10.19.2015 12:00 AM

KCCCC Day 77: the last day!

This week’s Hill times column, below. Now go vote!

And so it ends, with a whimper and not a bang.

Well, sort of. The whimpers are emanating from us, the electorate, having been forced to endure nearly 80 days of electioneering. If there is a bang, however, it will come a bit later, in the form of leadership changes. Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair are almost certainly going to move on (because neither met expectations). And Justin Trudeau is sticking around for the foreseeable future, however (because he greatly exceeded everyone’s expectations – mine included).

It all began, a long time ago and in a galaxy far away, with Harper’s flawless launch, in which he looked “relaxed, forceful and confident,” as one media report put it. The guy had done a few of these things, and it showed.

Justin Trudeau, however, had a Day One that was a bit of a debacle – instead of being where the media were, Trudeau was in a plane four miles up, eating pretzels. Being AWOL for the first part of the news cycle on the campaign’s most important day was ill-advised – and going all the way out for Pride was not particularly strategic, either, given that Hedy Fry had owned Vancouver Centre for two decades, and was in no danger of losing it, ever.

Portentously, Angry Tom had the worst start of all. No questions from the media? No debate after agreeing to debate? No events for five days straight, and “conspicuous by his absence,” as CTV put it? At first, Dipper partisans defended the no-questions idiocy – and then, when they realized they were in trouble, they fibbed, and claimed Mulcair had to rush out to attend Flora MacDonald’s funeral (the funeral was hours later, and within walking distance of the NDP campaign launch event).

At first, the Dips defended the no-events-for-five days thing, too – until it dawned on them that it looked arrogant, and suggested that NDP senior staff were worried about Angry Tom getting Angry, and making a mistake. So they hurriedly threw a Montreal event on the sked.

All told, it foretold what was to come: it suggested that the NDP leader, after arrogantly declaring that he would “wipe the floor” with his opponents, wouldn’t. And he didn’t. His opponents – Trudeau in particular – would end up wiping the floor with him.

In the days that followed, there was plenty in Election 42 about which the electorate could be unenthusiastic – the niqab ugliness, the Duffy trial, the resignation of the Liberal co-chair, the length of the thing, the truly pathetic effort all the parties put into vetting their candidates.

Ah, yes, the candidates: so many were so nutty. Nuttier than a fruit cake. Nuttier than a Tim’s Maple Log. Nuttier than a port-a-potty at a peanut festival. Nuttier than a Trump-Palin ticket. NUTTY. That’s how nutty Election 42 was.

It wasn’t the fault of social media. Social media simply provides a platform for crazy people to say crazy things – and for campaign war rooms, or the media, to thereafter publicize the craziness. (It’s been nutty in past campaigns, believe me.) But the sheer volume of insanity and inanity in this year’s model simply dwarfs everything that has gone before it: truthers. Hitler comparisons. Racists. Anti-Semites. Threats. Stalkers. And even a guy who peed in a cup when he thought no one was looking. It was appalling.

The Mike Duffy trial, as some of us predicted, was a great big deal to those who live and toil North of the Queensway – but not out in the Real World. Headlines suggesting that politicians abuse expense accounts may still be news in the Nation’s Capital, but not anywhere else in Canuckistan. No one really cared. It didn’t matter.

What did matter, however, was that Conservative Party “just not ready” ad. It was brilliant, it was deadly. And it proved to be effective – too effective.

Let us explain. That ad – which the Tories paid untold millions to place everywhere (including even this Liberal’s web site, presumably because it attracts 3.5 million politically-inclined visitors a year!) – was endlessly analyzed and repeatedly seen. And it worked: it helped drag Justin Trudeau from the lofty polling heights he’d been occupying for two years. It hurt him.

But, paradoxically, it also helped him. As a certain former Prime Minister told me: “It lowered expectations too far. When Justin showed up the debates, he had nowhere to go but up.”

And go up he did. Expertly assisted by his personal pocket computer, Gerald Butts, Trudeau started to win. He didn’t win every debate in which he participated, mind you. But “Just Not Ready” had persuaded everyone that he would certainly lose every debate, that he would be an unmitigated disaster. And he didn’t lose every debate – and he wasn’t a disaster.

