03.06.2011 08:00 AM

In today’s Sun: The “valley of death” doesn’t sound entirely positive

Do you ever get the feeling that we have elections to see if the polls were right?

I sure do. The American humorist Robert Orben said that, or something like that, many years ago. Surveying the current Canadian political landscape, you’d have to agree, too.

For a few years now, surveys of Canadians’ political opinions have been pretty darn consistent. Folks didn’t like the Conservatives enough to give them a majority — and they didn’t trust the Liberals enough to give them a minority.

The pollsters also told us, regularly, that Joe and Jane Frontporch didn’t love Prime Minister Stephen Harper very much — but they loved opposition leader Michael Ignatieff even less. Meanwhile, Joe and Jane liked NDP boss Jack Layton plenty, but not enough to ever let him near power.

And so it went over the past few years — see-sawing up and down, a few points here and few points there, but no one ever really breaking ahead of the pack.


  1. MontrealElite says:

    Continuing to support this government is not an option.

    As for polls, I’ll defer to Diefenbaker on that.

  2. MontrealElite says:

    People the word over are becoming more and more conservative on matters of fiscal policy. This is a trend that has been pretty consistent since at least the middle of the Carter administration.

    I guess Reagan and GW Bush didn’t get the memo.

    What’s fiscally conservative about Harper? The record deficit? Expanding the size of government?

  3. Derek Pearce says:

    It’s time for an election. Just bring it on. Harper will not now (or ever ever ever) get a majority, so just bring it. The fun will begin when Cons start to have a palace coup. Yes, he’ll be PM once again. But how long can he brow-beat everyone around him? A third minority might take off a bit o’ the shine. As for the Liberals, and I was once a card-carrying member in the Chretien days, they have to become more, more sort of “hard core” if you will. Switch to no public funding and 1 member 1 vote, and people will become invested in the party and stop this Confoolery.

  4. orval says:

    Very perceptive column.

    The big problem with the polls is they give “national” numbers for the Bloc Quebecois, which is nonsense, but which distorts the real picture. In the 2008 Election, the Conservatives won a comfortable majority in Rest of Canada (CPC – 43.29% for 133 seats; Lib 27.13% for 63; NDP 20.32% for 36). The only factor preventing a Conservative majority is Bloc strength in Quebec (2008 Election in Quebec: BQ 38.1% for 49 seats; Lib 23.7% for 14, CPC 21.7% for 10, NDP 12.2% for 1).

    Recent polls indicate a trend where the CPC is getting stronger in ROC while the Bloc remains almost invincible in francophone Quebec. This probably means the CPC is at or near the sweet spot where they can win a majority without gains in Quebec against Bloc incumbents.

    What I hadn’t considered until reading this column was the possibility that the next election might be like 1993: A (Conservative) majority government with the Bloc Quebecois as the Official Opposition and two “lesser parties”.

    Could Liberal/NDP vote-splitting create a 1993-like result, with both parties winning only a handful of seats each? Likely not unless there is a big enough CPC wave in GTA to defeat Liberal incumbents a la Vaughan.

    The only thing that is clear now is what Mr Kinsella is saying – there is no LPC comeback. That the Liberals are pushing for an election now is folly. As Mr Kinsella says, they will be clobbered.

  5. JStanton says:

    Jesus Gord, the way you usually prognosticate like an old codger, I would have thought you had noticed that a switch to conservatism, or liberalism, is a cyclical event. Who knew that you are one of Mr. Harper’s 20-something year old jihadists, still bitter from having your favorite brown velour sweater-vest laughed at by the girls in high school.

    Not that this international “trend” towards conservatism is anything more that wishful thinking on the part of the scared, bitter and not very bright. Suggesting that marginal groups of people with similar psychosis who organize, are a “trend” is realistic only so far as it refers to substance abuse.

    Your slap-down of Mr. Layton is particularly revealing. He speaks about improving the quality of life for women, children, the elderly, and working people, and you think that it id he who is living in the past?

    Come now Gord. Nonsense may work to bolster the confidence of those that can’t, or won’t read, but you will have to tell a much better story to fool anyone with a lick of sense.


    • Philip says:

      The best analysis of conservatism I have ever read! Seriously funny shit!

