It’s down to the final dirty weekend. After what feels like one of the longest election campaigns in recent history, Canadian politicians have two days left with which to sway voters. The big question of the election has switched from; would the Conservatives be able to convince enough Canadians that the Liberals are too corrupt to rule anymore? To, have the Liberals been able to frighten enough people away from the Conservatives to prevent them from winning a majority government?
Polls at the beginning of this past week were showing support for the Conservatives inching into majority territory with their lead peaking at ten percent higher than the Liberals. As the week progressed that lead gradually began to erode again until it fell back into minority government land.
The fact that all poles are only accurate within a plus or minus 3% range means that both results are still equally possible. But the impression one got from the way the polls were conducted and released is that the public looked at the possibility of a Conservative majority and started backing away.
It’s no coincidence that Paul Martin (Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal party) has spent the past week bashing away at the Conservative social agenda. Reminding people that the Conservatives are anti-choice, anti-gay marriage, and pretty much anti-anything else he can think of.
Steven Harper hasn’t helped himself in that one with his speculation about the courts and their influence on legislation. Seeing how it was the courts that paved the way for gay marriage, and freedom of choice for women he was supplying a little bit of fuel for that fire. It might explain why he’s turned back to attacking the Liberal party’s lack of integrity.
This has been a campaign that has been mysteriously devoid of issues. Oh sure people will occasionally mention stuff like tax cuts, spending proposals or whatever, but it just doesn’t seem like anyone really has their heart in it. Everybody knows that it’s going to come down to whether or not Canadians are going to be willing to entrust their country to Steven Harper and the Conservatives.
Obviously the Conservatives have gotten that message loud and clear. Somebody has gone around with a role of duct tape and sealed everybody’s mouth in the party except for Stephen Harper. The Conservatives have imposed on the national consciousness the idea that no one else aside from him is running for the party.
They’ve been counting on two things. One that they will be able to paint the Liberals with the brush of scandal so successfully that people will ignore their social conservative nature; and two, everybody’s short term memory problem.
On the first part they got lucky with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (R.C.M.P.) announcing they were starting an investigation into activities surrounding the Ministry of Finance and insider trading due to leaked budget information. Nothing like an announcement of yet more potential corruption to damage what little credibility the Liberals may have had left. It also served to distract people from thinking about anything like social issues. If Paul Martin and the Liberals started harping on about them, it would just sound like scare tactics and desperate attempts to stave off defeat.
That’s the bind that the Liberal party has found themselves in for this election. Even when they speak the truth about Steven Harper and the Conservative party’s social agenda, it sounds like the act of a desperate party. They needed somebody else to make those statements; somebody like the New Democratic Party. (N.D.P.)
Ah yes the N.D.P., supposedly the social conscience of our country. The party that informs the public about the issues they should be caring about and than the public chooses which of the other two parties sound most like the N.D.P. on that issue and vote for them.
If anybody had the moral authority to speak out against Steven Harper and the Conservatives it should have been Jack Layton as leader of the N.D.P. But where have they been in this election. There was a real opportunity for them to present themselves as a genuine third alternative this time round. At the very least they could have served notice that they could be counted on in a minority government situation to be a moral compass for the other two parties.
But even the extreme right has been missing them. Long time conservative pundit John Crispo bemoaned their lack of participation in the election on economic issues.
He wondered why the N.D.P., of all parties, wasn’t making more of an issue that both Liberal and Conservative tax cuts were favouring the extremely rich. That while the poor kept getting poorer, and the middle class was sinking, the really rich kept getting richer and were being helped by their friends in either one of the established parties.
I’m sure there would have been those who would have dismissed the N.D.P.’s criticism of Steven Harper as just so much left wing whining, but they would be those who would be voting Conservative already. If the N.D.P. could have been bothered to exert a little effort into attacking Harper and the Conservative’s social agenda, it would have lent credibility to the Liberal attacks.
If they figured that helping the Liberals would make them look bad, or if they were better off attacking the Liberals for the sake of their own political fortunes, than not only was that morally questionable, but politically stupid.
The best chance the N.D.P. has of ever winning seats is if the Liberals and the Conservatives split the vote and they can sneak in around them. If too many people defect from the Liberals to the Conservatives, they lose. By not attacking the Conservatives on their social agenda they made them an even more attractive alternative to the corrupt Liberals.
Before the election started everybody knew it would come down to fear versus corruption. Could the Liberals paint the Conservatives as American Christian right-wingers set to turn Canada into a Republican outpost and hold onto the reigns of power that way? Or would the Conservatives be able to convince enough Canadians that the time was right for a change and they should throw the corrupt bums out, to form their own minority government.
No one had even considered the possibility of a Conservative majority. But now in the final weekend it looks like a foregone conclusion that the Conservatives will form the next federal government in Canada. What remains to be seen is if they’ve persuaded enough Canadians that they’re not the scary boogiemen the Liberals depict them to be and they end up with enough seats to form a majority government.