At the risk of offending readers who think I should confine myself to purely military matters, I offer this, which follows on from yesterday’s post about Abacus Data‘s latest poll.
One of my interlocutors said, a few days ago, in response to my comments about the shifting numbers the election polls give us, “Do not want Scheer as my PM.” For now, at least, John Ibbitson, writing in the Globe and Mail, says that my reader seems more likely than not to get his wish, although, as Stephen Harper famously sang, Justin Trudeau may have to “get by with a little help from [some] friends.” Mr Ibbitson says, looking at the same numbers I did, that “A minority government [is] most likely, with the Prime Minister beholden to Jagmeet Singh’s NDP and/or Elizabeth May’s Greens and/or Yves-François Blanchet’s Bloc Québécois for his survival from vote to vote … [but, he notes] … considering how bleak the prospects seemed for the Liberals in the midst of the SNC-Lavalin scandal a few months ago, any Liberal strategist would take a minority government and say thank you.“
John Ibbitson picks the numbers apart and tells us that “Pollster Nik Nanos’s Power Index, which combines ballot preference and leadership impressions, has Mr. Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer essentially tied. Other surveys are more negative. A new Dart/Maru poll shows only one Canadian in four believes the Liberals deserve re-election. Ipsos reports that seven voters in 10 think it’s time for a new government. The legacy of the SNC-Lavalin affair, the stayed charges against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, the bungled trip to India and toxic relations with China have seriously dented Mr. Trudeau’s credibility.” Fine, that’s what I said a few days ago, nothing new there; but he asks: “So, why is he likely to get re-elected anyway?” Good question, that …
“Here’s why,” he says:
- “Polls show that voters are chiefly concerned about three things: the state of health care, economic security and climate change.” But we must also recognize that voters are also concerned about ethics ~ that’s why “only one Canadian in four believes the Liberals deserve re-election;”
- “In most elections, health care can be dismissed as an issue, because voters don’t think any party can improve on the mediocre status quo. But if the Liberals trot out a proposed national pharmacare program, that may get people’s attention.” It might, indeed;
- “Voters feel insecure about their jobs and incomes. But unemployment is low, growth is respectable and nothing Mr. Scheer has put forward would increase anyone’s economic security or disposable income (though the Conservative pledge to axe the carbon tax may give that impression to those who forget about the tax refund that comes with it).” Many Conservatives will argue that Mr Scheer’s plans will do real, measurable, good, but the Liberals and the media, even those in the media who think Justin Trudeau is still “just not ready” will, as they properly should remain sceptical; and
- “On the vexed question of imposing a carbon tax on recalcitrant provinces while also building an oil pipeline, the Liberals may be on the brink of finessing the issue. An Indigenous consortium aims to purchase a majority share in the Trans Mountain pipeline, undermining opposition to the project, and the courts have repeatedly affirmed the federal government’s right to impose a carbon tax on provinces that refuse to impose their own.“
Those are all good and valid points for which Conservative political strategists need to find reasonable counter-points. Conservatives, for example, should get behind the proposal to sell the Trans-Mountain pipeline to a First Nations consortium and should promise to axe the carbon tax and invest in nuclear power instead.
Echoing what pollster John Wright was quoted as saying in the Toronto Sun, John Ibbitson says that “What matters most, though, is that Premier Doug Ford, who was supposed to lead the opposition to the tax in Ontario, has become toxic, damaging both the provincial and federal conservative brands. Mr. Ford, in his own way, could be as valuable as former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne. A Liberal government at Queen’s Park helped Mr. Trudeau get elected in 2015. A Conservative government at Queen’s Park could help get him re-elected in 2019 … [and] … The climate-change file is crucial for the Liberals, not because the environment is the all-important question – for most voters, economic concerns matter more – but because the issue binds the NDP and the Greens to the Liberals, whether the two parties like it or not … [thus] … In the [very likely, in his opinion and mine] event of a hung Parliament, in which the Liberals and the Conservatives are close in the seat count, it won’t matter which party comes first or second. What will matter is that Mr. Scheer has vowed to scrap the carbon tax if he becomes prime minister, and Mr. Trudeau has vowed to uphold it, leaving the NDP and Greens no choice but to support the Liberals.“
At the risk of repeating myself: Premier Ford is a serious liability in progressive ridings. He may have dashed whatever hope many Conservatives had of coming up the middle and winning, in a few ridings, with, say about 30% of the vote, in a handful of urban ridings where the Greens, Liberals and NDP each took 20 to 29% of the vote. It appears to me that, while the Greens are gaining in popularity, the NDP vote is faltering and many, many progressives will vote Liberal … unless, fed up with Justin Trudeau’s hypocrisy, they stay home. But I’m not so sure that Premier Ford is as much of a liability as many commentators seem to think when you get out of central Toronto and Ottawa and into e.g. suburban Brampton, Mississauga, Nepean and Scarborough.
The Liberals can, likely will, I still believe, finish second in October but, unless Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives win a majority (170+ seats) they will almost certainly be able to govern with the support of the Greens, the NDP and the Québec nationalists. This is that scenario …
- Conservatives: 135 – 165 seats ~ the most seats, but short of a majority;
- Greens: 5-15 seats;
- Liberals: 125-130 seats ~ fewer than the CPC but enough to govern;
- NDP: 25± seats;
- Others: 8± seats; and
- Québec nationalists: 10-15 seats.
… with those sorts of numbers a Liberal government, depending, as Mr Ibbitson says, vote-by-vote, on the support of the others is very possible … and so is an unaffordable national pharmacare plan that will play well in the next (late 2020 or early 2021) election campaign.
The problem, John Ibbitson says, and I agree 100%, is that while “Mr. Scheer has laid out a series of intelligent proposals on the economy, the environment, immigration and foreign policy … [they may count for naught because] … he isn’t very well known, and his party’s brand has been contaminated by populist conservative parties in the United States and Europe that are grossly incompetent and openly racist. The Conservative Party of Canada is neither of those things, but guilt by association is hard to overcome.“
But Andrew Scheer has time, this summer, to make himself better known and the Conservatives and principled conservatives have time to help to counter the lies that the Liberals and their supporters are spreading about Mr Scheer and the CPC.
“However,” John Ibbitson notes, with commendable honesty, “four years ago, around this time, I thought NDP leader Thomas Mulcair had the best shot at defeating Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper. So what do I know? … [that was my best guess, too, although I hoped, against hope, that Prime Minister Harper could beat the odds and return with another CPC government] … But right now, at least, although the voting public has fallen out of love with Mr. Trudeau, enough people appear likely to vote for him, however grudgingly, to return a weak minority Liberal government … Unless something happens between now and Thanksgiving. As it always does.” The only problems with “something [that] happens” (or “Events, dear boy, events” as British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan so famously said when asked what could topple his government) are:
- First, as he says, something always does happen, some event always does occur; and
- Second, there is no predicting who will be hurt or helped when any particular”something” does happen.
But, for the moment, Justin Trudeau, who most Canadians seem to agree doesn’t deserve to be re-elected and is not trusted to govern honestly, is likely to be returned because … well, because people actually want to believe blatant lies about Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives.