Musings —02.22.2014 06:30 PM—
Dear Liberal Delegates:
Sorry, but I couldn’t be there with you in Montreal. Son Two has a lot of hockey, this weekend, and he comes first. So, gratis, I thought I would pen you a note about 2015.
Because, after all, an election is indeed happening next year. (Unless Stephen Harper suspends the Constitution, that is, and I wouldn’t put it past him.)
Between smoked meat sandwiches, ask yourself this question: does the Conservative Party look scared, about the 2015 election?
I don’t think so, either. In fact, the Reformatories seem positively placid about the coming Grit-Tory confrontation. And, make no mistake: the 2015 election will be principally a contest between Justin and Stephen. And here are three suggestions why Harper isn’t (yet) worried about that.
One: Harper wins when progressives split the vote. While his core vote is smaller – and white, and angry, and male – it is a highly mobilized constituency. His devotees, conservative to the core, can always be counted on to vote. Progressives, not so much.
Since Jean Chretien left town – and since Harper stitched together the warring factions of the right in 2004 – his main electoral strategy has been to keep the Liberal and New Democratic parties at each other’s throats, and lazy progressive voters at home. It’s worked.
So you can expect to see Harper doing all that he can to split, and suppress, the progressive vote between now and Election Day.
Two: there are 30 new Commons seats up for grabs in 2015, mainly in places where the Canadian population has grown – Ontario, Alberta and B.C. According to no less than Elections Canada itself, the Conservative Party is most likely to win as many as 22 of them.
If you superimpose the 2011 popular vote on those new seats, the Conservative majority surges – giving them close to a 20-seat majority, more than double the buffer they currently enjoy. All of those seats are located in areas where the Cons remain strong, namely Alberta and suburban Ontario. If you want to prevail, Grit delegates, you also need to start crafting messages aimed at seizing the affections of the consumer-and-commuter class. Harper presently owns that vote.
Three: in 2000, Jean Chretien won a big majority – it was in all the papers. He didn’t do that because a creationist Stockwell Day believed that the Flintstones was a documentary. Chretien won by turning the election campaign into a referendum on what to do with his budgetary surplus. Invest in infrastructure and health care? Or give a flat tax to the rich, and privatize health care, as Day preferred?
Expect the crafty Stephen Harper to trumpet the fact that his team wrestled the deficit to the ground. Expect him to offer a budgetary buffet of tax cuts and measures to make life more affordable. Liberals, meanwhile, will be characterized as the party that has no economic plan. The party that is obsessed with trivial stuff.
Resolutions about legalizing pot, prostitution and assisted suicide are a big deal to some constituencies, sure. To most Canadians, however, they just aren’t. Harper’s objective, then, will be to convince voters that only his is the party of the economy – and that the Grits are the party who want to fritter away the surplus on things that don’t matter.
Harper will continue to toy with you, Liberal delegates. He – the guy who spent $1.2 million to send his limousines to India – will try and get you distracted with smears, like retired general Andrew Leslie’s moving costs.
Don’t be distracted. To win, you need to keep a laser-like focus on the economy. You need to elbow out the NDP, and capture the bulk of the progressive vote. And you need to develop a strategy to prevent the Cons from gobbling up those 30 new Commons seats.
Now, back to the rink. Politics is fun, but hockey comes first.
This is Canada, after all.