The battle for PM is closer than we think

Paul Wells kicks off speculation on the 2015 federal election

Lars Hagberg/CP

Lars Hagberg/CP

Your Members of Parliament have fled Ottawa, snarling and barely coherent, to take the first flight back to their ridings. The mood in the capital is already the better for it. There’s a jazz festival on and Al Pacino was, inexplicably, at the National Arts Centre for an onstage interview. I keep hearing that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been spotted around town, just out strolling.

When Parliament resumes in, oh, maybe September, we will be only 13 months from an election. Close enough to speculate about who’ll win it. I say we start right now.

First, about that election date. By law, it is fixed at Oct. 19, 2015. But the “law” that “fixes” election dates has existed for seven years. We have since had two elections at dates that weren’t the ones “fixed” in “law.” So, as laws go, this one is flexible. Some have suggested that the Prime Minister could call an election well before Oct. 19, 2015. Tom Mulcair, the NDP leader, has been among them. And, of course, the best way to ensure Harper will force an early election is to plan on the assumption he won’t.

But the Conservatives have good reason to wait. It is taking time for them to recover from the mess that resulted when Harper’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright wrote a personal cheque to cover Sen. Mike Duffy’s expenses. More time would help. It is taking time for the bloom to come off Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s public-opinion rose. More time might help.

The best reason to let the election happen on the date “fixed” in “law” is that this would give the Conservatives all of next summer to campaign, without worrying about spending limits imposed by Elections Canada. The Conservatives’ fundraising advantage over the other parties isn’t as commanding as it used to be, but they still have an edge and, outside of an election writ period, they can outspend the opposition at will.

“We’re going in October [2015],” a senior Conservative politician told me the other day. “Look at me. No hand signals. No body language. We’re going in October.”

Whenever they do go into an election, it seems the Conservatives are likely to go with Harper as their leader. A year ago, when the House of Commons rose for the summer of 2013, the Wright-Duffy scandal was in full, fetid bloom, and eight columnists predicted Harper would quit as Conservative leader by Labour Day. He didn’t. This year, none of the columnists has climbed back out on the same limb.

The Conservatives are in objectively better shape now. Wright is cleared of wrongdoing and heading back to gainful employment. The government’s next budget will be balanced for the first time since 2008. Sometimes the best way to count the Conservatives’ fortunes is to look at the cow pies they’ve avoided. A few months ago, there was no way Employment Minister Jason Kenney could cut deals with every province to create a new Canada Jobs Grant. Then he cut deals with every province.

Of course, it hasn’t all been rosy, and most of the Conservatives’ wounds have been self-inflicted. Picking a fight with Beverley McLachlin, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, turned out to be a bad idea. Nobody believed a 70-year-old woman who had sat on the top court since Harper was 30 would have launched an ideological war against him, so when an ideological war broke out, it was pretty clear where it came from.

At Harper’s last big Ontario campaign event in 2006, he appeared with Bill Davis, the ancient and deeply non-ideological former Ontario premier who won Ontario with 44 per cent of the popular vote in 1981, far more than the 38.6 per cent Kathleen Wynne’s provincial Liberals won in June. Harper has won by reaching out to moderates, not by working himself into a truly bizarre snit about them. If he remembers that, he’ll win again. And if not, not.

I continue to think Tom Mulcair had an excellent spring, even though it was dominated by the spectacle of the other parties teaming up to discipline the NDP over dodgy partisan mailouts. Nobody understands the rules around dodgy partisan mailouts. In any dispute between two parties over the rules that govern parliamentary procedure, voters will, rightly, assume each side would do what the other did if their situations were reversed. But, while he was fighting with the Conservatives and Liberals, Mulcair made it clear he will be fierce and unapologetic in defending his party’s prerogatives. He’s continued former leader Jack Layton’s work moderating the NDP’s economic message without losing the support of the party’s old guard. I think you’d be crazy to dismiss the NDP’s chances in 2015.

