06.08.2013 06:39 PM

In Sunday’s Sun: 130 seats

In politics, body language is important.

In particular, the body language of Messrs. Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau.

One of them does not seem worried; the other two look like they are taking nothing for granted.

Some pollsters, naturally, tell a somewhat different tale. If you believe successive polls — and after the industry’s dramatically wrong prognostications in elections in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec and (to an extent) nationally — no one should anymore.

Notwithstanding that, myriad pollsters insist Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are ascendant, and cruising towards a colossal majority victory in 2015. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are locked in a downward spiral — while the New Democrats will be lucky to hold on to much of what they’ve got.

One much-quoted outfit, Forum — which predicted gigantic Wildrose and New Democrat wins in Alberta and B.C., respectively — told The Globe and Mail: “Of those surveyed, 44% said they supported the Liberals, 27% said they supported the Conservatives and 20% said they supported the New Democrats.”

If Forum’s numbers are right, Justin Trudeau should be lolling in his seat in the House of Commons, eating bonbons and playing Angry Birds.

But he isn’t.

Nor, for that matter, is Thomas Mulcair, who presides over the biggest opposition caucus in his party’s history, and who is allegedly within striking distance of the governing Conservatives.

Trudeau and Mulcair are working hard, pushing Harper in question period and pounding the pavement outside Ottawa.

Meanwhile, Stephen Harper looks irritated, but not at all terrified, by the ongoing Senate scandal.

His party is preparing to do what it always does in times of crisis: Toss assorted staffers and parliamentarians under the proverbial bus and walk away. It has worked in the past, and it may well work again.

The body language of our three federal leaders, then, speaks volumes.

None seems to be too preoccupied with what the pollsters and the pundits have to say about the future, near or long-term.

The reason relates to bodies, not body language. At present, Harper has a commanding lead in bodies occupying parliamentary seats. And Mulcair knows he cannot hold on to many of the ones he’s presently got — whilst Trudeau needs many, many more to get to where he needs to be.

The May 2011 general election resulted in the Conservative Party taking 166 seats, 23 more than they had at Parliament’s dissolution, and more than enough to seize power in a 308-seat Commons.

The New Democrats won 103 seats, an astonishing result, given they had only 36 when the election commenced.

The Liberals, meanwhile, ended up with less than the NDP had at dissolution — 34 seats, losing half of what they had. Michael Ignatieff and his oxymoronic brain trust led the once-great Grits to their worst showing in history.

Polls might lie, but the above numbers don’t: To do what some pollsters like Forum say is doable — that is, a big majority — Trudeau needs to find at least 130 seats.

To be sure, scandal, factionalism and ennui are chipping away at Harper’s coalition. He will lose some seats, and the recent Labrador byelection suggests that he may even lose a lot.

So, too, Mulcair. He knows that his party’s historic May 2011 achievement was entirely due to the appeal of the much-loved Jack Layton, now gone. He will lose MPs, too, mostly to Trudeau in Quebec.

But, as I regularly ask bright-eyed Trudeaumaniacs who will listen: “To win a majority, you need to shake loose 130 seats. That’s a huge number of bodies. Where are they, right now? Name the ridings.”

And they can’t.

Thus, the tale’s moral: The polls say one thing. But the body language — and the parliamentary bodies — say something else entirely.


  1. Arnold Murphy says:

    Yep, Harper’s already won again…. shrug shoulder’s turn back on country walk away shaking head, not. Harper has a lot of work to do to stem a loss of blood that no political titan can afford, even Churchill went away for a while, and when he did they called him all sorts of nasty things. But in the end he came back, Harper has had his comeback there will be no next time, this is it and he feels the pressure or he is oblivious.

  2. Jim Hanna says:

    Its more like 140-150 seats; there will be another 30 seats in the next parliament.

    And that makes it even more challenging, given where those new seats are.