    • JStanton says:

      Gord, I despair. Do you really believe that shit? Obama won because he?s black? Obama is a “socialist”? Clearly the Faux News Network is your principle information source. Sorry bud, you just undermined any argument you could make, now, and until after your therapy.

      I was trying very hard to at least give you the courtesy of an ear, despite your anti-social utterances. No more. I?m done with you. You and Michael Jackson.

  6. dave says:

    I cannot see the Lib fortunes improving. Whatever clout Ignatieff has, he should use to go to the polls and find out where he stands, one way or the other.
    However, I could see the Conserv budget giving something to the Bloc to get their support for the budget, maybe that HST squabble addressed.
    I agree with the the column; the cult of personality stuff was what the Conservatives in the House of Commons worked on from the get-go in 2006. (Sometimes i twas embarrassin got watch)
    Along with that, the constant vilification of whoever was the official opposition leader also worked (and continues to do so).
    An important tipping point in favour of the Conservs was the brouhaha over the possibility of the non confidence vote and the replacement of the Conservative minority with a coaliton minority – as per Westminster parliament practice. The Conservative country wide propaganda campaign to convince us that we had actually voted for Harper to be Prime Minister worked very well.

    The other trend among voters that I see continuing is the decline in voter participation. Usually, we blame the absentee voters for this, rather than the electoral system – and the lock that parties have on it.

  7. hugger says:

    Gord, you can always be counted on to write something ridiculous. You do say it well though. If I didn’t know better, I might actually think you knew what you were talking about.

    As for the current batch of polls. Meh

    Harris/Decima interviews just over 1000 Canadians between February 17 and February 27, 2011

    Nationally, over the last two weeks, the Conservatives hold an eight point lead. The Conservatives stand at 36%, to 28% for the Liberals, 15% for the NDP, 9% for the BQ and 9% for the Greens.


    • DL says:

      Actually the Harris Decima poll was of 2,000 Canadians not 1,000 so it has double the validity of the Ipsos obvious outlier

  8. V. Malaise says:

    I understand the math behind polling, but I do remember what a Stats prof said in first year uni, “Figures lie and liars figure.” Actually Ann Landers originated that proverb.

  9. Namesake says:

    Hmm. Before we come to bury Caesar and dance on his grave, yet again, a little context, please:

    Only one of the last four polls still puts it at a double-digit lead. The latest is 8 (down two from their last run), and the lowest is 5 (down 7, from their previous iteration).

    Source & release date: Harris-Decima, March 2, 2011
    CPC 36% / LPC 28% / NDP 15% / BQ 9% / GRN 9%

    Ipsos Reid, March 2, 2011
    CPC 43% / LPC 27% / NDP 13% / BQ 10% / GRN 5%

    Angus Reid, February 26, 2011
    CPC 39% / LPC 26% / NDP 18% / BQ 10% / GRN 6%

    EKOS, , February 23, 2011
    CPC 32% / LPC 27% / NDP 15% / BQ 10% / GRN 12%

    • Mark in Ontario says:

      In the last Nanos poll, when you calculate the levels of support for the parties outside of Quebec only, you get the following result:

      CPC = 46.8%
      LPC = 27.4%
      NDP = 19.7%
      GRN = 6.2%

      MOE = no idea.

      Tracking a nonsense number like BQ “national” support distorts the true picture. If Nanos is right, the Conservatives had a 20 point lead on the Liberals in Rest of Canada in February.

      I think Strategic Counsel had a ROC/Quebec poll results once upon a time. I thought it was a great idea to make the polls a little more meaningful.

  10. Sean says:

    – Polls with an “undecided” option are baloney. Making a decision is the whole damn point. If a poll has a U.D. option, it is a snapshot of nothing.

    – I wish pollsters had a method of tracking people who do not intend to vote. They are a massive portion of the population whose opinions are drastically over represented in polls. I remember a paper Marzolini authored in which he outlined the problem. He could show that the majority of people who did note vote would lie about it when asked. The folks who claimed to have voted far outnumbered those who actually did. Imagine that, voters telling lies!

    – I always liked Nanos’ question in 2006. Maybe he still uses it. “Who will you vote for in your riding if the election was tomorrow?” It captured the folks who want one outcome nationally but knew they had to vote against their first choice locally. A lot of NDP / BQ voters might fall into that category. Its more accurate than “who is your favorite leader” which is basically all you get with the other companies.