Which brings us to Trudeau. In the ThreeHundredEight.com running monthly average of polls, Trudeau’s Liberals have been ahead of the other parties 14 months in a row. One day, we will know how much money the Conservatives have spent on many consecutive months of radio and online ads against the Liberals. It will be a large number. Despite the spending and Trudeau’s monthly gaffes, the Liberals remain in the lead. Sometimes “time for a change” creates its own logic, or substitutes for logic.

I offer no predictions. The battle of 2015 will sort it all out. But that confrontation is closer than it looks. MPs should relax this summer. It will be their last rest of any length before Canadians decide their fate.




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The battle for PM is closer than we think

  1. ‘ Plausible Paul ‘ just cant help himself to take another shot across the bow of the grit party, another guy who thinks the best way to the PMs office in 2015 is to hope Trudeau stumbles(Canadians are more forgiving of stumbles and falls, than they are of corruption, whether Harper got away with it or not, that book hasn’t found an ending yet). Im glad to hear Harper is staying in the game, because I think there is more in the closet of the cons that just needs a little more time to come to fruition. I couldn’t help but notice in the paper this week, Dean Dels lawyer is doing everything he can to get DD off the hook instead of letting the truth come out. If DD gets off the hook, it wont be because he didn’t break the law, it will because his lawyer is doing everything but a song and dance to discredit witnesses like they did in the robocall scandal, that’s the typical con way of doing business as usual, if you cant beat them, beat them up(bullies).

  2. I really don’t think JT’s success is “despite” Conservative attack ads, I think they are helping him. The Cons have basically chosen to help the Liberals campaign on one of their most popular issues: marijuana legalisation. Most Canadians want to see this happen. The more the cons keep reminding Canadians that the Liberals want to legalise pot, the more people will vote Liberal. You have to run with a pretty square crowd and never look at a single opinion poll on the topic to think anyone is going to be turned off by this issue.

    • I suspect Harper is counting on the anti legalization forces being more motivated to get out and vote than the pro legalization forces.

      • Actually, I can think of only ONE thing that would motivate anyone who uses marijuana on a regular basis……and that is the prospect of being able to smoke up anywhere, anytime, with impunity.

        Anyone who knows a chronic user of pot can tell you…..they don’t have much on their mind most of the time.

        • Right.
          And the only people interested in maintaining the legality of alcohol are chronic alcoholics.

          • Lenny,

            Chronic users of booze…..are just as bad, if not worse. The difference of course, is that pot actually affects the physical strucutre of the brain; particularly in young people. There are quite a few successful alcoholics…..but I don’t know of any successful pot heads. they are usually at the park smoking up…..or at the bank cashing their social assistance / disability cheques.

          • Unsurprisingly, none of that collection of misinformation and outright falsehoods has anything to do with my comment.

          • Lenny…..

            the majority of YOUR comments….have nothing to do with your comments.

            (can you figure that one out?)

          • I was addressing your idiotic assertion that only “chronic” pot users support legalization.
            This isn’t hard.

        • My comment about chronic users referred to them not having much on their (wasted) mind most of the time.

          You assumed I meant ONLY chronic users were in favour of legalization.

          • Nope. I assumed nothing.
            I simply read your response, not to the motivation of “chronic” marijuana users but to the motivation of “pro legalization forces”.

          • then you need to work on your reading comprehension, Lenny.

  3. “Despite the spending and Trudeau’s monthly gaffes, the Liberals remain in the lead. Sometimes “time for a change” creates its own logic, or substitutes for logic.”

    Can you be so enthralled by your rapturous admiration for Harper that you are unaware of the disgust and hatred he inspires in most Canadians? Would I prefer someone else to be leading the Liberals? Absolutely. Will I vote Liberal anyway? Paul, my opinion of Stephen Harper is such that I’d vote Liberal if the leader was a tin of sardines. And believe me, I am not alone.

    • Robert…….

