07.07.2015 08:22 AM

Harper will win (updated)


One of the ads mocked Trudeau for having been a camp counselor, rafting instructor, drama teacher and boasting one of the worst attendance records in the House of Commons. “Now he thinks he can run Canada’s economy?” – it sneered over footage of Trudeau undressing and prancing around on a stage wearing a tank top.

Trudeau had run smack into the buzzsaw of the Conservative Party’s election machine — an entity that’s always on “permanent campaign” mode. To the Tories, electioneering is a year-round operation – not just started when the writ is dropped – that’s allowed Stephen Harper to win three elections in a row while mauling and belittling his opponents.

Trudeau, for example, has been a constant target of Conservative ads over the past two years, with the latest portraying fake job interviewers listing all the reasons why “He’s Just Not Ready.” And it seems to be working: the Liberals are currently languishing in the 25 per cent range.

For election consultants, the Conservatives’ success at the polls is no accident. “Harper is going to win (the next election),” predicts Warren Kinsella, former campaign strategist for Jean Chrétien and a well-known Toronto-based election consultant.

“He’s got a very efficient vote, he has a whole bunch of new seats in the British Columbia and Ontario and Alberta, and those are in ridings where he’s highly competitive. And he’s going to have the ability to motivate those voters because the quality of his research is better than the other two parties.”

On one hand, it’s no mystery why Harper has ruled the roost since 2006 despite lacking charisma or popularity: the progressive vote is split between the Liberals, NDP, Green Party and Bloc. Due to Canada’s first-past-the post electoral system, a politician can become prime minister with a mere 34 per cent of the vote – and garner a majority with just 38 per cent (the Conservatives won a majority in 2011 with less than 40 per cent).

Indeed, the Chrétien Liberals won three back-to-back majorities between 1993 and 2000 largely because the right-wing vote was split between Reform, the PC and Canadian Alliance parties. Now the same problem is bedeviling the left.

“Until the progressive side gets its act together, Harper is going to win because (the progressives) are splitting the vote,” observes Kinsella. “It’s a perfect cleavage.”

Read the whole article, which is expertly written. Do you agree or disagree?

Comment away!

UPDATE: Someone else is quoted in the article. I will not name him, but I remain immensely grateful to him for funding a large addition to one of my properties for this. That said, I have received an email from a rather extremely super senior Liberal, who says: “1. Who were the people around Ignatieff that talked about a new paradigm that suggested Ignatieff was invulnerable to attacks? 2. Who – other than Ignatieff – said he lost simply because of the attacks? 3. How does a [REDACTED] like [REDACTED] ever get taken seriously? I have nothing but contempt for Paul Martin’s minions.”


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    Matt says:

    But, but, but all those pro Justin talking heads in the MSM kept insisting those Conservative ads weren’t working, and wouldn’t ever work on Trudeau like they did on Dion and Iggy.

    There was one guy who said they would. Think his name started with a W….

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      W the K - No, not Warren says:

      Thanks Matt, but I never said that.

      This Liberal outsider, who lives in a town full of right wing talking heads, has always advised plastering every available medium with pics of, say, Dean Del Mastro and vids of, say, Skippy or The Ol’ Duff every day until election day. There is no shortage of repellant con characters.

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    doconnor says:

    This article seems like it was written is a distant political age (a few weeks ago) when the NDP wasn’t the party to beat.

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    Bill says:

    Interesting, you don’t think we’re headed for a recession either though, correct?

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    Houland Wolfe says:

    In order for Harper to “win”, it has to be a majority through 38% support. Anything below that, he’s in a minority and he’s out. Is it too soon to consider what cabinet post for Justin in a Mulcair government? He’ll want something substantive. I’d keep him out of Finance, but maybe Foreign Affairs is do-able. That way, any of his mistakes can be fixed quickly.

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      Houland Wolfe says:

      SPOILER ALERT: THOUGHT EXPERIMENT. Further to my suggestion that Justin gets Foreign Affairs and not Finance, in order to keep him on a short leash, perhaps the two political parties, as we enter the beginning of the end of the pre-election period, should be sharing their views on the Middle East. The NDP has many anti-Israelists and I know why. However, his wife is a Jew, if not an Israeli, so Mulcair cannot and will not be extreme in his views. Similarly, JT is pro-Israeli but surely as not as bellicose as the Prime Minister. This may opportune a mutual pact where the two parties can say we agree with each other and against Harper, e.g., now is the time for Iran and Saudi Arabia to begin face-to-face talks on how to reduce Sunni-Shia discord. I know, I am an unrelenting optimist.

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    cgh says:

    Divided politics is a huge factor. Exactly that was on display in Alberta with WR and PCs splitting the right wing vote. Rest of the article is pretty good, particularly the sour grapes from Scott Reid. After his adventures with Martin, he has a lot to atone for.

