Saturday, October 4, 2008

 

SIGNS OF ENGAGEMENT

It seems to have taken the collapse of the American economy, an "economic Pearl Harbor" according to Warren Buffett, but Canadians now appear engaged in our Federal Election one week and a holiday weekend away!

Quite simply from an economic standpoint alone we well should be: The Toronto Stock Exchange has dropped 30% of its value in just the last few weeks. Over time, over-leveraging business, government and personal finances catches-up with pretty much everyone....well, excluding Warren Buffett perhaps.

Close to eight million Canadians watched parts of Thursday's English language debate which averaged more than 3-million viewers for each of its 120-minutes on the air. Meantime, Another nearly 2-million Canadians were watching the Vice-Presidential debate down south of the border. Go figure!

This week, attending a dinner at Ottawa's R.A. Centre, the Recreational Association of the Public Service of Canada, I was reminded of John Diefenbaker's contention that in an election, the only poll that matters is the one on election day. A plaque marks where the former Prime Minister laid the cornerstone for the massive R.A. Centre in 1959. But, I digress...

Be that as it may. As much as some argue that the daily polling of voter intentions is somewhat un-scientific, the samples being too small. The polling trends over the past couple of weeks seem to suggest that support for the Conservatives may have flatlined. Although the Liberals are 10-points behind, unlikely to get caught-up, their miserable slide may have halted. Barring a tumultuous reversal, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that as expected, the New Democrats, the Bloc and the Greens together will spoil Prime Minister Harper's hope for the majority government he so covets. As for Stephane Dion, he will sink into an Ottawa sunset having spent two years at the helm of the Liberal brand. In the process perhaps relegating it to third party status.

Earlier this week in an opinion piece published in the "National Post" columnist John Ivison went so far as to suggest that the Conservative election campaign has stalled...."the ballyhoo in Quebec over arts cuts and the jailing of young offenders has invigorated the Bloc Quebecois and dented the prospect of double-digit Conservative gains in that province." Truth be told, other than to appeal to the right-wing core Conservatives in Alberta and Saskatchewan, it is hard to comprehend how the Conservative war room back here in Ottawa could have so misread Quebec's re-action to both initiatives. If as promised Mr. Harper delivers on tabling the Conservative Party platform over the next few days. It will be interesting to glimpse the war room's spin on both measures, which are platform issues, and how they'll manage to avoid re-igniting the flames of controversy in "La Belle Province" and in English Canada's cultural communities.

In the polls, the Liberals are stuck in the 25%-27% range. They've stopped the slide but have probably actually slipped below even their own core supporters, many of whom, at least in addressing questions from pollsters, claim new allegiance to the NDP or to the Green Party.

Picking-up on the Conservative's perceived stall in the polls, down-east journalist Ralph Surette says that on the economic front and other issues, Afghanistan included, "...the ground is giving out from under (Harper) which is plain to see for anyone who wants to look." Surette, in today's Halifax "Chronicle Herald" argues..."the only question being whether he (Harper) can drag out the pretense that nothing is happening for another week and half, and whether a plurality, unimpressed by a fractured opposition, will continue to buy the illusion right into the polling booth."

Though the illusion may well survive the next ten days. The collapse of the American economy has shaken the country to its very core. In searching for reassurance that homes, jobs and country are safe, Canadians are unlikely to write Mr. Harper a blank cheque and deliver a majority to the Conservatives.

Elections Canada estimates the October 14th election will cost taxpayers $290-million. Given the economic conditions, and if there is little or no change in Party standings by the time it is all over, it will have been money sadly misspent.

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