      You have just explained Trudeaus polling numbers to a T.

      It isn’t that people think Trudeau is in any way competent, or intelligent………his only attraction, is that he is NOT Stephen harper.

      Harper losing might make you feel better…….but imagine what someone as unqualified as Trudeau could do to the country.

      Of course…..at least he’s not Mulcair.

      • According to the polls Paul Martin was to achieve the largest majority in Canadian history.

        According to the polls up to days before the election Stephane Dion was to get at least a strong minority.

        Then there was Ignatieff, who truly was just visiting, of whom the polls predicted a minority at the least.

        Trudeau 2.0 will be no different……………can hardly wait for the televised debates, JT, the hair, dead from the asshole up, will be an epic fail.

        • Billy Bob…..there are a lot of dopey people out there who will vote for Trudeau no matter how idiotic he appears during a debate. That’s the point. People will vote for him, because he is not Harper.

          As for Paul Martin’s “JUGGERNAUT”……in the end, it was more like Paul martin’s “JUG-O-NUTS”

          • .there are a lot of dopey people out there who will vote for Trudeau no matter how idiotic he appears during a debate.

            Yes there are, they are called members of the LPoC and that will leave the Liberals as “da turd pardi” yet again.

  4. As always a thought provoking comment on the horse race. Of the main actors, Mulcair should be the most interesting to watch in the lead-up. I can’t see this as their break-through election and playing his hand too aggressively could cause a backlash. “Moderating” the traditional NDP economic position is a real challenge given what happened to Horwath.

    The conclusion at the end of Well’s article is unlikely. The battle of 2015 is unlikely to sort anything out. Of course, it is possible that Trudeau will collapse, Mulcair disappoint and Harper will gain another majority, but really unlikely. Trudeau may also surprise in his first national campaign win the election and drive Harper from the landscape. Somewhat less unlikely, but I don’t believe it will happen. My best guess would be a fairly strong Conservative minority given their combination of advantages in money and incumbency and disadvantage in strong negative perceptions among a large majority of Canadian voters. A weak Conservative minority would give rise to interesting coalition discussions, hopeful a more mature debate will occur this time although I doubt it.

    Harper was the (politically) successful minority PM in Canadian history. He beat-up, bullied and humiliated successive Liberal opposition leaders so I would guess that would be his style following the election. However the Liberals will not be the fiscal and structural wreck they were in the past and are highly unlikely to sit out confidence votes to avoid another election. So sometime in 2016, we are likely going back to the polls again. That is the election that will sort things out.

    • This is what I think too. Further, I think it is what the LPC wants. It gives them time to work with a larger caucus and for that caucus to learn the ropes before governing.

  5. a few points:

    If anyone is paying attention to the Judges, the judges will not be popular. They have made two very unpopular decisions:

    1) BC natives have land rights to any part of BC that they have ever thought of visiting over the last 2000 years.
    2) Any sick person gets free health care from Canada so long as they get to Canada.

    The press made a big deal about the Duffy scandal…. $70,000 that got paid back… I really can’t see this as a major vote changer. It is in the same class of scandal that Ignatieff forced the last election by declaring Harper in contempt of parliament for not having the planes that still haven’t been bought budgeted out for 30-40 years.

    Mr. Wells is just playing silly when he says the fixed elections have not been fixed. The other elections under the fixed election law have been in a minority government where the combined opposition , despite not having a valid alternative or moral grounds to form a government would not allow government business to proceed.

    • The judges are not running in the election.

      • Please tell the Judges that……

        as apparently, they think they are running everything else.

        • I am pretty sure the judges are well aware of their role and responsibilities. You might want to educate yourself on that point however.

          • Gayle,

            Judges and the courts are supposed to work hand in hand with Government…..but in the last 25 years or so, they have come to believe that they alone are the arbitors of what is right, and wrong.

            Time to start using the Notwithstanding clause to remind them of this. Parliament is supreme…..not the Supreme court.

