Saturday, September 5, 2015

Election 2015: Three Horse Race

The election has been a bumpy ride so far and we are still less than half way done. The polls have been quite volatile, but the two latest polls are suggesting the trend that I was expecting now that we are getting closer to the big day. Right now the Conservatives have dropped to third place, the Liberals are picking up some steam and the NDP are dragging. The reasons for this are varied but it most likely has to do with some genuinely terrible press for the Conservatives over the past few weeks, and the party policies being put under more scrutiny.

The Conservatives have been having a rather rough go at it so far this election. They are bleeding support even in some of their traditional strongholds, particularly in Alberta, and after the Duffy trial there has been bad economic news and an implosion of the refugee crisis in Europe, a file for which the Conservatives were seen as being insufficient actors. Now on the refugee file, the Conservatives are in a tough spot, because although 70% of Canadians want immediate action to bring in more Syrians, the 30% who don't are generally Conservatives, which is why the Conservatives haven't been bringing in many Syrians to begin with, and also why they have been cutting refugee healthcare and sending flyers around demonizing refugees as leaches on the system, even conflating refugees with terrorists. What the problem is though is that this position has reinforced the view many Canadians already have that this is a government that lacks compassion, and it is unclear if their stance to basically do nothing more for Syrians is going to get their base excited either.

Then there is the bad economic news, which the Conservatives are desperate to spin as good economic news. Canada is now in a recession, and although there was some very modest growth the past two months, the rest of the quarter could well turn out to be negative. The unemployment rate is up, and at the height of the construction seasons, Canada created only 12,000 jobs while the US economy is doing much better. This is more bad news for Harper, who was hoping to run his re-election campaign on a strong economy and a balanced budget, neither of which have materialized.  Things are not looking so great for their chances as 64% of Canadians want a different government.

On the other side, the NDP have been losing some ground recently. Outside of Quebec it has been a kind of roller coaster for the NDP, who have gone up and now are going down, as the Liberals start to extend a lead in Ontario, This comes down to the numbers. The NDP are making many spending promises while also saying they will balance the budget. Canadians do not appear to trust that this can be achieved, and are turning toward the Liberals as a result. The NDP cannot win government without more support in Ontario and BC, and in both provinces they have been faltering.

It's been good news for the Liberals in Ontario, where they appear to be making some considerable gains, likely because voters who have gone Liberal in the past but voted Conservative or stayed home last time are coming back to the fold, as well as some disaffected Conservatives who do not want to see an NDP government. The bad news is that although there have been come gains, it is only marginally helping them overall. But the trend is positive, and the Liberals will like their chances as they prepare to drop their platform. The Liberal road to victory lays in Ontario as it always has, and if they can pick up some seats in BC and Alberta they could sneak through the middle. It's far too early to count them out.

When the platforms are released next week we will get a better idea of how the plans are costed and what each party intends to cut to fund their promises. This is an economy election, so all three parties are going to have to demonstrate their willingness to put forward a vision, but also to show how they can achieve it. More debates are scheduled in the coming weeks as well. and as more Canadians start to tune in, these will have a greater impact. This campaign is far from over, and is going to be a close one.

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