition. Earlier this week, Trudeau said that he was open to coalition, and then almost immediately took it back the next day. The opposition parties took a beating in the 2011 campaign for almost daring to team-up in 2008, a move that was legitimate and permissible according to the rules of parliamentary democracy, but was vilified as anti-democratic by the Conservative spin machine. A coalition is on the table, both Trudeau and Mulcair would be naive to deny it, but sadly we must play the won’t-they portion out before we entertain the will-they.

But all those numbers above can change, and change drastically, in the next few months, let alone the fact that the numbers on their own can sometimes be misleading. The polls also generally discount what influence smaller parties might have in this coming election. The Green Party will likely struggle with a lot of voters working out on their own the electoral math for who can best defeat the Harper Conservatives, AKA: strategic voting. On the other hand, Elizabeth May is now confirmed to be a part of the leaders’ debate, and the Greens now have two more MPs in office than they did in 2011. The Bloc Quebecois, meanwhile, are in a rebuilding season. Whether they can rebound from two MPs, take on the steady NDP and a resurgent Liberal Party in Quebec, and overcome the recent missteps by their sister Parti Quebecois in last year’s provincial election, remain to be seen.

This next bit maybe more inside baseball, but what about the vacancies being created? Ridings, like here in Guelph, where the incumbent isn’t running. The Conservatives lead this category by far with 27 MPs, including senior ministers like John Baird, Christian Paradis and Shelly Glover, not running for re-election. By comparison 12 NDP, 5 Liberals, 5 independents and 1 Bloc Quebecois are not standing for re-election in 2015. Of course, some of this is to be expected, especially from the Conservatives, many of whom have been a part of the House of Commons since 2003 or 2006. Then there’s people like Rob Anders, a lightning rod, who lost in two nomination fights to be the Conservative candidate. But what of John Baird? His January resignation as Foreign Affairs Minister came as a shock, and made many people wonder if the Ottawa West-Nepean MP knew something we didn’t about the Conservative Party’s immediate fortunes.

The final piece of the puzzle will be voter turnout. Not overall turnout, but turnout in a specific number of ridings that hosted tightly contested races in 2011. Will the “every vote counts” factor bring out people to vote against the sitting government, or will areas that gave the Conservatives a whirl in 2011, primarily in Ontario, be not so eager to re-elect now seeing what a Stephen Harper majority government looks like? And what impact might the Fair Elections Act have? Will the worst fears of the paranoid come true with voters being disenfranchised? That’s a lot to consider going into the election season, and still, that doesn’t take into account the things we can’t see coming.

The Federal Election takes place on October 19.

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