    • The Doctor says:

      This goes to one of the things that concerns me most about JT — I’m not sure if he gets the fact that these days, it’s really difficult to put together a winning formula if you’re basically writing off most of Western Canada, like his dear old dad used to do. His dear old dad used to be able to count on getting 60-70 seats out of Quebec and the like, which is extremely improbable for the LPC to pull off these days, with the advent of the BQ, Orange Wave etc.

    • He is talking about 130 in addition to the Liberals current seats. I assume.

  3. Tim McLeod says:

    If traditional polls can’t discern the contours of the political landscape, we are flying blind – unless someone comes up with a way to gather accurate data from the smartphone/socialmedia sphere. Every politician who wants to win should assume their team will have to give it their all just for a chance to win. Adrian Dix learned this the hard way. No guarantees. Everything on the dark horse. It should be exciting.

    Don’t feel that many NDPers and Liberals are really hungry to go all the way, to win, to govern. If they were, a merger of the two parties would be in play, or at least a coordinated strategy (harmonized message) to defeat the Cons; and, the tactical necessity of “going neg” (which is usually just pointing out reality) would be understood as axiomatic. The vote-slitting-Greens who are content to travel around like a Grateful Dead entourage well illustrates this strain of political unrealism that has crippled “progressives.”

    The so-called Conservative Party has degenerated to cabal of venal nabobs whose only goal is asset stripping, liquidating the Canadian Nation, selling off Canada to the most corrupt. Even their own are starting to jump ship. Still, people are pretty apathetic. Bread and circus and all that I guess. Maybe Kinsella can put fire under some parked asses.

  4. 2011’s voting numbers are the best poll we have…The CPC got almost 40% of the popular vote, the NDP got almost 31%, the LPC got almost 19%, the Bloc 6% and the Greens almost 4%. What are our guesses as to these percentage in 2015? Given the lack of any meaningful cooperation between the NDP and the Liberals, Harper can still win a minority even if he drops to 32%.. he has his job for life, sadly.

    • Swervin' Merv says:

      I’ll say it once again in this space. Don’t yet know the sustainability of Trudeau’s popularity among both young and old. And cooperation between Libs and NDP in an election is unlikely. But if Harper stays as leader and “wins” only a minority then he loses, because there would definitely be a “coalition” effort, however informal, to oust him.

      • ray says:

        the thought of seeing this gang of goons grow second and third chins is duffyesque in the extreme. I don’t want to watch the fat get fatter as they stuff my country down a drainpipe while they circle the drain. c’mon Warren give us a sliver of hope here. anyone else?

      • Pol-Seer says:

        There is now a perceived covert coalition in existence now. Mulcair and Trudeau are both from La Belle Provence and they will both serve the interests of Quebec over the ROC if either is elected or installed as prime minister. This painful reality cannot be overlooked by political strategists within the NDP and LPC.

  5. Darlene says:

    One of your better diatribes. My thoughts on Harper leaving his post before the next election is not realistic. Possibly getting a fourth term (2 minorities, 1 majority) in that, to my knowledge, no one else has managed will be his enticement to carry on. He’s a very seasoned politician and I cannot see either of the other 2 bozzo’s getting the job of PM.

  6. headmaster says:

    “Toss assorted staffers and parliamentarians under the proverbial bus”

    Mike could prove a bus-stopper.
    Unless he stops “sleepin’ with one eye open and a gun under the pillow” to quote an expert on omerta 😉

    • Swervin' Merv says:

      Re: “Mike could prove a bus-stopper.”

      Makes me recall one of Guy Vanderhaeghe’s acclaimed short stories, The Trouble with Heroes: “As my dad once told me, hitting a cow is nothing; nine times out of ten you walk away from a confrontation with a cow. Cows are big enough to be plowed aside, and small enough to be moved. Now a pig is a different matter. They’re low-slung enough to pop your wheels up. A man who hits a porker at fifty or sixty miles an hour had better pinch his asshole and offer a prayer. He may be going over on his roof or sliding off the road and into a telephone pole.”

  7. Michael Behiels says:

    With 30 new seats added for 2015 election any early predictions about the outcome are quite meaningless.

