At the outset of this interminable election campaign, I figured that ultimately, it would boil down to a struggle between a weak and unprincipled Liberal Party and a strong and unprincipled NDP, with the HarperCons holding on to their core base of voters and not much more. In my estimation, it seemed likely that the NDP, with their lead in the polls and their more clear-cut and understandable position on major issues like Bill C-51, would win the battle for the Anybody But Conservative vote.
Another key part of this calculation was my assessment that the Liberal Party was essentially dead, a shell of the juggernaut it once was. Running their fourth leader in as many elections, a man elevated to the party leadership mostly for his boyish good looks and family connections; four years out from their worst electoral showing ever; lagging languidly in third place in the polls for months leading up to the election, while Thomas Mulcair and the NDP enjoyed all the media advantages of being the biggest challenger to continued Conservative rule – there were innumerable reasons to figure the Liberals were toast. The self-defined centre of the political spectrum, Canada’s “natural governing party”, looked likely to fall victim to an increasingly partisan style of politics.
And good riddance, I thought! The last thing we need is more of the party that brought us, for instance, the punishing and completely needless austerity of the 90s, the party which has long been a magnet for the vast majority of unprincipled power-hungry sociopaths in Canadian politics, the party which is perhaps the worst offender when it comes to making lofty campaign promises and then completely forgetting about them the day after being elected.
(Not that I held out high hopes for the NDP, but I hoped that at a minimum an NDP government would, through its failures and disappointments, help demonstrate to progressive Canadians that our political system is fundamentally broken and in need of radical change.)
But now here we are, a month away from the big day, and what do we see? A resurgent Liberal Party, and a three-way tie in the polls? Hell, the Libs have even led a couple of polls at this point – all well within the margin of error, but still.
The explanation for this surprising turnaround lies in the campaign that the Liberal brain trust has run. With the NDP playing to the centre in an effort to be the party that all the “strategic voters” went for, the Libs sensed an opportunity on the (just barely) left of centre, and they pounced on it. Parliamentary record be damned – most voters don’t keep track of petty matters like that! And so while Mulcair contorts himself trying to explain how he’ll provide help to “working families” via affordable, quality $15-a-day childcare, eventually, while balancing the budget, and keeping taxes low, and helping out small businesses, because lord knows we all love small businesses, and did he mention affordable, quality $15-a-day childcare yet?, Trudeau took for himself the simple narrative. He’ll “invest in Canada’s future”. He’ll raise taxes on “the top 1%”, because who likes them? He’ll bring “real change” to Ottawa.
I watched a Liberal rally in Newfoundland earlier today, and he has it boiled down to a simple repetitive slogan: “The Conservatives won’t bring change, and the NDP can’t bring change, but the Liberal Party will bring change!” To which the partisan crowd, naturally, went friggin’ nuts. Those who don’t learn from history… Continue Reading