The election is three weeks away and the logjam in the polls may be breaking up. A new Mainstream Research poll reported in the National Post on Thursday said that, in Ontario, the Tories were leading at 38% among decided and leaning voters, the Liberals at 34% and the NDP at 22%. An EKOS poll the same day, in the Toronto Star, showed that the Tories have pulled ahead with 35.4% of voters nationally, the Liberals at 26.3 % and the NDP at 24.5%. Pollster Frank Graves is quoted as saying, “If (the Conservatives) keep those numbers up they’re very close to a majority—if not there already.” They apparently lead in British Columbia, Alberta, the prairies, and Ontario.
These polls are a reality check. People who are not political junkies are waking up to the election. As they do so, they are facing promises of a ‘tax lock,’ perpetual balanced budgets, and ‘a ban on the niqab.’ They may forget the well-documented track record of the Harper government itemized in “the Harper Abuse of Power Compendium” published by The Tyee. Without these facts, will the Tories get their vote? If not, will their votes be squandered in our “first past the post” electoral system?
This election has boiled down to two issues:
- Are you for Stephen Harper and his ten-year track record?
- If not, which of the two main opposition parties (for all their individual flaws) should lead the alternative?
Because of three-way (or four-way) splits in the vote in particular swing ridings, Harper could return for an unprecedented fourth term in office. He could even pull off a majority. As I quoted Will McMartin in an earlier post, “… compared to other parties (the Tories) are rich in ‘safe’ seats (123… won by Harper’s Conservatives in 2011, with over 50% of the popular vote).”
If 70% of the population really does want change, the best case scenario may be that the Tories are held to a low plurality of seats in the Commons. This result would force the Liberals and the NDP to defeat Harper in the House at the earliest opportunity, form a coalition or an accord on the 1980s Ontario model, and offer a joint government, with the support of the Greens, that could achieve much of what they share in common. Who would lead would depend upon how they divide the seats between them.
Change is possible only if electors in their local ridings make getting rid of Stephen Harper their priority. Where a Conservative could take the riding (because the riding voted for the CPC last time), will those who might prefer the NDP or Liberal leader/platform actually adopt an ABC or ABH strategy? This means voting for the opposition party which has the best chance of defeating Harper, whether Liberal or NDP, in the particular area. Without their strategic vote, their splitting the vote will have the effect of electing a Harperite.
Vote Together released the results of Wave Two of their Swing Riding Polls on Tuesday. In Eglinton-Lawrence, they predict that the outcome will be very close. At the moment, the Liberal candidate has a slight lead over Finance Minister Joe Oliver, with the NDP rising. They note that a non-Conservative candidate can win if people vote together. Etobicoke-Lakeshore is another traditionally Liberal riding which the Tories took in 2011 with 40% of the popular vote. Ditto Don Valley West, where the Conservative incumbent won in 2011 with 43% of the popular vote over 42% for the Liberals. In British Columbia, Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission is a new riding like that Tory MP Randy Kamp has held since 2004. The current polling shows the NDP with a slight lead. Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country has new boundaries in a traditionally swing Conservative-Liberal area held by Conservative MP John Weston since 2008. In what may be ‘an emerging battleground riding,’ recent polling shows a slight lead for the Liberals. There are hopeful signs that, if voters pay attention, strategic voting could make a difference.
Find your riding on the Vote Together webpage and learn the history and recent polling (if any) in your riding. It makes for sobering reading.
***** P.S. A reader forwarded another webpage with recommendations on which party in each of the 338 Election District Districts is most likely to defeat Stephen Harper. Check out Strategicvoting.ca.