          • James

            Thanks for proving my point.

          • My point stands.

            Judges have overstepped their bounds. Time to reign them in.

  6. What I see happening.

    The Cons balance the budget and spend the surplus to do income splitting and some other perk (lower the GST another % or maybe raise old age security.

    The Liberals and NDP will jump all over this and promise to spend the surplus 10 times over…. giving Billions to First nations (Kelowna Accord), Universal day care. and Green energy. When there is some Money around the Liberal and especially the NDP can’t help themselves.

    The middle class that votes, where Dad makes a lot more than Mom who still happens to be the primary child care giver, will really see the benefits of income splitting making it easier for Mom to spend more time with the kids.

    The Cons will point out (“attack ads”) that all the Liberal spending can’t be done with a balanced budget.

    The other thing that happens is the Ontario socialist regime will be forced to either cut spending (showing that the Cons were right or Moody’s will step in and the biggest budget growth will be in interest payments on the debt forcing the cut of 100,000 public employees…. just to stay even.

    Even right now NO Money in the Current Ontario budget for public sector wage increases. I wonder if the Police union is good with this wage freeze.

    • Seems you are suffering from “soreloser syndrome”.

      The ONTARIO provincial election didn’t go your way so now you’re going to post irrelevant comments

      To bad that there is enough on stevie no social contract harper not to have to worry about people like you.

      You can always choose to give up your job in the pmo’s office of re-education and move to a place more in line with your pathetic believes.

    • Would be a good national law. Unions can not strike and have wages frozen or rolled back if the organization need debt or tax gross revenue increases. Time to give them an incentive to address waste, corruption, bailouts and other peoples money for nothing programs.

      Or it they need more, a government union tax.

    • voice of Reason….

      It will be interesting to watch the Wynne Liberals being forced to do exactly what Tim Hudak told the voters he would have to do to balance the books.

      I mentioned here before prior to that election, that if the Liberal won again….Moody’s would soon be doing a downgrade.

  7. So according to Wells our choices in the next election are;

    1) Justin Trudeau and his “weekly gaffs” and the Liberals. These gaffs, only gaffs to conservatives btw, however are minor at best and won’t effect Canada at large. Nothing that Justin Trudeau has done has hurt the party and has inspired Canadians to at least keep an interest in him and his policies. Wells takes a cheap swipe at him without backing it up with examples and goes onto insult any Canadian who may be thinking of voting for him

    2) Tom Mulcair and the NDP. Wells has nothing to say about him or the NDP except to say he had a good spring and;

    3) stevie no social contract harper and the conservatives. (yes I am taking a firm stand against because of the way he treats vets.) Wells conviently forgets all the real gaffs made by no social contract in the spring. Internet spying redux, environmental law degredation, SCoC battle (I didn’t get my way so I’m going to start a war with the Chief Justice, et al Canadians have longer memories then conservatives and we don’t forget.

    The next federal election, whenever its held, will be a battle in which no party or leader is going to walk away unscathed.

    Justin Trudeau’s advantage is that he is willing and able to actually answer questions from Canadians.
    While stevie no social contract harper just shows his yellow stripe and runs away

    • Proud to be….you wrote:

      “These gaffs, only gaffs to conservatives btw, however are minor at best and won’t effect Canada at large”

      Keep telling yourself that. The gaffs ticked off a lot of non-Conservatives, including some of his own MP’s. (bozo eruptions? ) I do agree that the won’t affect Canada at large, because currently, trudeau is only at the “spouting off” stage, and doesn’t really hold any power.

      You continue with:
      “stevie no social contract harper and the conservatives. (yes I am taking a firm stand against because of the way he treats vets.) ”

      I suspect that you are more interested in the “No social contract” than you are concerned about vets. Clearly, to you a social contract is code for “I want more free stuff”

      Best line:
      “Justin Trudeau’s advantage is that he is willing and able to actually answer questions from Canadians.”