The hijacking of the campaign with a piece of fabric – the niqab – was, as noted, ugly. It had the desired effect, too: it changed the channel to a “values” proposition, and conservatives always do better talking about values than we progressives. Case in point: the now-lifeless form of Tom Mulcair. He courageously voiced his support for the niqab in citizenship ceremonies, even when he knew it would cost him dearly in his base, his home province.

When it did, Trudeau was the beneficiary, not Harper. The niqab precipitated Mulcair plummeting in the polls. In a cruel twist of fate, the niqab rendered Justin Trudeau the Anybody But Harper candidate, not Mulcair. Moral of the story: be careful, conservatives, when you let an ugly dog loose in the yard. It may bite your opponent, sure. But it may end up biting you, too.

And that’s what Election 42 was, in the end: too long, too nutty, too ugly. Here’s hoping Election 43 will be better.

Because Election 43 – I am sad to report – is likely coming our way in months, not years!



  1. Ridiculosity says:

    I disagree, my friend.

    I think this one’s going to end with a bang. Definitely not a whimper.

  2. Brace Ourselves says:

    Get ready for a “college dorm party” with the national treasury.

  3. Jim Curran says:

    I hope you caught that typo at the end line.

  4. Lance says:

    I’ve enjoyed every blog post immensely the past two month (and in general) electoral season, and no matter the party affiliation, have appreciated all of your posts. No matter what the result is of this election is, we are ALL the winners because we live in Canada and are able to do this. And though I didn’t vote for Trudeau, if he wins, he deserves our support because he represents ALL of us, even the people who didn’t vote for him, and because of that, I would wish himwell. 🙂

  5. Kevin T. says:

    Was no one paying attention to the Trudeau-Brazeau fight? The Cons and NDP could’ve learned if they had really paid attention to who their real opponent was, not a figment of their creation. Trudeau’s strength was being underestimated, time and time again, but he was ready and prepared.
    Beautiful Monday indeed, but I’ll still cross my fingers.

  6. Matt says:

    Election 43, not 42 might be coming in months.

    This thing is going to come down to three things:

    1) The parties GOTV
    2) The parties GOTV
    3) The parties GOTV

    680 News in Toronto has a reporter at Union Station this morning asking commuters what their priotity is – the election or the Jays. So far, every clip they’ve aired is “Blue Jays over ballot box”

    If you get a chance find John Oliver’s show from last night on youtube. He spent 15 minutes talking about the election “Canada, thinking 78 days is a long campaign is absolutely adorable”.

    • Nicole says:

      The clips of people passing out behind Harper’s speechifying were hilarious (as long as no one was seriously hurt)

  7. Will B says:

    I think it will end with a bang. Ekos, Mainstreet are now predicting possible Liberal majority. As of 10pm last night, Nanos has the Liberals at over 39%.

  8. Shaun says:

    Harper’s electoral demise, if indeed it comes, is just about the best thing that could happen for a lot of Conservatives, even if some can’t appreciate it now. There are some intelligent, progressive voices in the Conservative party that may be able to resonate with a majority of Canadians in a way that Harper never could, but they will need some time to get the stink off of them and regroup.

    That being said, if the Liberals and NDP hold power long enough to institute any sort of electoral reform, if may be in the best interests of conservatives to disunite the right. This iteration of the Conservative Party would probably not do well outside the confines of FPTP.

    • Vancouverois says:

      I don’t agree that the Conservative party needs to become more “progressive”. Just less corrupt.

      However, it is very true that Harper deserves credit for facing the electorate, and letting the upcoming defeat (if it is indeed a defeat) hang on himself, so the next leader can start truly fresh.

      • Dave says:

        You make it sound almost altruistic of Harper to take the fall so the next guy has a clean slate. That’s simply nonsense imo. Harper fully expected (expects) to win today; his ego would allow him no other consideration.