    All one can say at the moment is that victory in 2015 is Harper’s to lose.

    Harper’s CP, the incumbent Party, will be tough to defeat because anti-CP voters remain deeply divided as to which Party, LPC or NDP, is the best option to win a majority.

    Harper knows this reality and will exploit it until voting day in 2015.

    Neither the LPC nor the NDP have the money alone to match Harper’s CP in the lead up to the election or during the campaign.

    The anti-Harperites can have a shot at winning if they decide, with their money, to move heavily to the LPC or to the NDP.

  8. Michael Bussiere says:

    It’s our pal Jason Kenney whose body language is interesting. Lying low, fiddling with his BB10 in the HoC. Harper’s biggest problem is not with the polls or the voters, but with his caucus. If I were a former PCer, I’d feel sucker punched by Harper. If I were a former Reformer, I’d feel hijacked and betrayed by Harper. If I were a backbencher, I’d feel like my sole responsibility was to keep Harper in the PM’s seat. If I were Harper, I’d admit to myself that one seat short of a majority, one more failure, one more self-inflicted fuck-up, one more gag order, one drop in party donations would mean certain political suicide. If I were Jason Kenney, I’d be quietly sharpening a knife.

    This IS for certain. Sit back and watch it happen.

    • deb s says:

      I so hope this is the case…and perhaps Jason is the person sending CBC all the Duffy/Wright details thru emails….someone is apparently screwing harper over these days. Whats grand is Jason doesnt have what it takes to hold the crowd …so if he gets named leader of CPC they will start to lose support.

      • Yeah, every time I read another revelation delivered by Fife, I wondered to myself: ‘Who, out of a very select group of CPC insiders delivered that little tidbit to Fife?’. And you know what? Those serial revelations were extraordinarily effective, one might even say well managed… Then the ‘slush fund’ revelation to the CBC. Funny how the CBC reports that there were only like 5 people who knew, all of whom sit on the board of the Conservative Fund. Who squealed, and even more relevant, WHY did they squeal? Whether it was true or not, somebody had a reason to plant that one in the public eye, and even though the CBC did not reveal their informant, the FACT that they reported that there was a very very small circle of insiders in the know reveals that their ìnformant`was one of that very very small circle…. CPC Convention coming up, Peter McKay spouting off about Leadership contest rules… Me, I suspect that somebody wants to turn the `Harper Government`into the Conservative Government with themselves at the helm. Who really knows, but I can faintly hear the sound of knives being sharpened…

        • deb s says:

          yep…and I think it means the good stuff will be continually fed to the press, until the beast bleeds out! If the insider is peter mackay, well good for him, he got something right (finally:))

          • deb s says:

            as another aside….I truly would love to see the tantrums Harper is pulling, they would be hilarious:)

  9. Robin says:

    Harper has failed to lead an industrial strategy to expedite the completion of pipeline infrastructure for the oil sands: Northern Gateway is the wrong route; Kinder Morgan is feasible; Keystone XL is feasible however we should be shipping synthetic crude not raw bitumen; and, the proposed west to east pipeline is Canada’s best option. However, it requires vision and national leadership which has been absent. With regards to the development and expansion of oil sands production, two Prime Ministers from Quebec, Trudeau and Chretien, have done more than one Prime Minister from Alberta, that is, Harper.

    In the 1970s, Trudeau invested in Syncrude to help Alberta and Imperial Oil begin large scale commercial development of oil sands extraction when Imperial Oil could not find any other oil corporation to share the risk.

    In the 1990s, Chretien invested in oil sand production expansion by cooperating with Alberta to revise the tax and royalty regime to be consistent with conventional oil development including tax and royalty holidays for major new capital investments.

    Harper, if he was a leader, would have brought the key stakeholders together, including BC and Alberta governments, industry, First Nations and environmental groups to build a pipeline to the west coast to provide access to world markets for oil sands production; instead, he has antagonized First Nations and environmentalists (dismissing them as foreign funded eco-terrorists), refused to meet with Alberta and BC together and, now, Alberta remains landlocked and is forced to sell its over production in a US buyers’ market at discount prices.

