Two days following the only televised debate in English, Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives appear to be in a dead heat with Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in terms of the popular vote.
As of Oct. 8, The CBC’s Canada Poll Tracker, an aggregation of all publicly available polling data, has the Liberals slightly ahead with 34.2% of the vote to the Conservatives’ 33.3%.
The Poll Tracker has the New Democrats trailing in third place at only 13.8 per cent support. They are pulling away slightly from Elizabeth May and the Greens, who are running at 9.3 per cent.
The trend line for the Greens has been largely flat over the course of the campaign, while that of Jagmeet Singh’s NDP has been slightly up. However, the fact that the NDP and Greens are so far behind and seem to have so little momentum, has increased the perception of a two-horse race between the Conservatives and Liberals despite generally favourable reviews of Singh’s debate performance.
According to the Poll Tracker, the dead heat in the national popular vote between the Liberals and Conservatives masks some of the lopsided regional battlegrounds across the country that put the Liberals slightly ahead in the seat count despite a tie in the popular vote.
Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives, for example, hold a lead of 40 points in Alberta and nearly 24 points in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Altogether, the Poll Tracker estimates that would deliver around 55 seats to the Conservatives.
According to the Poll Tracker, the Liberals’ lead of six points in Ontario and 14 points in Quebec likely would deliver around 120 seats at this point — enough on its own to put the party most of the way toward a majority government.
Still, current polling suggests neither party is in line to win the 170 seats needed for a majority. The numbers as of today suggest roughly 157 seats going to the Liberals and 140 going to the Conservatives. The NDP, Bloc and Greens have roughly another 40 seats between them.
The Poll Tracker puts the chances of a Liberal majority government at 32% and a Conservative majority government at 10%.
In summary, while the Liberals seem to have dropped a point or two following the Trudeau, “blackface” incident, most pollsters see the two parties essentially tied with a very good chance of a minority government.
The question then becomes: whose minority government?
The implications of a Conservative government
In considering whether the Liberals or Conservatives should form a minority government, we need to look south of the border to Trump’s Ukraine scandal and the formal House impeachment hearings, to Britain and Boris Johnson’s anti-democratic parliamentary maneuvering to crash the U.K. out of the EU without a deal, and to Doug Ford’s unpopular government in Ontario.
And the reason we need to look closely at the present state of affairs in the U.S., Britain and Ontario is they are all run by right wing, populist governments with much in common with Scheer’s Conservative Party.
In other words, we need to ask what a right wing, populist Conservative government would really mean for Canada.
“An essential test for democracies is not whether such (authoritarian) figures emerge but whether political leaders, and especially political parties, work to prevent them from gaining power in the first place – by keeping them off mainstream party tickets, refusing to endorse or align with them and, when necessary, making common cause with rivals in support of democratic candidates.
Isolating popular extremists requires political courage. But when fear, opportunism or miscalculation leads established parties to bring extremists into the mainstream, democracy is imperiled.
Once a would-be authoritarian makes it to power, democracies face a second critical test: will the autocratic leader subvert democratic institutions or be constrained by them?
Institutions alone are not enough to rein in elected autocrats. Constitutions must be defended – by political parties and organized citizens but also by democratic norms. Without robust norms, constitutional checks and balances do not serve as the bulwarks of democracy we imagine them to be. Institutions become political weapons, wielded forcefully by those who control them against those who do not.
This is how elected autocrats subvert democracy – packing and “weaponizing” the courts and other neutral agencies, buying off the media and the private sector (or bullying them into silence) and rewriting the rules of politics to tilt the playing field against opponents. The tragic paradox of the electoral route to authoritarianism is that democracy’s assassins use the very institutions of democracy – gradually, subtly, and even legally – to kill it.”
This post is being written on October 2. The federal election is October 21.
Here is what is happening as I write in jurisdictions where right wing populist governments are in power.
Donald Trump is President of the United States and is under impeachment because he pressured a foreign country to dig up dirt on his principal political opponent.
Doug Ford is Premier of Ontario, there is chaos in the schools, and he has a record low 20% favourability rating.
Boris Johnson became Prime Minister of Britain on July 24 and there has been chaos in the U.K. ever since as he seems determined to crash Britain out of the European Union without a deal – a sure recipe for an economic disaster.
This is the reality of right wing, populist governments in power and the question is do we want that kind of government in Ottawa.
Again, current polling suggests that this election is heading towards a minority government in which the Liberals and Conservatives will have to have some sort of agreement with one or more of the smaller parties to be able to form a government.
The Liberals, NDP, Greens and the Bloc really need to talk about what the next government of Canada will look like if no party wins the 170 seats needed for a majority.
And they need to start talking now.
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