  9. Karl Littler says:

    So, I’ll go out on a bit of a limb. I expect to see the first regionally-balanced,
    seats-in-every-province, majority Liberal win against a united Conservative
    party since 1953,

  10. I think we’re going to see a Liberal majority. It feels a lot like 1993 all over again.

    I also want to thank you for this fantastic blog coverage of the election. You hit important points the mainstream media didn’t touch on and the frank, no BS take on each day’s events was a breath of fresh air. Thank you again!

    • The Doctor says:

      I’ve been thinking of 1993 too. Another similarity is that at some point late in a term, some Canadians get so upset at the government and its leader that the atmosphere gets poisonous. And it’s like everything the government/leader does is seen in a negative light. I think with the Liberals in power, Canadians are actually going to think about and really face some tough policy choices, rather than just hating Harper’s guts and automatically opposing everything he does or proposes.

      Three shining examples of this post-1993 were deficit reduction, GST and free trade, which a lot of progs and Liberals just reflexively opposed because Mulroney proposed them. With the Tories gone, a lot of Canadians (including, of course, the Liberals) had to grow up a bit, stop their reflexive whining and actually make some tough policy decisions. I can see things like pipelines, carbon taxes and aboriginal policy playing similar roles this time out.

  11. Paul Raposo says:

    I wonder if Stephen Harper is regretting calling such a long election; it seemed to work to his disadvantage. But it’s only 9AM and this is going to be a long day. Anything can happen.

    • Reality.Bites says:

      I’d like to think the only think in his career Harper doesn’t end up regretting is when he phoned Warren.

      And I’d like to see a leadership race so divisive and the results so disastrous that they go down to third-party status after the next election.

  12. chuckercanuck says:

    I’d echo Lance’s sentiments: I’m very sad that the end of Pax Harpernia is near. I think PM Harper has been, on balance, a fantastic PM. I’m proud to have (including today) supported him. I think history will treat him kindly.

    But all good things come to an end. The Liberals won the campaign fair and square. Trudeau has been terrific at what he does. I can’t picture myself ever voting for him but that doesn’t mean I don’t hope he does a good job.

    This morning, I started thinking about who would replace Harper as Tory leader. Wow, my mind went blank. Can’t think of anyone who interests me at this point.

  13. Ziggy J. says:

    numerical error in last sentence.

  14. Hawaii Five Oh says:

    Trudeau , Wynne tag team of terror if polls are right.
    every Ontario teacher will retire to their own Caribbean island
    … run don’t walk

  15. MF says:

    Looking at the polls, I’m worried that it won’t be a few months. I’m worried that it will be 4 years.

    It depends how big the collapse of the NDP is. I don’t see them getting more than ~60 seats. If they drop a bit more, we could end up with a majority.

    It’s not 1993. The Conservatives will be fine.

  16. KBab says:

    It is autumn in Canada.

    Red and Orange all over.

  17. Dawn says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for your efforts. I didn’t always agree with your analysis, but I respected it.

  18. Doug says:

    My Dad and I just voted, moderate amount people at the polls considering the late opening time.

    I think we have a strong Liberal minority on our hands, something like 155-165 seats. Yeah some late polls had them in majority territory but weekend polling hasn’t been kind to the CPC throughout the campaign and older people do turnout to vote(I was the 2nd youngest person at my polling station at 31 years old).

    CPC likely saves their rural base aside from in Nova Scotia and win a few popular incumbent seats in smallish cities. Moderate gains for them in Quebec will help balance a few losses. Whoever they choose as their next leader will be VERY important to Canadian politics moving forward, do they go the Kenney route? Or someone else like a Charest a Raitt etc…

    Bloc survives with a handful of seats similar to 2011, I guess that’s good for them considering they were facing annihilation five-six weeks ago. They’ll hang around and hope Trudeau does something that really alienates Quebec in the next couple of years.

    NDP are the big losers, I think they’ll only keep core NDP ridings(Hamilton, Windsor, BC ridings…et al) and a few of their Quebec seats based on weird vote splits. They’ll ditch Mulcair and it won’t help, their Quebec support will plunge even further and they’ll be back at around 15% in the polls like they were 15 years ago.

