Election 2015: No easy path to victory

A festival of insurmountable obstacles will greet each party leader in next year’s election


trudeau_mulcair_carouselThe federal election of October 2015 is a big, shiny, silk top hat. Three men will reach into the thing and grope around. Only one can find a rabbit.

This election is a festival of insurmountable obstacles. Each of the main national leaders faces challenges that probably can’t be overcome. NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair’s is the most difficult of all, but it is, tantalizingly, not quite out of reach. If he were to win the election, he would become Canada’s first New Democrat prime minister. Almost nobody in Ottawa gossip circles gives him any chance of success. And surely, after a string of disappointing by-election results—and after two years of watching Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau get twice the media attention with (depending how you count these things) perhaps one-third of the NDP’s parliamentary caucus and a comparably weensy fraction of Mulcair’s debating skill—Mulcair could be forgiven for being discouraged.

Perhaps the other leaders’ predicament gives Mulcair strength. To become prime minister, Trudeau must reverse a brutal and steady 15-year decline in the Liberals’ fortunes that has shattered the careers of three previous leaders. The Liberals have lost 80 per cent of the MPs they had on the day Paul Martin became the party’s leader. Trudeau may have advantages Martin, Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff didn’t, but that collapse is real and meaningful: A generation of Canadian voters has grown up considering, then rejecting, the notion of voting for a Liberal, in election after election. It’s become a sturdy habit. It’s easy to imagine Trudeau melting like spring snow in the stretch. Easy.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Then there is Stephen Harper. He has already been Prime Minister longer than Brian Mulroney was. By next year, he’ll have been around almost as long as Jean Chrétien was. Their own parties were heartily sick of both men by the time they were done. What Canadians thought will be open to debate forever, because neither stuck around to find out. If Harper leads the Conservatives into the next election—not guaranteed, but likely—he will be seeking his fourth consecutive election victory. Only two other men in the history of the country managed such a four-peat: John A. Macdonald and Wilfrid Laurier. (Pierre Trudeau and William Lyon Mackenzie King showed comparable ability to win, but their streaks were interrupted in the middle by defeats.)

So Harper hopes to win the favour of Canadians after having already sought it more repeatedly than any prime minister in three decades. His consolations are multiple: He is young, five years younger than Mulcair. He is running against two first-time leaders who have no experience with the exhausting task of leading a national campaign from the front. And he commands either admiration or fear from Conservatives (usually both) in such quantity that the party is far more united behind him than parties usually are after they have seen as much of a guy as this one has.

Green party Leader Elizabeth May is in the mix, too, of course, along with whatever the name is of the guy leading the Bloc Québécois these days. Both may deliver surprises. On some days, the Green party looks as though it could make some kind of breakthrough, especially in British Columbia, where the debates over pipelines, First Nations and the environment are never distant. And it’s possible, at least arithmetically, for the Bloc to win back all the seats it managed to lose in 2011. But neither of these parties is likely to shake up the deck so thoroughly that it challenges the ranking of the three big national parties.

What will decide the winner? At the margin, everything you hate about politics: insult, accusation, ads of questionable taste and credibility, sophisticated databases designed to identify and provoke the voters likeliest to support a given party. But mostly, this election will pose, in stark terms, the central question about government at the national level: What’s it for?

Voters who feel that, under Harper, the federal government has abandoned the role it should play in developing and delivering social programs will weigh the alternatives—NDP and Liberal—and support whichever party seems more persuasive. Those who like a government that’s getting out of the business of building monuments to itself will stick with the Conservatives. It is clearer this time than in any previous election that this is Harper’s game: a progressive reduction in the federal government’s inclination, and even its ability, to deliver national programs from Ottawa. In 2008, Harper had done little cutting, except to taxes, delivering a huge economic stimulus through the two-point GST cut. In 2011, he was still spending billions of dollars on infrastructure programs. Since then, he has cut aggressively, reducing the public service by 37,000 employees and paring noticeably in veterans’ services, government libraries, military procurement and the CBC. Surely more is on the way, a cycle of tax cuts paid for with a smaller government. That path is anathema to Trudeau and Mulcair. They’ll say so. So will Harper. Amid the usual chaos and crosstalk of an election campaign, a clear choice about the role of government will be put to Canadians. It will be one of the most exciting campaigns in many years.