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      Michael Bluth says:

      Reid only proved that he has no grasp of Canadian political history with this comment. “They are unusual in Canadian political history… in that they are dismissive of those who are not part of their base, or their potential coalition,” observes Reid.

      Wasn’t it Keith Davey who said “Screw the west we’ll take the rest”?

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    Etienne says:

    I agree: I think Harper will win the most seats, but will fall short of a majority. A minority government, for Harper, will be considered a fail. He may have to resign. That’s a win that’s also a loss. Reason: the Conservatives need to be very lucky with the Lib-NDP vote splits to get the needed seats with the level of support they will have. It’ll go up as the election draws near, but not high enough to win on their own.

    I expect Mulcair will largely hold what he has, enough to remain opposition leader. That’s a win that’s also a loss, considering the opportunity he currently has to take the whole cake. Reason: with the ballot in hand, many voters will be afraid of change, of something new and untested, a federal NDP government. But they might get the next one, and it could come on short order.

    Trudeau will increase his seat count quite a bit. He’s got so few right now. It’s a loss that’s also a win. Reason: it’s a lot to ask to go from third to first in one go. He soared so high for so long, expectations where out of whack. But election over election, he’ll have done well. Gave his party a chance and grew as a leader. If he can manage to stick around for another election, that’s a big plus for a party in dire need of some stability. Those attack ads may not stick as well the second time around.

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      GFMD says:

      A Harper minority is almost certainly really a Liberal or NDP minority this time.

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    davie says:

    Could be that the 2006 election result was tipped from a Liberal minority government to a Conservative minority government by interference (done with impunity) by upper echelons of the RCMP, with willing cooperation by an NDP candidate.

    Could be that the 2008 election was decided by gulling enough voters into thinking that we actually elect one governor, and that coalitions are illegal coups, subverting democracy, in our Westminster style parliament. (Could be, too, that a tv newsman trading the airing of an interview clip in return for a senate appointment helped defeat the opposition party.)

    2011 election? Yeah their years of power and tax payer funded info controls probably won that one for them.

    But, right, the Conservative propaganda machine is pretty pervasive, top to bottom, Madison Avenue marketing at its best. The group that owns this party and its leadership has been well served.

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      John from Saskatoon says:

      You’re a whiny bitch Davie.

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        davie says:

        Oh yeah…Oh yeah…well…you’re from Saskatoon.

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    Danny Aldham says:

    Agree. 100%. The people who hate Harper are all surrounded by similar hate Harper people. They are so sure that they are the vast majority that they think they will walk to a majority government. But they will split their vote 2 or 3 or 4 ways. The CPC vote is efficient. And the 30 new ridings are mostly leaning Conservative. On election night the haters will run into a glass wall and end up on their asses.
    It is a great article and everyone should read it.

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      doconnor says:

      People keep saying the Conservatives are efficient should look at the current numbers to see it isn’t efficient enough at current levels.

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      GFMD says:

      All those new Ontario ridings have voted Liberal in every chance they’ve been given since 2011.

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    Purple Library Guy says:

    Seems to me Trudeau’s slide started before the latest round of negative ads and doesn’t have much to do with them. The first bunch may have been involved in some way, but Trudeau’s honeymoon kept on for some time after they aired and they were mocked at the time. I think the general impressions Trudeau has given off since have perhaps allowed misgivings from those early ads to linger in people’s minds. His tendency on one hand to avoid serious policy pronouncements and on the other to sometimes shoot from the hip and then need to backtrack have not undermined feelings that he’s a lightweight. Then C-51 hit and he looked bad next to Mulcair.
    Aside from that, Trudeau has lost less because of his own failures than because of the NDP’s success. The NDP has gained support lately what with the Alberta win, Mulcair looking good on C-51 and so on, and where are they going to get it but the Liberals?
    But I’m not sure if any of it matters. Harper has a certain core level of support, and normally there’s no way that will drain off to either the Liberals or NDP. At the same time most committed NDP and Liberal supporters hate Harper and everything he stands for with a passion directly proportional to how much they’ve been paying attention. Harper attack ads might be able to make support seesaw between Libs and NDP, but they won’t pull any to the Conservatives (and are likely to produce at least some backlash against them).
    But Harper’s committed core isn’t enough to re-elect him. It doesn’t matter how the splits go as long as the undecideds and weakly attached mainly break away from Harper, which is an outcome definitely within reach. So my position is that if you’re not a Conservative, make sure you vote, and vote for whoever you want. However, if you care about the vote-splitting, at the moment there would be a simple answer to it: Vote NDP. Harper has very little on Mulcair, Mulcair is better able to battle Harper than Trudeau is, and the NDP is higher in the polls so continuing to boost them would reduce vote-splitting. Note that I’m not actually suggesting this, I think it’ll be fine if we all vote our conscience and campaign hard, with an emphasis on sticking it to the Cons. But IF you’re worried about it, THEN your course of action is clear.

