Explaining the Canadian Election, Part 3: Final Thoughts
The strange and buffoonish campaign of Tom Mulcair is over. They’ve had one last sad gasp with the ‘Stop Harper’ campaign, pointing out that they’re the governing alternative based off the results of the last election. Essentially, they’re begging Canadians to ignore the last few months and all available polling data. The NDP is probably looking at around 58-75 seats, barring a split-second surge or collapse; that means, to form the majority they’re asking for, they’d need to gain at least 90 seats in the last twelve hours. Something that will never, ever happen. In fact, this entire thing is embarrassing for a national party—they’re basing it on a political truth (a lie supported by data) that won’t fly on Election Day. If Canadians respond to this (they won’t), it’ll just split the left, and Harper will be back in.
It is fun to think what’ll happen if the liberals win a narrow minority (say 125 seats to 117 Conservatives). Decorum demands Harper resign and give Trudeau the chance to form government, but he doesn’t actually have to. Harper can refuse and try to form government himself. It’s unlikely that Harper would be able to gain confidence of the house (he’d need Liberal support, and there’s no reason that the Liberals would support Harper over Trudeau) and this would almost definitely end in the Governor General (representative of the Queen in Canada, technically outranks the Prime Minister) calling another election. If, during all this, the conservatives replace the now-toxic Harper with another leader that publicly blames the election call on a liberal refusal to cooperate (Canadians hate snap elections and act vengefully on whosoever they see as responsible for the election) this new Conservative leader could cheese his way into the PMO.
Conservative internal polling has to be really, really bad. Harper’s repeated appearance with popular Canadian crack aficionado Rob Ford shows real desperation. Harper’s staff must have realized there’s no Conservative path to victory without rural Ontario (where Ford is still popular). Harper clearly isn’t enjoying this; the refusal to even say the Ford name smacks of hatred.
The Conservatives and the Liberals both ran on the assumption that the NDP was a fad, a momentary surge that’ll be market-corrected by this election, and it appears they were mostly right. I feel like the current NDP collapse is half market-correction and half poor leadership. Even with unavoidable losses in Quebec, Mulcair could’ve won this election had he ran a more coherent platform.
Harper’s said in the past that he’ll resign if he loses by even one seat. Now, there’s no way he sits through another election, but I simply don’t believe him. Harper is characterized by his passionate will to power, I think the possibility of another year or two as Prime Minister will keep him in parliament for at least a while.
We’ve observed high-ranking conservatives (Jason Kenney, Joe Oliver) attempt to distance themselves from the Harper campaign and build their own brand. We also saw Harper’s second in command Peter Mackay resign (same with John Baird) before the election (likely as he feels Harper will fail and he doesn’t want to be associated with failure). This is because they smell blood in the water, feel that Harper will no longer be able to control this party after the election is over. Expect to see a Conservative leadership contest within the next eight months.
I’m calling Peter Mackay as the next Conservative leader. He’s got the experience (Party leader of the PC’s in 2003, Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party since 2004, he’s been in basically all of the high-ranking cabinet positions, etc.) and he’s got the charisma/looks to go against Trudeau. Expect to see Jason Kenney (popular amongst social conservatives) make a strong bid.
Canadian voters do not respond particularly well to facial hair, particularly the moustache. It’s been one of those things that’s bizarre about Canadian politics throughout history—we respond overwhelmingly to clean-shaven men/women. Jack Layton, however, had an electoral breakthrough with a moustache. It was interesting to see whether this newfound acceptance of facial hair would stay or whether Canadians would revert to their natural voting habits. I feel the collapse of Tom Mulcair has answered this question.
It’ll be interesting to see whether the NDP permanently damaged their relationship with their core supporters. A new leader could (and should) likely make amends with these people, but those amends would come at the extent of larger (though unloyal) Canadian support. Mulcair went for brokerage and alienated core supporters and if the next leader maintains this trajectory then we’ll see a sort of Green surge (and slight Liberal uptick) as core NDP supporters permanently abandon the party. This would be catastrophic for the NDP: they’ll never pick up centrist Canadians over the Liberals and they’ll lose the left to a suddenly-legitimate Green party. As such, if the NDP keeps Mulcair as leader or nominates one of his acolytes to replace him, expect them to lose official party status within the next twenty years.
The Liberal campaign was in a sort of can’t-fail position. They started at a position significantly lower than their inherent support, and they were due for market correction which would grant them more seats. Any gain in seats would be easily sold to the party base, allowing them to gain momentum in subsequent elections. So they’ve ran the classic Liberal campaign of unity and inclusion. This has been unbelievably successful, as the Conservatives have ran a campaign largely based on xenophobia (the focus on the Niqab, etc.) and the NDP have been unable to generate a coherent message. In fact, the NDP’s strange failure on social messaging has allowed the liberals to exist unchallenged as the photo-negative to the Conservatives’ positive. This means that voters were deciding between Conservative X and Liberal Y while the NDP was off in the corner eating paint.
I feel like the NDP may nominate Olivia Chow as their next leader, and this’ll be a mistake. Visibly, it’ll attempt to tap-in to the deep remaining good will Canadians have for Jack Layton. The problem is simple: Olivia Chow isn’t a compelling campaigner. She couldn’t win Toronto and she certainly couldn’t win Canada. It’s unlikely she’ll even win her current riding, and having to stage a by-election in a stronghold riding to parachute in a new leader will not resonate well with the Canadian people.
Advance polls heavily favour a Liberal minority government, but they appear to be underestimating the shy Tory vote, so they may not be all that reliable. The Liberal lead is likely a lot smaller than it appears, meaning that this election will be decided by split-second decisions in Ontarian voting booths.
This should be the official song of the Liberal campaign: