By Trevor Busch
Canadians will soon be entering election season in 2015, and whether they like it or not, the lead up will soon reach a white-hot pitch of slanderous accusations, partisan propaganda campaigns, platform rollouts, gargantuan spending announcements, and targeted tax cuts — in other words, an all-out political war for the affections of the common Canadian voter.
Alberta’s messianic conservative saviour, Jim Prentice, is now leading the province back to the polls in 2015 in an attempt to secure a new mandate.
A positive outcome for the Rip Van Winkle dynasty of the Progressive Conservative Party would push its decades-long domination in Edmonton into the half-century range.
But a recent poll in the province puts the PCs neck in neck with the recently-decimated Wildrose, and a certain degree of negative backlash over a belt-tightening budget may prove too much for the Prentice camp. So much for preventing the PCs from violating their own fixed election legislation — although no one seems to be too concerned about that eventuality.
While speculation continues in Alberta, a federal election in 2015 is an absolute certainty, and parties will be pulling out all the stops to secure the willing ‘x’s of millions of Canadians at the ballot box.
Here in southern Alberta, Taberites and many other citizens will find themselves in a huge and newly-minted federal riding, Bow River, with a north-south orientation rather than our present east-west Medicine Hat riding.
While there was much criticism by municipal officials and others following the re-drawing of electoral boundaries, only time will tell what kind of political stripes will show themselves in Bow River.
Considering a preponderence of communities in close proximity to Calgary, just how much urban influence will be felt during an election is anyone’s guess.
That being said, it has long been a criticism of our present Medicine Hat riding that rural issues are sometimes ignored based on the heavy population influence of the City of Medicine Hat.
One thing is for sure — Taberites and others will be facing new political realities on the federal front in 2015.
Back in Ottawa, where new election posturing already begins the day after a federal election, parties have been struggling to come up with a platform that appeals to the broadest swath of the electorate.
The massive surge experienced by the late Jack Layton-led NDP, that vaulted the left-leaning party into the country’s official opposition during the last election, isn’t likely to be seen again.
Thomas Mulcair — while a competent bulldog-like fighter on social issues in the House — won’t be inspiring the inauguration of a second Layton-mania in 2015.
Considered by many to be dour and uninspired, Mulcair is unlikely to be a pivotal player in a coming election campaign, and currently polls a distant third behind the Liberals and Conservatives.
Also considered by many to be dour and uninspired, but embedded with the cut-throat political instincts of a wounded Grizzly bear, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is becoming the ultimate Canadian political survivor of the 21st century.
After years as a competent and savage opposition fighter, through successive minority governments, Harper has sidestepped scandal, incompetence, corruption, and economic failure while always managing to maintain a virtually lily-white reputation — no small achievement for the bouncing boy from Alberta.
But while Harper may still have some spring in his step — and tricks up his sleeve — his appearance, character and demeanour, not to mention his conservative political ideology, won’t have millions of young Canadians succumbing to paroxcisms of feverish popular support.
Instead, the stalwart political raider will be going back to the well in an attempt to secure more votes from the conservative hard core — seniors — who represent a formidible electoral demographic in Canada, usually voting in numbers that often far outstrip those of youth or the middle aged.
Harper has already shown his cards on this agenda, whipping up unrealistic fears of terrorism and planting the CPC flag firmly on the friendly shores of security policy.
And to his credit, it appears to be working — enough seniors have been goggle-eyed at the prospect of an imminent full-scale ISIS invasion of Canadian shores (fears constantly being stoked by the Harper Conservatives throughout a winter of mostly unfounded terror rhetoric, coming on the heels of a one-man shooting spree on Parliament Hill) that they have left the ranks of the Liberals and NDP and are now firmly ensconced in the warm and loving arms of the CPC.
There is no denying the curb appeal of a star candidate, and in the age of the constantly-rolling camera, the 20-second soundbite, and the social media universe, frumpy grey-haired politicians spouting boring conservative ideology (no matter how heavy they might be on substance) are sometimes trumped by the wavy-haired youthful spectacle of a leader who might be short on experience and even substance, but appeals in a way that the Stephen Harpers of this world never will to a broad swath of the electorate.
Whether or not the Liberal Party’s Justin Trudeau can parley his obvious charisma and swarthy good looks into a victory for his party at the polls is another question.
That being said, charisma should never be underestimated — it has been the deciding factor in more elections than most analysts can probably count, for better or for worse. And Trudeau, while still somewhat shaky on economic policy, has shown himself to be a relatively competent national leader and more than just a pretty face — at least for the most part. The occasional media gaff aside, Trudeau has the pedigree for greatness and will be the frontrunning challenger to Harper in 2015.
The fulcrum of the coming federal election could prove to be the federal budget, which will probably be a showcase of sorts for the Harper Conservatives in an effort to secure votes. Considering the economic difficulties facing the nation in early 2015, an obsession with a balanced budget is more a political goal than a practical one — especially coming from a government that has shown itself to be enthusiastically willing to deficit spend to the tune of multiple billions in the past during times of economic difficulty.
As the days tick down to zero hour on a federal election, Canadians of all political stripes will be watching intently to see what flavour of the ideological rainbow appeals to their temperament in 2015. From Alberta looking out at the rest of the nation, it is hard to sometimes remember that broad swaths of the country’s population are not always cemented to a rigid conservative viewpoint as the vast majority are in this province.
The Liberal Party of Canada held sway over the commanding heights of power in Canada about 70 per cent of the time in the 20th century, and are still considered to be “Canada’s natural ruling party”.
Despite terrible setbacks in the last decade at the ballot box and a laundry list of failed leaders, with the ascension of Trudeau the party has been steadily gaining back popularity and support, and only months ago was consistently polling well above the ruling Harper Conservatives.
Considering Canada’s present economic climate, believing the next federal election will be a foregone conclusion for the CPC would be foolhardy. All bets will certainly be off for the fall of 2015.