Election 2015: No easy path to victory

  1. As a life-long Tory I can only say one thing: I will NOT be voting for that fascist wannabe presently occupying the PMO. He lost me, and I’m sure many others, when he and his partner in crime Peter MacKay, the so-called Minister of Justice, attempted to intimidate the Supreme Court of Canada.

    Leave, Mr. Harper, you have been here too long for any good you may have done. I’m sure the
    Tea Party Republicans will welcome you with open arms.

    • Well Frank, I believe all of us and even you are a lot better off since the Conservatives took control of the finances of Canada. I disagree that Trudeau or Mulcair could bring us a better way of life. You can beat the drum for “Boy Wonder” all you like but he could not bring anything good to the table. He would tax you similar to the horrid way of the Ontario Govt.
      The Conservatives will serve us well again in 2015.

      • I don’t think Frank mentioned Trudeau in his post, but I will tell you “Dr. Jekyll Mr. Hyde”(harper) is not going to win a majority government in the next election. By the time elections roll around, voters are going to be questioning themselves, asking, do I really want to put up with another 4 years of a paranoid duel personality like Harper and the status quo, I think the voters will vote for new and improved government with a dash of progress with a pinch of vision and humility, and the only vision I see from Harper at this stage is tax cuts, and let the country fall down around its ears, like the taxpayers mansion(24sussex), Harper is living in by allowing it to fall down around his ears. In case your reading the polls the past few days and it shows its a sign of a lead and life in your guys(Harper)corner, well most of these pollsters work or worked for the con government and are using these numbers to fudge the true numbers that show the grits out in front, just like the hatchet job Harper is doing with election fraud, it don’t have to be true, just plausible. These polling firms(ipsos reid&angus reid) are like the Harper cons, corrupting Canadian minds with corrupt information.

      • Just what do you being better off financally Norman as i am still trying to survive on a CPP disability pension, and i still have to send a cheque to cover my share of the propaganda tax to put more ads on TV. And before you start whining about collect on the public purse, i have been a type 1 diabetic for 58 years and my heart only functions at about a 15% rate of effectiveness and i have congestive failure and i also got hepatitis while recovering from triple bypass surgery so i’m glad your having such a swell time. I am like Frank and used to vote conservative but i won’t be until the reform people are all gone. Happy New Year.

      • “Better off” depends on one’s priorities, I guess. I value a lot of the things this government has cut. I don’t hold in high value the accumulated debt to benefit, largely, wealthy corporations. And I definitely do not value the level of criminality of this government (some things they have been convicted for; others they got away with) and its clear disdain for the rule of law and the principles of democracy.

        But if tinpot dictators are your preference, then Harper’s your man.

    • Harper is the best thing that’s happened to Canada in years-focused on eliminating the deficit; less meddling in areas where the government should leave it to the provinces; and lower taxes. If we end up with the man child Trudeau at the helm, all of that will be reversed.

      • Jerome you cannot be serious! Harper is the most destructive prime minister that Canada has ever had. So before I provide evidence I’ll point out that I don’t support any political party at this time because of many reasons, so I try to avoid bias and stick to the facts.
        Harper has a terrible track record for lying, cheating the tax payers, silencing people who speak out against his opinion (mostly in the environmental debates and research). The only reason he has been able to balance the budget is through cutting environmental research programs that actually question the tar-sands and their export to foreign markets such as China (Example would be the ELA). Also as you can see from the latest Harper scheme he can’t make budget unless he bounces money back from programs such as the Veteran funds. If you care about a strong Canadian economy you are going against your own interests if you vote for Harper.
        Harper has also single handily destroyed Canada’s international perception by cutting ties with developing African countries, cutting back on foreign embassies (another way he “makes budget”), and allowing Canadian businesses to manipulate foreign countries trying to develop.
        I strongly encourage you to actually look past the veil of the Conservative media and find the truth, not only for yourself but for the future of Canada.

      • Jerome; I am having a hard time understanding your comment. You state that Harper eliminated the deficit. The facts are exactly the reverse. During the Jean Chrétien / Paul Martin years the Canadian federal budget was brought under control and for several years had a healthy surplus – NOT a deficit! We actually started paying down some of the massive federal debt. When Harper inherited this excellent financial situation he rapidly reversed the trend and ended up running years of deficits, including the biggest deficit in Canadian history! In my opinion, it was an absolutely stunning display of financial mismanagement. How do you cut the size of government and its projects and run gigantic deficits simultaneously? It would seem to be impossible. Where is the money going?