      Well, since all of Trudeaus gaffes originate in him answering questions that were not vetted by his handlers…..you may be a little off here. These by the way, are not “gaffes”……the responses Trudeau provides to even the most basic questions simply demonstrate that the guy does not have the intellectual heft required to sort through complex problems; relying instead on sound bites and platitudes that he has learned over the years.

      Clearly you do not like Harper, but aside from the fact you despise him because he hasn’t given you any freebies…….what has he done to damage Canada’s economy, or reputation abroad? by all standards, Canada is doing very well economically, and our standing in the international arena is widely regarded as being one of principle.

      but go ahead and steam……as I do suspect that one day le petite trudeau will be PM for a time, so steam in patience.

  8. Harper indeed remains a formidable opponent because he learned several years ago how to get away with unethical behaviour & constant broken promises. He has not carried through on any of the principles he stood for back in 2006, but it hasn’t mattered because he knows he can get away with most of them, even if multiple people in his party that he appointed are under criminal investigation. As for Mulcair, I don’t think he had a good Spring because there was very little attention on the Senate scandal as opposed to last fall when he was able to do more cross-examination on the Duffy scandal. With Duffy out of the news, Mulcair has been less relevant. Also, Wells submitted this article before this week’s bad results for Mulcair in the by-elections. Now things are looking even more shaky for Mulcair’s prospects of being PM. Trudeau remains a wild card over the next year, but so far he has been pretty steady & consistent in terms of his message to voters and the strong results he has received from voters in various by-elections and on the campaign trail. He is doing the best job so far of resonating with voters.

    • Mulcair is a smart man and I think could be a good PM. I think he has demonstrated both.

      Not that I will vote for him, because as far as I am concerned he is just a left wing Stephen Harper. He will govern by ideology rather than facts, and he will make decisions based on the good of his party rather than the good of the country.

      Trudeau is getting support not just because he is Justin Trudeau, but also because he is rising above the nasty partisan fray. Mulcair should have tried that first. Now it is too late.

    • What has Trudeau’s message to voters been? The most important one that I can recall (aside from marijuana and being pro-choice, as well as setting aside all his gaffes to date) is lamenting the struggles of the middle class. However, I recall a few articles and reports recently discussing at length how the middle class is much better off than it was years ago, and much better off relative to other countries like the US. This makes his worries about the plight of the struggling middle class contrary to facts and seem more like partisan ideology/pandering for votes.

      • Well, for one thing he has promised to makes laws based on facts, evidence and science, rather than ideology. That alone makes him 1000 times better than Harper.

  9. Bet Conservatives have underestimated how much small c conservatives they have disenchanted. I was, past tense, a party supporter.

    First, nothing conservative on how they operate, just more bloat, wastes and bailouts of uncommon good.

    Lies, many lies…is not just “Trusts”. Just too long to list.

    Sorry, I respect women and am pro-choice. In fact, Orwellian statism and less liberty has occurred to honest people and still is soft on criminals. Hidden taxes are up too. Corruption abounds in all parties and no one fired or in jail. Immigration is still a world renowned mess.

    I see no positive results. Just more waste, bloat and debt for the unborn.