    The lack of leadership by Harper will cost Alberta and the oil industry more in lost revenue opportunities than the effects of the National Energy Program which was introduced in 1981 as world oil prices started to plummet from $70 per barrel in 1981 to $20 or less in 1987. World price collapse caused more damage than the NEP.

    The main difference between the National Energy Program and the Bitumen Bubble caused by increased oil sands development in the absence of sufficient pipeline capacity or access to tidewater, world markets and prices is: with the NEP and collapsing world prices, many Albertans lost what they had (mostly because of falling world oil prices) and with the Bitumen Bubble (i.e., lack of pipeline capacity to world markets) it is the lost opportunity to sell at world prices; so, it’s a difference between actual losses and lost opportunity. Suncor has already canceled an $11 billion project due to lack of pipeline capacity and discount prices.

    In addition, under Harper, Canada will be exporting raw bitumen instead of processed, upgraded and refined synthetic crude which gets a higher price, creates thousands of highly skilled and paid jobs and is less risky to ship by pipeline.

    Politically, the Conservatives shrewdly blamed the National Energy Program for the devastation of the oil and gas industry in the 1980s, however, it is mostly a myth similar to the sovereigntists’ “night of the long knives” myth after Rene Levesque gave up Quebec’s veto to join the “Gang of Eight” in a desperate attempt to stop repatriation of Canada’s Constitution; spin to cover for poor judgement. Similarly, businesses in the oil and gas industry happily blamed the NEP despite the fact that most of them were over-extended with debt to finance expansion in an over-heated economy without any concern that the world price for oil might collapse.

    Once Albertans understand that Harper’s antagonism towards environmentalists and First Nations stifled pipeline construction, in addition to his poor performance regarding budget deficits, spending, scandals, and lack of openness, transparency and accountability; there will be seats up for grabs in Alberta.

    • bil says:

      There will be “seats up for grab in Alberta”..? That is just silly. Unless the NDP and the Liberals merge in the next few months the West and most of Ontario is Tory blue. This isnt about Harpers dominance, this is about a 5 party system and vote splitting. Four left wing partys and one right wing, thats the issue. Which begs the question, if the Cons and Harper are so damn bad for this country why are the 4 left wing partys more interested in living in Stornaway then 24 Sussex?

      • Robin says:

        bil, I live in Alberta. In the recent by-election in Calgary Centre 18,100 Conservatives who voted in the 2011 general election stayed home, the Liberal candidate came within 1,200 votes of defeating the Conservative candidate; this is a sign that the former PC Party members of the new Conservative party are not happy. Lee Richardson resigned, he is a popular Mulroney PC, and the PMO manipulated the local nomination process to ensure their favored candidate was nominated even though she is a polarizing figure and not well-liked in many political circles; the recent departure of Rathgeber has highlighted the sentiments of many Conservatives in Calgary Centre. The Liberal vote was the only vote to increase compared to 2011, the combined NDP/Green vote reduced by 4,000 votes and the Conservative vote collapsed by 18,100: these votes are up for grabs in Alberta. If Harper continues as he has in the past, these votes may shift to the Green Party (any protest party will do in a pinch) since Elizabeth May espouses the same neophyte notions of MP freedom as the Reform Party once did; and, a lot of the former PC Party vote will come to the Liberals. Trudeau is attracting large enthusiastic crowds in Alberta. It isn’t silly. I hope you’re a Conservative because that kind of condescending comment is uncalled for. What part of Canada do you live in?

  10. Elizabeth says:

    Meh. 🙂

  11. james Smith says:

    The election is 2 years away, so who knows what will happen in that time. But the failures of Provincial polls in the last year or so notwithstanding, this is instructive: http://is.gd/nBGcfw . The dear leader puttered along in the high 30’s & after the debates Jack & Iggy swopped places, & the Dear Leader got an uptick as Blue Grits in Ontario voted for him out of fear of Jack. 308’s matrix seemed to work then.