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      gyor says:

      I don’t think the CPC’s core is as solid as it used to be, people used to say the CPC core was 30%, but they’ve been under 30% for over a month now in lots of polls, and they’re growth prospects have dropped like a stone, and a fair sized chunk of the remaining core are open to voting for other parties.

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    Ronald O'Dowd says:


    As a former federal Conservative, I make it my business to talk to as many CPC supporters as I can.

    I’m generally hearing from these supporters (not necessarily party members) that they are sick of Harper. However, the question remains: will they actually get out and vote against Harper’s government???

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      Purple Library Guy says:

      Those disillusioned Conservatives . . . will they go out and vote against Harper? Probably not. Will they feel like making an effort to go out and vote FOR Harper? Probably not that either. Could depress the Conservative vote.

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        cynical says:

        So maybe there’s your target for negative ads. It’s not like there isn’t rich source material. As mentioned above, a 15-second clip of Deano, first as the PM’s bum boy and then in cuffs. Hardly needs a sound track.

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    Purple Library Guy says:

    The article spends a lot of time looking at the Conservatives’ sophisticated “hypersegmentation”, their narrowcasting techniques for extreme retail politics, where you pitch very specific messages to voters based on your sophisticated databases about them. This has proven itself in past elections, and certainly has done well in the United States. But I think it is ultimately a technique with serious limitations, which is adopted by parties like the Conservatives mainly because it’s something you can do with money and money is something they have, and because some other approaches are effectively not available to them.
    Hypersegmentation basically assumes that there’s nothing that important politically going on, and that the party doing it (and ideally all the other parties) don’t have any really big messages. It would, to take an extreme case, be utterly useless in Greece right now. You could tailor boutique messages to individual voters until the cows came home, and no Greek would vote for you unless they bought your core message on what to do about the austerity and debt mess. And broad movements of the electorate based on the general atmosphere swamp any impressions you could create with little cleverly tailored mailings. The technique works very well in the states because there are only two parties and both of them have basically pledged not to do anything important when they’re in office if they can possibly avoid it. So the question is, does Canada look more like the states, with no really serious issues that concern the electorate as a whole getting in the way of people voting based on fiddly targeted policies and narrow messages? Or does it look more like Greece, with big politics about big society-shaking questions overwhelming the narrowcasting?
    Well, I’d have to say it looks somewhat more like the United States. But not completely, and maybe not enough. I think there’s enough real politics, enough room for bigger policies with broader appeal and impact, and enough bigger shifts in voting patterns (as seen in Alberta for instance), to somewhat blunt the effectiveness of the hypersegmentation approach.

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    Purple Library Guy says:

    Ah, yes, sorry to go on: Just forgot to say that one reason the Conservatives emphasize this narrowcasting approach is that they have no intention of ever doing anything to benefit the majority of Canadians, so it’s hard for them to campaign based on a broader appeal. Everything looks like a nail because they don’t have a chainsaw.

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    Ridiculosity says:

    I don’t think so, kids.

    Every Conservative voter I have spoken to in the last couple of years says they’ve had enough of Harper. (And most of these folks have been life long Con voters.)

    Age range? 28-77.

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    Kelly says:

    I think the article is largely clickbait. There are so many variables yet to fully impact the election…

    **We’re basically back in recession. You’d think a “trained economist” would have been prepared for that. (Oh wait…Harper isn’t an economist…expect plenty of ads reminding everyone)
    **Mike Duffy is just getting warmed up. He will relish wrecking Harper. The best is yet to come, at the worst possible time. Bet the farm on it.
    **The NDP hasn’t really started their communications program yet, but will soon. In the meantime they have 3rd parties working for them, albeit with less than stellar advertising
    **Mulcair is very well spoken and knows how to articulate the fact that the conservatives aren’t really conservative — they’re phonies. (They love sending kids to war but hate them once they’re vets; they “balance the budget” by losing $3-billion on GM shares; they claim to like the market but impose cloying regulations instead of simpler price based mechanisms to lower carbon pollution; they rail against foreign funded environmentalists, yet sell out Alberta’s oil to a communist run state owned oil company from China; they recently had a minister of employment and social development who is a college drop-out and has never had a job other than as a lobbyist or politician (and was widely laughed at by professionals in the social development sector)
    **They have a habit of recruiting and appointing criminals
    **A one of our planes could accidentally blow up a school or wedding party or something in the so-called fight against ISIS
    **A large number of people really want to see them turfed and vote splitting has been an issue in the news for the last 2 years and it will be in the news more and more. If Mulcair is smart — and he is — he will do whatever he can to remind people about vote splitting and that if your really really want to fire Harper hold your nose and vote NDP, even if it’s just this once.
    **The programs they have brought in to target families and seniors can be made much better and much more generous by the NDP and the revenue recovered by ending corporate welfare, closing loopholes and going after tax cheats and the top 8% of income earners (more money for single moms in Saskatoon and less for the cast of The Housewives of Vancouver).

