The federal election call landed with more of a whisper than a shout earlier this week. With set dates, there was no mystery about when the election itself would take place: we have known that since very soon after the last election. The only potential surprise was when the Prime Minister would make his trek to Rideau Hall to ask the Governor General to dissolve Parliament.
But, in this day of 24-hour news and social media, even that was tracked for us: last week, we were told he had to make the call by September 15, and yesterday, that he would make it today.
(The same lack of mystery is attached to today’s political party leadership races. To be more inclusive, these events now take place largely online, with most votes cast before the much-reduced convention even takes place, before we hear the impassioned speeches by those who seek our support, thus taking away our opportunity to be persuaded to change our minds.)
In a way, we now often know the ending before the story has begun.
There is much good in these changes. Better, surely, to have set election dates than for Prime Ministers (or Premiers) to take it into their heads to call a snap election or to hold onto government as long as legally possibly. Electronic voting for party leaders means more members can vote without needing to have the financial and other resources to get themselves physically to a convention.
But for political junkies like me, these changes have taken away some of the excitement.
While the date of the election may not have been a mystery, its outcome remains largely unknowable at this point. Pundits and pollsters say this is one of the closest elections in many years.
There are a few relatively sure things:
The party leaders and individual candidates will make promises they know they will not keep.
Mud will be slung.
The pollsters and pundits will be busy.
Women’s issues will be ignored.
Beyond that, it is anyone’s guess.
Will Jody Wilson Raybould or Jane Philpott, running as Independents after being ousted from the Liberal caucus by Trudeau, win their seats? What would it mean if they did? With which party would they ally themselves?
Will there be any talk of a coalition government?
Will the NDP do well enough for Jagmeet Singh to hold on to the leadership?
Will SNC-Lavalin make a difference in how people vote?
What are the polls telling us?
CBC’s Canada Poll Tracker pulls together all the major polls each week to compile an overall look at where the parties stand. On September 10, the day before the election was called, the numbers looked like this:
But it’s not just the numbers themselves that matter. It is important to look at how those percentages are shifting as well as where the support lies.
According to the CBC analysis, the Conservatives have been in the lead since February, with the Liberals trailing by 5 to 6 points at the beginning of the summer. They are now tied because the Conservatives are steadily losing support while support for the Liberals is picking up; possibly because of the passage of time since the eruption of the SNC-Lavalin scandal in early February. If that trend continues, the Liberals could pull ahead over the next few weeks, making the likely election outcome more clear.
The Liberals are especially strong in vote- and seat-rich Ontario and Quebec while the Conservatives find their greatest strength in the Prairies, which have fewer seats to offer. This means that, although both parties are showing 33.8% support, the electoral result, in Canada’s first past the post system (funny how getting rid of that system — a major plank in the Liberal platform during the 2015 election campaign – dropped from the government’s plans quickly once that election was won), look quite different.
According to the poll compilation done by the CBC, the Liberals have a 41% probability of forming a majority government and a 24% probability of forming a minority government or, to put it another way, a 65% chance of winning the election. The Conservatives sit at a 24% chance of forming a minority government and an 11% chance of winning a majority, or a 35% chance of winning.
Thirty-nine days to go
Lawn signs are going up. Phone calls and emails soliciting donations are on the rise. Candidates are trying to decide which all-candidates meetings they need to attend and which they can skip. The door knocking is underway.
Anything can happen between now and October 21st — a major blunder at one of the leaders’ debates, a skeleton emerging from a candidate’s closet, the eruption of a political scandal – that could entirely change the election landscape.
Are you ready for the possibility of such excitement?