    – With all the hoopla about polls, it is interesting to note that Canadian Governments are almost always elected by a minority of voters. Since WW1, I believe there are only a few exceptions. So, most voters pick a party which they are told over and over again cannot possibly form a government! Canadians love to pick losers, so to speak. They are resilient when it comes to their final choices.

  11. orval says:

    It is not Harper’s fault that the Liberals have had poor leaders from John Turner onward. It is however his good fortune that Paul Martin and his “politics of achievement” self-adoration cult imploded so unexpectedly and rapidly after taking over from Jean Chretien.

    There is no Harper “cult of personality” – he is simply a good enough leader when compared to the alternatives. His principal obstacle to a majority is Gilles Duceppe, who doesn’t even want to be PM, not Michael Ignatieff or Jack Layton.

    dave you are right about the “coalition minority” – if the 3 opposition parties combine to defeat the Budget it will ipso facto prove the coalition exists. Whatever the Westminster practice, clearly Canadians do not like it so why wouldn’t the Conservatives play it up in the campaign? The only way to dispel this albatross is for Harper to call the election. Since he doesn’t want an election, the Liberals would have until Oct 2012 to get ready, or have their palace coup or whatever. If Ignatieff succeeds in convincing NDP and Bloc to vote down the Government now he will lose the election in a blaze of glory but will still lose.

    • hugger says:

      “dave you are right about the ?coalition minority? ? if the 3 opposition parties combine to defeat the Budget it will ipso facto prove the coalition exists. ”

      Calling occupants of interplanetary craft.. Are you communicating from Space Dock or are you currently on a mission?

    • dave says:

      I disagree with you on the ‘cult of personality’ campaign for Harper. From 2006 there was not a Conservative MP or cabinet member who could sit down without a paean of some kind about the PM. This aspect has subsided a bit. An integral part of the campaign was, as I mentioned, the constant trashing of whoever was the official opposition leader. That part continues. But the two sides go together – idolization, and vilification.The recent story about replacing “Government of Canada’ with ‘Harper Government’ is a part of this campaign. I figure it has worked well.

      I also disagree with the order of your cause and effect regarding attitudes toward the coalition offer of an alternative government within Westminster traditions. I think that the Conservative propaganda calling the offer a ‘coup’ was the narrative that won out, the Wesminster tradition being too complicated for many of us to follow. It was easier to sell the simple story that all Canada voted for Harper to be PM, as if a federal election were a vote for one single leader.
      That propaganda campaign (which continues, because it works) is what caused most of us voters to distrust the term ‘coalition.’
      Propaganda, and propaganda first, works.

      As for being an effective leader, in a democracy, I see an effective leader as being open, firm, and able to reflect the people’s narrative. Your guy is closed, nepotistic, and having to spend our taxes on creating a faulty narrative. A mediocre and furtive leader needs a centralized top down hierarchy to protect his power.

      I agree on your final point. Issues, the future for us all, a vision for a more democratic and humane 21st Century do not matter.
      Winning does.

    • smelter rat says:

      @Orval…”The Harper Government”?? Are you seriously suggesting there is no cult of personality at work here? The man borders on delusional.

  12. Gord, I enjoy your posts but really, “People the world over are becoming more and more conservative on matters of fiscal policy” is more than a stretch, it is simply wrong. What happened in the US leading up to the market meltdown of 2008? That’s right, your frontporch folks borrowed themselves into a bloated tizzy while their good neighbours at Goldman Sachs figured out how to turn debt into profit. Doesn’t sound very conservative to me. Would you ascribe the term “conservative” to those Wall Street magicians who designed the complex derivative products that lead to the crisis in corporate debt paper? Again, not very conservative. Personal debt loads in Canada have now climbed to 150% of annual income. And you know the numbers are even more scary in the US. Does that sound very conservative to you?

    I agree that “left-wing” parties have not embraced your trend. Neither have the 65% of Canadian voters who did not choose to vote Conservative in the last election.

    • nic coivert says:

      If, as you suggest, Obama won because he was black, because of skin colour, then all the Presidents preceding him also won because of skin colour, because they weren’t black. In reality Obama won in spite of being black.

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