  19. Maps Onburt says:

    I predict that in three years, we won’t be able to find anyone who will admit to voting Liberal except the traditional die hards. This isn’t going to end well – of course they will blame everything on Harper.

    • Cory says:

      I’m looking forward to all the “progressive” voters complaining that the majority of voters didn’t vote for PM Trudeau….ya right.

  20. Joe says:

    I won’t do any predictions but I will express my amazement/dismay at the campaign just over. I can’t think of an election I have watched that has had so much unhinged nonsensical hatred and misinformation being spewed by voters. Have we as a nation gone that far down in civility and decorum?

  21. Jason Smith says:

    Much has been made about Stephen Harper’s political skills, but I just don’t see it:

    Harper has been around since 2003 when he took over the Canadian Alliance. In that time we have had 4 elections with the 5th one today. At best he will win a tiny minority today. At worst he loses to a majority. Harper will have won 1 majority in a decade. One. Despite having skills many advantages such as:
    -No other right of centre party to siphon votes, but a Liberal party that ran each time on a more leftist platform and an NDP that became more mainstream under Layton and Mulcair.

    -Opponents with little national political profile including Trudeau, who hadn’t run for dog catcher before coming to parliament, Stephane Dion who was a cabinet Minister but that we’ll known in the west and peaked in his profile about a decade before his leadership, and Ignatiefff who hadn’t lives in Canada for decades; and NDP leaders like Layton who was a city councillor and Mulcair, a Quebec Minister.

    -A majority in 2011 which gave him 4 years to enact any legitimate he wanted to appeal to voters and expand the 30 percent that makes up the Conservative base.

    -New fundraising laws that benefitted the Conservatives, as their model was really member based donations and the other parties, particularly the Liberals had to catch up.

    -A Bloc Quebecois, a party originally made up of many Conservatives (and yes some Liberals) losing strength, leaving room for Conservative gains in Quebec.

    -A period of recovery globally someone the last recession. As well, Harper to his credit has been some once mart enough to use the recession as an excuse for everything poor economically, but this time around that does not seem to be translating into votes.

    -The greatest support among ethnic voters any Right wing party in the western world has, thanksto the work of his Minister Jason Kenney.

    -A media that, contrary to popular Conservative belief, has many Harper supporters. Every Sun Newspaper is a Conservative propaganda machine for the most part. Every Postmedia newspaper has a Conservative (large C) as its president and has endorsed Harper every time. There was even a right wing news network on TV run by a Harper staffer at one time. Furthermore, columnists have written extensively on something called “Harper Derangement Syndrome.” Thus, any criticism of this Prime Minister is boiled down to a meme in which the critic is said to have a mental illness. Disagree with taking the GST from 7 to 5 percent? You must be “deranged!”

    No other cemocratically elected leader enjoys that type of protection from criticism.

    -Another advantage is that Harper has had a regional lock in the Prairies and Rural Ontario. This is a fast growing region that got many seats additionally, and he also is strong in BC outside of Metro Vancouver. He had never had the political skill to build on this base outside of these regions except in 2011 running g against one of the weakest Federal Leaders we have ever seen, Michael Ignatiefff, and Jack Layton, an urban city councillor.

    Despite all these advantages, all Harper had to do was BUILD upon that 30 percent base. Get more women, more ethnic voters and young urbanites. Get more support to re elect a Majority like Chretien did thrice, Mulroney did twice, Trudeau do etc.

    He had one majority term. No matter what happens tonight.

    He will go down in history as one of the most polarizing PMs ever. Almost like a Canadian George W. Bush.

    • Jason Smith says:

      Sorry about the typos wrote it on the train on a tint cellphone screen.

      • JC says:

        But you could say much the same about Chretien – he only won in 93 because the PCs imploded, and it was the divide on the right that allowed for his victories in 97 & 00. However, I don’t think anyone would suggest that Chretien lacked political skills. It’s one thing to be given an opportunity to succeed, it is something else entirely to take advantage of the opportunity (case in point: the dumpster fire of an NDP campaign this election – the greatest opportunity in the party’s history, and they completely blew it).

