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2015 Election Will Decide Type Of Country Canada Is To Be
Answer lies in hands of emerging generation of voters
If rampant rumours hold true, Canada is about to be thrown into the longest and potentially most vicious federal election in its history.
Leaks reported in the media say that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will visit Governor-General David Johnston as soon as this weekend and dissolve Parliament. By legislation, the vote is scheduled to occur Oct. 19. That means voters could be looking at 11 weeks of campaign ads, door knocking, all-candidates meetings and leaders’ debates.
There’s a lot on the line with every federal election, but this vote in particular could be a watershed. Here are a few reasons why:
1. The swoon of the Liberal Party. After spending close to a decade in the wilderness, the former “natural governing party” expected that it would be able to regain power as voters tired of the scandal-plagued and seemingly aloof Conservatives. That no longer seems likely. After an initial honeymoon, leader Justin Trudeau has seen his trust and approval levels drop like a burned-out doobie, and the party’s fortunes decline with it. In short, the Liberals bear little resemblance to a party that is ready, and fit, to assume power.
2. The atrophy of the Conservatives. The governing party had to scratch and crawl its way into power, fighting to overcome suspicions of a “hidden agenda” and a perception of social conservatism. Harper’s calm – arguably bland – demeanour and steady hand helped assuage those concerns to the point that the party was able to climb from a minority into back-to-back majority governments. Now, a number of Conservative stalwarts have announced they are not standing for re-election and Harper appears at times to be wearying of his ringmaster role. The impression is that this government is getting tired.
3. The surprising rise of the NDP. Thomas Mulcair has never gotten much of a break as successor to the charismatic, and late, Jack Layton. Labelled “Angry Tom”, Mulcair has had to fight the perception that he was just another leftie with a chip on his shoulder. This year, things changed dramatically as the NDP picked up the progressive vote the Liberals were unable to hold onto. The astonishing upset victory of the provincial NDP in Alberta signalled a shift in the country’s zeitgeist – suddenly, inconceivable political change is not only possible but perhaps even destined.
So, we are going into this campaign with the Conservatives as underdogs, in spite of having several strategic advantages. It is the best-funded of the three leading parties, and best prepared to spend to the end. But, as Alberta’s PCs learned, a big budget buys you attention – not necessarily votes.
For example, one might ask why did the Tories decide to burn off such a large budget with attack ads on Trudeau when it appears he’s is no longer the biggest threat? That is a costly miscalculation, although one that can be corrected over a long campaign.
In fact, the NDP have managed to seize the early initiative with Mulcair already in full campaign mode. The Conservatives and Liberals both have some catching up to do.
Although it is profoundly difficult to engage the majority of Canadians in meaningful debate at election time, a long election campaign can be healthy for democracy. This election is already shaping up to be one where we will debate what kind of country the emerging generation of voters wants us to be.
Will we be insular, as we have become under the Conservatives, or return to more outward-looking on the world stage, as we were in the 1960s under Lester Pearson? Will we remain environmental delinquents with no national carbon plan, or will we once again lead by example?
Will we continue our shift to small government that believes laissez-faire economics is the best road to prosperity or reaffirm our commitment to the social programs that have made us an envy of the world?
It’s decision time. Let the debates begin. TROYMEDIA
Doug Firby is Editor-in-Chief of Troy Media and National Affairs columnist.