        To be frank though, the financial mismanagement perpetrated by our current government worries me less that many other aspects of their behaviour. After all – it’s only money. The moral aspects of this government are a much more serious issue. Who would have thought 10 years ago that Canadians would have to be concerned about the honesty of their elections? That we would have election campaigns rife with “attack ads” denigrating the personality of opponents? In Canada we may disagree with our opponents, but we RESPECT them as people. That we would have a government convicted of contempt of parliament? That we would have a government that prorogued parliament repeatedly and gratuitously for political gain? That we would have a government hiding all sorts of non-budget related legislation in omnibus budget bills? That we would have a government party staffer convicted of election fraud? That we would have a government that has thrown so many people under the bus that the bus can’t move? That we would have a government that ordered a nuclear reactor back into operation over the objections of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, which reactor was subsequently found to require over a year’s worth of repairs to be fit to operate? The list of scandals and incompetence / mismanagement is pretty much endless. All this from a government with a main election platform of being open, transparent, competent, and accountable!

        I must confess, it kind of makes me cynical!

  2. As we see below, Wells should have also mentioned the interminable and inevitable — usually bogus, of course — claims in comment sections about one’s past and future votes. based, as always, on how one’s ox was gored or sensibility seared or pride nicked. Those who attempt to influence the votes of others by offering non sequiturs about their own state of mind after some perceived slight, are the low value propagandists. They reach for relevance by using the names or names similar to the well-known.

    Mr. Wells confuses consolidation of Veteran’s services office space with budget reductions. Indeed, the budgets are larger because they don’t spend as much on rent, and focus more on home visits (like doctors were once known for).

    Keys missing in this overview were the chances the NDP can hold most of their rookie MP crowd in Quebec, the strength of the Conservatives’ fundraising and political machinery, and the Liberals’ reliance on smoke and mirrors in the form of advisers from the Obama campaigns (hence their variant of the much-ridiculed ‘Hope and Change’).

  3. “delivering a huge economic stimulus through the two-point GST cut.”

    I may be mistaken, but that must be the first time I have ever seen the GST cut described as a huge stimulus (or stimulus of any magnitude, for that matter) by anyone other than member of the government or any commentators well known to sympathise with them (like Solberg, for instance).

    Economic commentators from across the political spectrum overwhelmingly panned the move, without even conceding there would be a stimulus effect.

    However, I would be interested to see actual data that shows there indeed was a stimulative effect.

    • It’s a shame he did it when we didn’t need the stimulus, and I don’t remember stimulus ever being mentioned at the time. Still, if there is some evidence to a stimulus effect, I too would like to see it.

  4. Angus Reid poll today sees the Conservatives continuing to gain momentum slowly – a percentage point at a time. Continuing the trend that began during the last quarter of 2014. I have no doubt it’s part of a deliberate plan to peak at the right time and has to be worrying to both the Trudeau brain trust (such as it is) and Mulcair.

  5. Trudeau is a useless twit! No policies, no morals, no backbone, no vision, no foresight, no principles, no love for democracy, no love for women, no financial or economic knowledge, no foreign affairs knowledge: in other words, a know nothing!

    • and Harper is a deceitful, vindictive, secretive lying sack of sugar who uses divisive politics to hoodwink gullible blowhards like yourself.
      Shall we now bring the conversation to the adult table or are you gearing up for round 2 in the schoolyard?

      • Not even the most gullible blowhard actually believes what Wilfred says here is true. Not even Wilfred. What makes him silly is his apparent belief that saying such nonsense will actually convince someone.

  6. “…a comparably weensy fraction of Mulcair’s debating skill…”

    The ability to debate well has as much to do with running a country as the ability to play up your family name in order to attract media attention.

  7. “developing and delivering social programs” is indicative of a government “building monuments to itself” ?

    Really ?

  8. “Only one can find a rabbit.” Canadian voters don’t want them to keep playing hunt the rabbit, swat the flies, or catch the tiger. None of the three are very likely to catch a majority rabbit. Could they perhaps put the national interest aread of partisan politics, and make it a priority to put the coalition idea back on the table?

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