The only excitement in the federal election to date has been at local levels, the disappearing candidates phenomenon, as old misconduct or incautious Internet statements are dredged up and parties move quickly with damage control disavowals. “Candidate X is no longer running. Candidate X has never run,” the dour George Orwell might have put it.
Many electoral fights have more than two opponents slugging it out, and the national level sees three serious contenders for the crown. To date – despite multitudinous issues broached – none of them have seriously damaged the others.
The old champ Harper is holding his own, but little more. The much awaited traditional Tory slag ads are laughable. The “Just not ready” assault features wooden recitals of a wooden message, and prompt conjecture whether the real problem is that Harper is just not ready to go. As to the equally stolid, supposedly self-effacing “Harper has his faults” ads – who bothers going on to listen to the disclaimer when Harper’s fault line as prime minister is patently obvious? None of this hurts him with his devoted fan base, but to date he has not moved out of that.
Trudeau has stopped the bleeding of Liberal support and lately has started to climb. Earlier he trounced an overly confident Tory opponent in an actual ring – Patrick Brazeau, another of Harper’s ill-fated appointments to the Senate. To date Trudeau has not scored as decisively against Harper as a political opponent. His position over the war on ISIS straddles the fence – if he supports the war, go in whole hog with what we’ve got. Otherwise – say you’ll pull out.
Mulcair has said that, but after a promising start early in the match, his support is eroding. His flurry of spending promises excites curiosity since he is also announcing an intention to balance the budget. His support for the niqab at citizenship ceremonies is offensive to many in his Quebec electoral stronghold. Also boding trouble is his support for a 50 per cent plus one outcome to any future Quebec sovereignty referendum. Mulcair has said that he will repeal the Clarity Act, which follows the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that a “clear majority” on a referendum is needed to necessitate the required negotiations which would allow legal secession. Despite the Scottish precedent, Quebec’s departure is too serious an issue – particularly as it would insert a land barrier between the remaining geographic halves of Canada – to be potentially decided by one voter tipping an even scale. The “clear majority” formula, though vague, would set up a situation recognizing a moral impetus for departure sufficient to call for negotiations. One vote over the line does not.
There is now less than three weeks left to polling day. This is plenty of time for a turn around, for some party to begin attracting a drove of voters sufficient to build a majority. This sort of last minute surge has happened before; they are difficult to foresee.
Writer David Haas is a long term St. Albert resident.