For a bunch of people who should be panicking, they sure don’t look panicked.
The Conservative Party, that is.
For more than a year now, the Conservative Party of Canada has been eating Justin Trudeau’s dust.
Dozens of polls have shown them to be slightly behind, or really behind, the revitalized Liberal Party. Dozens of polls have made clear that Canadians want Justin Trudeau to be prime minister, not Stephen Harper. And yes, sure, polls have been pretty unreliable recently.
Take a look at the big poll released by Ekos this week. For Conservatives, it was like a double root canal, without novocaine. It was like a two-week Justin Bieber Music Festival. It was like…well, you get the idea.
“This poll reinforces the notion that the now profound lead enjoyed by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party is far from a blip,” said the Ekos folks, who – yes, yes – have gotten plenty of things wrong in recent months.
“It appears that the Canadian public are now moving to the centre and left…the Liberal Party of Canada has gone from a dismal 18.9 points in the last election to a muscular 38.7. The very surprising Conservative majority with an impressive 39.6% of the vote has collapsed into a meager 25.6% with the NDP within the margin of error at 23.4%.”
The question isn’t why this is happening, declared Ekos. The question is what is going to happen when a general election takes place next year: “[It] isn’t whether the Conservatives can repeat its stunning majority triumph of 2011; it may be whether it can even hold onto opposition leader status.”
Now, if you were a member of the Conservative caucus – or someone who has sought and won a Conservative nomination in some riding somewhere – wouldn’t that sort of prose have you looking for the exits? Wouldn’t it, at the very least, have you reassessing your election strategy?
Not the Conservatives. They, and their stoic leader, are the very picture of serenity and calm.
In the New Democratic Party, those kinds of numbers would have Gerry Caplan and Judy Rebick scrambling to write self-flagellating op-eds in the Globe and Mail about how social democrats are an endangered species. Those numbers would have Liberals burying stainless steel between each other’s shoulder blades.
But not the Tories. The Conservative caucus, historically a mutinous bunch, remains unified. No leadership challengers have started second-guessing Harper in the morning papers – all anonymously, of course. And the prime minister himself has given no sign that he intends to take a proverbial walk in the proverbial snow.
So, the Conservatives continue to try to depict Justin Trudeau as a dope-pushing, strip-teasing, shaggy-headed member of al-Qaida. They’ve spent millions on that attack strategy, in fact, and millions of Canadians remain unmoved. In fact.
Despite all that, ink-stained wretches – such as the one who writes in this space – have yet to start typing up Harper government obituaries. How come?
Because Harper is smart. Because he undersells and overperforms. Because he is an expert at political rope-a-dope. Because his party has more money than God, and because they have a budgetary surplus, and because we are still the best country in the world.
Because (as noted) the polls have been proven too wrong, too many times. That’s why.
But here’s the thing, and it’s a good place to conclude: what if the polls are right? What if the Conservative trend line is all down, not up? What if the stuff the Con war room used against Messrs. Martin, Dion and Ignatieff just doesn’t work on Trudeau? What about that?
Sometimes, in politics, things truly are as simple as they seem. And that means this:
The Conservative Party of Canada, and Stephen Harper, are going to lose.