Musings —06.08.2013 06:39 PM—
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.