  12. Robin says:

    “But, as I regularly ask bright-eyed Trudeaumaniacs who will listen: “To win a majority, you need to shake loose 130 seats. That’s a huge number of bodies. Where are they, right now? Name the ridings.”

    And they can’t.”

    I guess the best response is: how many seats in Quebec did Laytonmaniacs list as winnable before the last general election? Campaigns make a difference.

    • Pol-Seer says:

      In the 2015 election there will be 338 ridings, 3 more in Quebec and 35 more west of Quebec. A majority government will require 170 MPs — 169 as sitting MPs and one appointed as Speaker of the House.

      It’s currently unlikely either the NDP or Liberals can win a majority government, so their strategy will be to either reduce the Cons to a minority position, or win enough seats to become the next minority government and shored up by the other left wing party.

      Another minority government will be damaging to the economic and political stability of Canada, particularly since the Quebec sovereignty campaign will be ramping up. Don’t discount the re-emergence of the BQ in Quebec.

  13. rumleyfips says:

    Harper’s recent behaviour has puzzled me. He has alienated a lot of people in Atlantic Canada. Many voters in PEI, New Brunswick and ,to a lesser extent Nova Scotia,feel targeted by changes to unemployment. His attempts to force fish processing out of Newfoundland and into Europe has caused hard feelings.

    It seems that Harper has abandoned hope in Quebec. He has seemed to purposely belittle and antagonise the electorate. The only reason I can think of is a decision to satisfy the Reform base in Alberta and Sakatewan by mistreating Quebec.

    Alberta and Sakatewan will go Reform, but Manitoba will be a split. The North may split too.

    That leaves BC and Ontario where Harper expects the election to be fought and won. He must be counting on theLPC and NDP to split enough of the vote to let him win with 30%.

    Writing off one third of the electorate to try and win in the 905 with fewer than 1/3 of the votes seems risky to me.

    • Pol-Seer says:

      Interesting forward looking analysis of the political landscape across Canada. Yes, Harper may well have written off Quebec and will let the NPD and Liberals fight it out there. Also, the Maritimes are a political dog’s breakfast, with Liberals entrenched in NL&LB and PEI.

      Harper must win his 170 seat majority (in 338 ridings) west of the Ottawa River and any MPs from the east are just icing on the cake. Interesting to note that Quebec and the Maritimes are an economic drag on the ROC (except for NL and it’s offshore oil revenue) while to the west the Conservatives have a distinct advantage.

      So the next election will be Quebec and Maritimes versus Western Canada starting at the Ottawa River. Right?

  14. Brachina says:

    The Liberals are fools if they ignore Mulcair, he’s both smarter and more experienced then Justin and in QP it shows, it will show in an election and especially in the debates. Mulcair’s body language is focused and untroubled, he’s dar more comfortable in the job of official opposition leader then Justin is as an leader of the third party.

    Mark my worlds the NDP will gain seats in 2015 and win the election.

    • Warren says:

      QP is irrelevant to all but Hill staff and some media. It could not matter less.

    • Pol-Seer says:

      “Mark my worlds the NDP will gain seats in 2015 and win the election.”

      Are you not apprehensive about the Quebec NPD losing out to the Liberals and even a rejuvenated BQ, backed up by Marois’ PQ now promoting independence actively? Surely Marois cannot accept the NPD representing Quebec in the Canadian HOCs with their corruption compromised leader Mulcair.

      The NPD will lose most of it’s MPs from Quebec is a more likely scenario as Quebecers flip over back to their BQ just to frustrate the ROC and making them the official opposition again.

      In the ROC, the NDP will have to overcome the uncomfortable reality of running with a leader from separatist Quebec. Bad bad optics!

  15. ottlib says:

    If Canadians decide they want to change the government in 2015 (2016?) they will change it.


    We have seen it before where the electorate just seems to come together to “toss the bums out” and generally agrees on a single alternative.

    Who will replace the Conservatives if that happens? I would give the Liberals the better odds for a couple of reasons.

