Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Is it 2008 already?

It must be, as that’s what it says on my calendar. But, from a political perspective, it almost seems like 2007 never happened. And, depending on your point of view, that’s probably not a particularly bad thing.

Look back to a year ago though, and fast-forward to today, and it seems like not a lot has happened. The last year was almost a wash, and would have to objectively be called a relative failure for all the federal parties. No one has gained any ground, the Cons and Libs neck in neck, the NDP haven’t built their support either, and the BQ still treads water.

Some may call the past year a success for the Harper Conservatives by virtue of his still being in government. However, since I’m not a Blogging Tory or a National Post columnist, I’m not one of them. This was to be the year of the triumphal march to a Conservative majority. Instead, the Cons have continually failed to breaking into majority polling territory, and a series of embarrassments and setbacks on issues as diverse as income trusts, the environment, Afghanistan and even, yes, accountability have taken the sheen off the Conservative New Government luster. After another year their majority is just as out of sight as it was last year.

For my Liberals it was a very forgettable year as well. And it began with such promise, with a new leader in Stephane Dion at the helm. A shaky performance, party unity issues, communications issues, policy issues, focus issues (well let’s just say lots of issues) and relentless Conservative attack ads hampered the party however, and despite ample Conservative miscues and missteps the Liberals have failed to gain any ground in the polls. I won’t even mention the by-elections. Hopefully the growing-pains will be left in 2007.

As for the NDP and BQ, well, despite Jack Layton’s bluster and Pat Martin’s bombast, the NDP have failed to gain any ground and indeed, at one point, polled below their showing in the last election. The BQ seem to have become an afterthought on the federal scene, little heard from since Gilles Duceppe’s aborted jump to the BQ. They still lead in Quebec, but the Conservatives are giving them a challenge there and, in some polls, the Liberals too.

Looking ahead to 2008

I won’t make predictions, but I’ll say that I think we should have an election rather soon. I’d like to see the Liberals bring forward a non-confidence motion before the budget, pre-empting the by-elections. We can’t prop this government up any longer, and it wouldn’t be palatable to campaign against a tax-cut filled, big spending budget. Better to go on an issue of our own choosing, which would mean a vote in March or April I suppose. On what issue? That’s for smarter minds than I, and is probably fodder for another post.

Since I’m not making predictions I won’t predict the outcome of such an election. There are many variables. OK, I’ll make one prediction: no one will get a majority. We’ll have another minority of some variety.

And, should the stars align, a Liberal minority is a possibility. A look at the regional polling shows Liberal growth potential in the Maritimes, Ontario, the Prairies and B.C., partially offset by likely losses in Quebec. We have good issues to fight the Conservatives on. If we go on the right issue, and get a good performance from Dion, a minority is within reach. It will be an uphill battle, but it’s possible.

For the Conservatives, the best-case scenario for them at the moment is a strengthened minority. I’d see a reduced minority for them as more likely however. While they may gain in Quebec, they’re set to lose seats in Ontario, the Prairies and the Maritimes. They have nowhere to go but down in Alberta, and in B.C. it’s likely to be a wash. Harper has thrown everything but the kitchen-sink into getting a majority, and he’s fallen short. With the hits they’ve been taking on a variety of issues, I don’t see where they’re going to gain any ground. They’re going to need a silver bullet of some sort.

The NDP is talking big today about an orange wave, but despite their dreams of replacing the Liberals (which is why they reserve much of their bluster for them, and not the Cons) the polling numbers don’t bear it out. Ontario is looking solidly Liberal, there’s not much room for them to grow in the Maritimes, and while I could be surprised, in Quebec I don’t think Tom Muclair’s coattails are that long, but we’ll see. They might gain seats in the Prairies. I think there’s Con seats up for grabs with the whole Wheat Board thing, and the Libs and NDP will be fighting for them. While the Libs might get some, I’d give the edge to the NDP here overall. Alberta, of course, not going to happen. In B.C.., they’ll have tough fights holding Vancouver Island North and Skenna-Bulkley Valley from the Cons, and Victoria from the Libs. Losses there would offset gains elsewhere. Maybe I’m blinded because I find Layton’s showmanship and preachiness grating, I don’t know.

Anyway, with luck we’ll have the election soon. Because until we do, this holding pattern will continue. Hopefully 2008 will be a more eventful year.

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ottlib said...


The Liberals will probably hold on to what they have in Quebec and pick up elsewhere. Who knows, they might even pick up a few seats in Quebec as the Conservatives and the Bloc fight for the nationalist vote. In some of the more federalist ridings around Montreal, West Quebec and the Eastern Townships that might create some favourable splits.

The real question is whether the Conservatives will be able to pick up seats in Quebec. If not then they stand a good chance of losing because they have alienated vast swaths of the rest of the country.

It is true that Mr. Dion will need to run a good national campaign. I am heartened in that because he has surrounded himself with some experienced advisors who have run and won many campaigns in the past.

You make a good point about Conservative fortunes. You can almost see the gritted teeth amongst the Conservative cheerleaders in the media as they make statements of how good the Conservatives were in 2007.

As you say the failed miserably to grow their support and those cheerleaders know it. Now they are a government with a spotty record at best who have provided their opponents with all sorts of ammunition for a national campaign.

It should be an interesting 2008.

Oldschool said...

So what do you think Dion will run on . . . his record as enviro-minister?
Dion is probably a nice man . . . but a leader he is not!!! I predict no election in 08, cause once the writ is dropped . . . Dion will get smoked in every venue . . . the guy is a whus, he will get hammered in English language debates and as a co-conspirator in the previous administration has some baggage . . . far more than any Mulroney/Harper issues.
Ontario will have to wake up . . . being decendants of the "United Empire Loyalists" says a lot about why they are so slow to smell the coffee.
Want to see a 65 cent dollar again . . . vote Lieberal!!!!