  10. As a Proud Canadian, I am thoroughly disgusted and sickened at our Federal Government and more specifically, PM Stephen Harper. Selling our country out to horrible country’s like China, is shameful and disgraceful. More over I am sickened by Harper’s massive arrogance and disrespect for all Canadians and our Environment. Harper has sold our environmental health down the river and tore up regulations and treaties in forcing his corporate buddies wishes along. Our lands, waters and wildlife have been treated horribly and all Harper cares about is greed and self-interest. I talk to many many fellow Canadians daily and PM Harper and his corrupt criminal Conservatives are literally hated from coast to coast. Its way past time we in Canada got rid of Harper and his destruction of our country and rid ourselves of him and his failed party once and for all. Cheating, lying, avoiding questions, obvious corruption, pure arrogance, major disrespect, and all the other sickening characteristics the Conservatives and Harper overflow with, have seriously hurt Canada’s reputation worldwide and have put all of us in Canada thru pure hell for far to long. I am just one of the majority of Canadians that have more than had enough of the worst Prime minister and Federal govt in our country’s history. Thankfully we have a Federal election coming soon and we can finally kick this failed and pathetic government out of office once and for all. Unless of course Harper and his Corrupt Cons cheat , lie and steal this election again and force us to deal with them for another term of hell. This time there will be a major revolt and Harper wont be able to cheat and lie his way into another term as PM, we are all ready for him and his party’s obvious and under-handed lies and deceit, this time we will make sure we don’t have his disgraceful party leading our country. This time we will take our country back and say goodbye to the worst Prime Minister in our country’s history, and all his corrupt and arrogant ministers, this time we’ve seen his criminal acts and wont be fooled again, this time we vote out Harper and his horrible party once and for all…….

    • Tell us how you really feel S B! All that hate can’t be healthy.
      I will address only one of your over-the-top comments – the one about Harper “have seriously hurt Canada’s reputation worldwide”. In fact just the opposite is true. Canada is the second most positively-viewed country (and the least negatively-viewed country). This according to the most recent 2014 BBC Country Ratings Poll of 24 nations. See http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/country-rating-poll.pdf

    • SB wrote:
      “Selling our country out to horrible country’s like China, is shameful and disgraceful”

      So tell us how you feel about Justin Trudeau with regards to china? If you recall, that is the country young Trudeau most admires….he likes their “Basic dictatorship”

      You know…the dicatorship that kills thousands of its own people every year, harvest organs from prisoners, crushes folks with tanks..etc..etc…..

      What does Trudeau admire about this?

  11. OK – I admit it – I’ve purchased and I’m reading Paul’s latest book. Anybody care to venture a guess as to why CPC ads are now showing up on my FB page??? am I really better off with Stephen Harper??? What’s up with that?

  12. I truly dread the possibility of Justin Trudeau running a country let alone a bed and breakfast. I find it frightening that he has any support at all. If the left absolutely must back one of their own, I would hope that they would choose Thomas Mulcair. At least he makes some sort of sense when he opens his mouth. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the United States is that sub-par sons of former Presidents do an abysmal job once in power.

    • PParent.

      If Pierre Trudeau were alive today, he would disagree with most of his offsprings ideas. Granted, given Justin’s only qualification to date is that of being a part-time, substitute drama queen, er, teacher…….I’m sure most of Trudeau’s admited policy comes from the folks who act as his brain.

      • Well even if you wrote were true, I think you can now add leadership of a national party. Further, you can add that through that leadership he has quickly turned things around, mending fences, clearing the party of negative influences, greatly increasing fundraising and attracting new party members.

        Wow, that part time drama teacher sure has some amazing leadership skills!

        • Gayle,

          What I wrote is true. Justin’s views on abortion, are the opposite of his father’s. At least they are today. A few years ago…..Justin was pro-life. He changed his mind, or rather, his handlers changed his mind for him.

          Leadership: Sorry….Justin doesn’t have “leadership” on his side. He has the media on his side.

          Mending fences: Yeah…..he wants to implement a carbon -tax, as he has been directed to do by gerald Butts. The same idiot that gave Ontario windmills it didn’t want, and rarely uses. He’s disenfrachised Jews and Catholics….but hey…..if by mending fences, you mean he’s taken the pot-head vote……yes, I’ll give you that one.

          As for amazing leadership skills….sorry. They are acting skills; no doubt acquired during his study of “drama”. Just watch the guy speak. He is acting…..not thinking. he is reading from a script he truly does not understand. This is evidenced by the responses he gives to questions he has not “studied” beforehand.

          the only skills he has…….are in fooling a lot of people into thinking he has what it takes to be PM.

          Have some more Kool – Aid.

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