    Canadians have traditionally trusted only the Liberals and a party with the word Conservative in it to govern this country. They have never trusted any other national party to do it. Not the NDP, not the Reform Party, not the CA Party, nor any other national party. Maybe the 2011 election is a sign that this has changed but I would not bet my house on it.

    Secondly, Mr. Mulclair is a former provincial politician who is trying to become PM. History has shown that such an outcome is elusive. I believe that if Mr. Mulclair wins the next election he will be the first former provincial politician to achieve that feat in modern Canadian history. Again, I would not bet my cottage on a victory by him.

    So if Canadians decide they want to change the government where would the Liberals make the gains to win.

    The Maritimes and Newfoundland and Labrador
    The Winnipeg Area
    The North
    The Lower Mainland.

    Of course, 2015 is a long way away so we will just have to wait and see.

  16. rumleyfips says:


    Do you mean Quebec is irrelevant because Harper can’t win there only loose seats, but not enough to influence the election? I also see Harper conceding Atlantic Canada because they are also irrelevant to his electoral plan.

    Without a Reform landslide in both Ontario and BC the seats may be a lot closer than most imagine. I can’t see a landslide in either, a fairly close split is more likely.

    With all the seats from Alberta ans Sask and a few from the Maritimes Harper would need 80 seats from Ontario and BC. This is close to 50%. This means he is depending on a bunch of mini margin sqeakers due to three way races.

  17. Pol-Seer says:

    Yes, yes, and only if the election were held yesterday for yesterday’s poll and no election campaign. So let’s imagine what weapons the Cons will unleash on the Liberals and NDP come election 2015:

    NDP Mulcair — Not Fit to Govern… Carbon Tax on Everything… Higher Personal Taxes… More Government… Separatist NPD MPs… Risky Theories… Dangerous Economic Experiments… Dutch Disease Alberta… Quebec Construction Corruption Coverup… and more.

    LPC Trudeau — Quebecers are Better than the ROC… Alberta is To Blame… No Experience… Making Quebec a Country… In Way Over His Head… PET legacy… and more.

    The CPC will promote Harper’s Economic Action Plan, his many trade treaties, enviable employment statistics, resource development, not beholden to Quebec interests, proven governing experience. Of course the opposition will try to tar him and the Cons with claims of corruption, lack of accountability and openness, favouring Western Canada over Central Canada and the Maritimes, stale government, and more.

    The differences in the campaigns will be interesting with the NDP trying to sell Mulcair as a nice and fuzzy guy while the Liberals will try to promote Trudeau as a new wave of youthfulness and hope. The Cons will also try to rest on their laurels, but they will frack Mulcair and Trudeau with personal attack ads that will be declared “bullying” by the opposition and media, no doubt.

    Political correctness and incorrectness will be pouring out in all directions. It’s gonna be a bloodbath attack campaign!

  18. JH says:

    I suspect the PM has determined again that the road to Sussex Drive does not lead through the East or Quebec. He was right on that last time and it would seem correct at the moment. He’ll take what he gets and not worry too much about the rest.
    I also suspect that his own polling (probably from Clark’s guy) is telling him to relax, that he has the numbers where he needs them. Time after time, wheather through mis-placed enthusiasm or simple arrogance the other parties have written this guy off, while whistling past the grave yard.
    WK is right, there’s reasons all 3 leaders are acting as they are, and internal polling is probably the reason.

  19. Pol-Seer says:

    Warren, here’s another problem for the declining LPC, and Trudeau must be their last and only hope in 2015.

    Brand Leadership Is Unlikely to Be Regained Once Lost


    Same applies for laundry soap and political parties; once the downhill momentum gains steam it’s all the way to the bottom!

  20. steve says:

    Or could he have something else up his sleeve?
    In light of the Snowden revelations are many questions about what the Ministry of Public Safety is doing, are they labeling opponents of the government as enemies of the state and then burying them with their secrets? But perhaps the most perplexing rumour, yet to be proven true, is that most of the bandwidth is being used to monitor babysitters in the Ottawa area?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.