    And more…and more…

    That being said, yes the Cons have skills and yes the new riding map will benefit them — probably more than anything else — but this thing is very much up in the air.

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      John from Saskatoon says:

      You’re funny Kelly. I was gonna watch some Big Bang Theory but my cheeks already hurt from laughing.

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    Don Wilson says:

    The current (July 7) Threehundredeight.com polling averages have the NDP @ 32.1%, the Cons @ 28.4% and the Libs @27.3% and all the other parties have about 11% total. If these numbers continue to hold, and the Conservatives panic, expect a very clever and well-staged “terrorist incident” with national media profile to unfold within 3 weeks of the election date. The anti-terrorism file is Harper’s strongest suit. Expect him to play his Royal Straight Flush in desperation if the NDP lead holds. All that being said, I agree with Warren that the Liberals are toast, thanks to the brutally inept handling of their policy statements and their selection of a media image rather than a serious contender as their leadership candidate. I voted for Joyce Murray, way back when….beautiful loser indeed.

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      Michael Bluth says:

      You actually think the Conservatives will stage a terrorist incident? Killing/injuring Canadians just to win the election?

      What kind of tin foil do you use in making your hat?

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        Don Wilson says:

        Michael, the Pentagon declared that lack of imagination on the part of the US intel community was one of the reasons why the 9-11 attacks happened wihout apparent warning. Suicide pilots flying commercial jets into buildings just was not on anyone’s radar. The Conservatives would not have to kill or injure anyone. But they could construct a very impressive scare that would attract lots of eyeballs and sway a few votes. Use your imagination.

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    Domenico says:

    FPTP systems tend to create majority governments. But with Harper sitting below 30% it is hard to see him getting enough out of another fear and smear campaign to get over the top. Harper can’t run on his record for obvious reasons, and trying to hide the t.v. debates in the age of Youtube will not help. The campaign will determine who the center left vote coalesces around.

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    Tom Joad says:

    I think it is too early to rule out an Orange Crush federally. The economy is languishing, Harper’s bled away a slew of cabinet ministers, and “those bums have been in power too long” is a mood I sense. I think Mulcair will be a better than fair match during the debates. Harper’s days are numbered and it’s a number of weeks now, not years.

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    davie says:

    Small point that might have an unexpected impact on voters this fall is that here in Western Canada our hot, dry, fiery, and very smoky summer is just beginning.

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    Tom Joad says:

    It is too early to rule out Mulcair.

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      DJ says:

      Exactly! The Cons didn’t see Mulcair’s rise coming. They’re now struggling to respond to his lead. His success wasn’t part of the plan. Pundits need to reassess the situation too. A Harper win is hardly a sure thing.

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    Ropshin says:

    Someone speculated that in an NDP led coalition Justim would be offered Minister of Foreign Affairs.
    It is more likely he will get Minister of Amateur Sport.

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      Ridiculosity says:


      You should be embarrassed by that infantile comment.

      And just for the record, his first name is Justin.

      Write it down. And then repeat it to yourself over and over.

      You’ll be seeing it a lot in the coming months.

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    Al in Cranbrook says:

    Remarkable how short memories are, particularly with respect to the article.

    The Liberals’ campaigns against the Reform Party, the Canadian Alliance, and then the CPC were, in a word, vicious. Want to talk about campaigning on fear? The LPC wrote the book on it! Nothing was too over the top with which to hang around Manning’s, Day’s, and the Harper’s neck. The last two run by the Martin camp were ruthless in the extreme! And the campaign that finally defeated Paul Martin was, by any measure worth considering, brilliant. All Harper has done is learn his lessons well, and then beat the Liberals at their own game.

    Mulcair has pretty much had a free ride for the last couple years.

    It’s a safe prediction that’s about to end.

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    DJ says:

    Win? Where is the evidence that the CPC is even close to a majority? They are third in one recent poll. The NDP is in the lead. Time to face that. Mulcair is experienced and tough. The “not ready” stuff won’t work on him.

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    Ropshin says:

    Ridiculosity, the highest post either Stephane Dion or Bob Rae entrusted to Justin was critic for amateur sport. Despite a very diminished caucus they would not give him anything more consequential because they, like a growing majority of the electorate, sized him up as a lightweight.
    It is no coincidence that polls show he is now running behind his flagging party and it is very possible that he may drag them down to a worse result than in 2011.

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