        • Vancouverois says:

          Exactly. Harper also had to keep together a recently-reunited Conservative party where the division had been bitter, and many of the wounds were still fresh. Not an easy task. (I suppose Chrétien also faced internal divisions, though not quite as badly. But then, I’m not familiar with the Liberal party’s internal culture.)

  22. MF says:

    I still don’t understand how the niqab thing caused votes to move from Mulcair to Trudeau. I didn’t follow the issue that closely. Can somebody explain that one to me? Didn’t Trudeau have the same position as Mulcair?

    • doconnor says:

      Maybe its the Niqab cause votes to move from the NDP to the Conservatives and Bloc in Quebec which cause the NDP to drop nationally which caused the Liberals to appear to be the ABC party which caused more and more votes to move from the NDP to the Liberals.

      • Cory says:

        That’s exactly what I think happened.

        • Marc says:

          Yep. The NDP’s good national numbers were buoyed by them absolutely killin it in Québec. Once Québec dropped, so did their overall number and the perception of front runner status. If you look at their current polling numbers, their ROC numbers are like mid 2000s levels – abysmal.

  23. fred says:

    I’m an old man, and I voted for Trudeau. Bye, bye Stevie.

  24. Wayne says:

    To all the above saying it feels like the 1993 election, I disagree, it feels more like 1979 to me. I think Trudeau will become PM of a minority government much like Clark did back then and will not last very long, both the CPC and the NDP do not like him. How long, I do not know. Now will Harper have his “walk in the snow” much like PET did?

    • Vancouverois says:

      That’s one possible scenario. A Liberal minority might last longer, however — more like the Marois government in Quebec.

  25. littlemissbliss says:

    You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
    ― Dr. Seuss

    also. I really miss Mordecai on days like this. No one else even close.

    I coined the term “church of perpetual stupidity” until I realized the acronym was cops. so as rick perry once said.. oops :0

  26. Majority or Minority? says:

    “Because Election 43 – I am sad to report – is likely coming our way in months, not years!” Come clean, WK. What do you know that we don’t? Or is this a prediction based on the same polls available to the rest of us?

  27. Ironisle says:

    For what it is worth, you say the Duffy affair doesn’t matter outside of Ottawa ;in my travels this summer I believe it did. Not of and in itself, but it becomes cumulative, a number of little things that build up that become the staw etc etc etc!

  28. John says:

    How is it possible that Trudeau can start to win after he announces he will run a deficit? How is it possible that Canadians can believe that they are in a time of austerity? I cannot believe it.

  29. Election 43 will be interesting…

  30. Mike says:

    As a Liberal I can say unequivocally we have already won. Regardless of how the seat totals come out at the end of the night.

    In 2011 I read many obituaries of the Liberal Party. Stephen Harper had crafted the unbeatable coalition and the CPC was set to be the natural governing party from here on in. The Liberal Party of Canada was suppose to go the way of the UK Liberal Party, the NDP was the new Labour. We were going to see a clear battle between left and right, between the CPC and the NDP. The only solace I found at that time were my memories of 1984. Those same stories had been written when the Liberals had fallen to their previous historic low of 40 seats, and Brian Mulroney had crafted the unbeatable coalition.

    It appears that the reports of my parties death have been greatly exaggerated.

    I am honestly surprised at the speed of the turn around. In 2011 I really did expect to see an NDP federal government before I saw another Liberal one. A lot, but not all of the turn around can be attributed to Justin. There were many people from Bob Rae who kept the party relevant as interim leader, Mike Crawley who started the organizational overhaul of the party.

    This next paragraph is so sweet to write because it is going to make conservative heads explode. Last but certainly not least, the Liberal Party of Canada owes a tremendous debt to Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberal Party. If Trudeau wins his victory will be anchored in Ontario. Not only did she go all in and campaign for Trudeau, she gave Trudeau the organizational strength of the OLP machine to campaign and GOTV..

    • Cory says:

      IMO, the federal Liberal party and the OLP are now one and the same. That may come back to bite them.

      What I think people are failing to recognize is that despite throwing everything at Harper he’s still around 30% which is remarkable. As others have pointed out the conservatives historically have fallen apart at the end of their time in power.

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