The astounding lack of urgency which punctuated the initial weeks of the present 78-day federal election campaign has been inevitably replaced by a fever pitch of frenzied political maneuvering as a majority of Canadians prepare to make their choices at the ballot box.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, a Nanos Research poll was showing Trudeau’s Liberal Party slowly but steadily gaining ground over the Harper Conservatives, estimating national support for the Liberals at 35.1 per cent, 29 per cent for the CPC, and the NDP trailing with 25 per cent. Recent weeks have finally seen some significant movement in polling numbers that have been virtually deadlocked throughout much of the campaign.
Across the nation, the Liberals are posting handsome numbers in Atlantic Canada and key battleground province Ontario, while the Conservatives remain strong on the Prairies, and B.C. is still polarized in a three-way tie. In Quebec, voters are divided over support for the Liberals and the NDP.
While the Liberals appear to be on a path of moderate momentum as mere days remain in the campaign before Oct. 19, if they cannot gain more ground Trudeau will probably be looking at a minority government.
Often wrongly perceived as ineffectual and plagued by partisan infighting, traditionally many minority Parliaments have managed to achieve much for the electorate, despite one party not having a plurality of seats in the House. Minorities are forced to work hand-in-glove with the opposition, and while it might be ideologically galling for the Conservatives to have to accede to some of the demands of the NDP (or vice versa) to secure their own goals, this can often lead to positive legislation that is measured and well-considered, rather than more ideologically-motivated and rooted in an unwillingness to compromise.
The Liberal minority Parliaments of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson in the 1960s are often cited as a prime example of a successful minority government, resulting in the introduction of Canada’s health care system, the Canadian flag and the Canada Pension Plan by working closely with the NDP.
While polls now show a slight Liberal lead, the 2015 federal election is still by no means a runaway for any party. But if the Liberals manage to gain minority status, they may find it easier to deal with the federal NDP to achieve policy objectives than would the Conservatives, much farther to the right of the NDP on the political spectrum. This potential situation would be not unlike Pearson’s back-to-back minorities in the 1960s, where establishing a working relationship with the NDP paid major dividends for both parties. Unfortunately, minority Parliaments rarely last more than two years, and Canadians would likely be headed back to the polls in less than 24 months.
Mobilizing the youth vote is often considered to be a key undertaking for parties like the Liberals and NDP, who rest to the left of the political spectrum. This challenge, however, has been easier said than done, as huge numbers of young people in Canada continue to ignore the democratic process, due in large part to varying degrees of apathy, indifference or just plain disgust over the highly partisan nature of politics in 21st century Ottawa. This state of affairs hugely enhances the importance of a national voting block of seniors, who turn out in numbers for elections that dwarf other age demographics in Canada.
To predict what issues an election will hinge on prior to a campaign is tantamount to impossible, and the 2015 election campaign has had its fair share of surprising developments, ranging from the fraudulent fiscal fumblings of disgraced senator Mike Duffy, to who is (or isn’t) inhaling the idea of ending marijuana prohibition, or the puzzling niqab citizenship controversy that seems to have dominated election discourse in past weeks.
As Canadians took in the holiday weekend, it seems many paused between passing the gravy boat and opening a can of cranberry sauce to cast a ballot at advance polls, with long line-ups reported at advance polling stations across the country, and Elections Canada estimating approximately 850,000 voters turing out on Friday. That’s reportedly a 26 per cent increase for advance voting over the 2011 election, and as much as a 90 per cent increase over the 2008 election — all of which might be a sign that the 2015 federal election is being taken very seriously by Canadians.
Voters should remember they will be electing a fresh MP from a newly-designated federal riding on Oct. 19, and while many may expect strong conservative voting patterns to remain the same as in the region’s previous riding, Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner, that outcome is only speculative at this point. Bow River certainly has the potential to post some surprising results, especially considering the proximity of some the riding’s major population centres (Strathmore and Chestermere) to the city of Calgary, which could precipitate an urban/suburban influence in voting patterns. And of course one shouldn’t discount the potential impact of Alberta’s provincial NDP sweep in spring 2015 as another factor influencing patterns at the ballot box.
No matter what your political stripes, on Oct. 19 the Times encourages all eligible voters to cast a ballot for their prospective candidate, exercising their political franchise and helping to ensure the health of our democracy.