Saturday, May 30, 2015

Election 2015: Why Canadians will have a new government

Yes, Prime Minister ...
Yesterday’s EKOS poll results released by Frank Graves have plenty of food for thought.

The poll results are worth detailed study by anyone trying to get a fix on what will happen in the coming election.

One thing right now, based on this poll snapshot, is that a minority government is considered more likely than a majority government come October this year.

The only question to be determined is: Who will be Prime Minister when 2015 ends?

Stephen Harper is toast:

Even if Harper wins a minority government, his chances of staying in power beyond the first confidence vote are slim to zero.

Neither Mulcair nor Trudeau would dare to prop up such a Harper minority government; either man men would be sent packing as leaders by their parties if they dared do that; and if the parties did not send them into retirement oblivion, voters in the next election surely would. This poll supports this conclusion I have come to.

The Boomer storm clouds:

There is one huge warning signal to the two opposition parties, though: the firm grip that the Harper Tories have on senior voters, who are the ones who actually exert most influence on which party’s candidate is sent to Ottawa as an MP. This result from the EKOS poll shows the lead in that vital voter segment still enjoyed by the Conservatives:

Harper's Boomer advantage

What does this mean? Simply this: that Boomers can be substantially influenced by any government that slices and dices the economic pie so as to give Boomers more of what they want: policies that they like, policies that protect the assets and earnings (including pensions) of Boomers; policies that reduce the taxes that Boomers pay; and policies that older people tend to regard as best for the country.

What does this mean for the Liberals and NDP? That they have not done enough homework to make big enough inroads into this vital segment of the voter universe. There is still time, but not much, for the two parties to put on the table clear, concise, hard-edged, positive policies that will shift 5% to 10% of this enormously important voter segment to decide not to support Harper. That’s all it will take to do the job of retiring Harper in October.
What will happen the week after the election?

If Harper wins a minority of seats in the House, but more than any other party, then he gets by convention the first crack as continuing prime minister to try to cobble together a government and a platform (in a Throne Speech) that will enjoy the confidence of the majority of MPs in the House.

If either the NDP or the LPC vote to support his government in that confidence vote, then he will live to govern until the next confidence vote.

What does this mean for the first few weeks after the election?

This is clear: Harper will be running two strategies to stay in power.

Firstly, Harper will desperately try to demonize the idea of any coalition between the socialist MDP and the tax and spend Liberals under the untried leadership of Trudeau.

At the same time, because demonizing such a cooperative effort will be substantially tougher than it was when he could confuse the facts in 2011 by alleging that a coalition of the secessionists MPs from Quebec plus the socialists plus the arrogantly entitled Liberals would ruin the country, he will be running a parallel campaign, designed to drive a wedge between the NDP and LPC. He will do this by dangling shiny things before both Mulcair and Trudeau, if only they would support him this first confidence vote.

This might even be a nudge nudge wink wink offer to sign any blank cheque regarding policy initiatives that either such leader would present to him as the price for propping up his minority government in the first confidence vote. 

He only needs to get such support a few times before he will run out the conventional law time clock (which is roughly longer than 6 months but less than 12 months). If his minority government survives beyond this stage, then the Governor General will be obliged by law (our conventions) to agree to any request Harper makes to prorogue Parliament and take his chances in another election.

Why Harper’s bid to run the clock out will fail:

Of course, in my view, this second line of response will fail, for the simple reason that if either Mulcair or Trudeau agreed to prop up Harper, the voters and their party would send them packing as soon as possible.

Neither Trudeau nor Mulcair have any room to avoid voting to defeat the Harper government.

That’s why more than 60% of voters have consistently refused to vote for Harper’s right wing, anti-government, inactive and demeaning government. This body of voters will surge one way or the other, as required by which leader sups with the devil, to punish such leader.

Political suicide is usually not the first choice of politicians. Just ask Harper’s latest senior cabinet minister, who has no doubt tested the wind in his native province, and decided that he does not  want to spent the next four years in opposition.

So who takes over when Harper loses the confidence of the House?

Here’s the EKOS poll on the rising support for a “coalition” government:

Of course, the EKOS poll is flawed, because it is presenting to voters a choice between a Harper minority government or a “coalition” of the NDP and LPC.

As I have mentioned in this post, this is sloppy polling.

The choice can equally be between a continued Harper government or another minority government, that is supported in confidence votes on a case by case confidence vote without any formal coalition.

If voters were given such a choice in a poll, in addition to the formal coalition choice, the number supporting an Anything-But-Harper new government would go through the roof.

So who will be Prime Minister in October?

Let’s look at the EKOS poll for straws in the wind.

When asked who they preferred as PM to lead a “coalition” of the NDP and LPC, the majority seemed to want Trudeau as leader.

Graves has this comment on this poll result:

As Mulcair’s NDP is the only party with wind in its sails right now, we need to understand how the public would view the prospect of either a Trudeau-led or Mulcair-led coalition. Here we encounter an interesting finding which may serve as a source of uplift to a pretty listless voter outlook on Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party.

While Canadians express a clear preference for a coalition led by either Mr. Trudeau or Mr. Mulcair over four more years of Stephen Harper, it’s Trudeau who has a clear advantage here. His 56/35 advantage is nearly double the 51/39 advantage that Mr. Mulcair enjoys. Given the obvious momentum advantage for the NDP, this is a mildly curious and possibly important finding. Perhaps the public prefers to tilt to the center in anchoring any future progressive coalition. Or perhaps they simply haven’t caught up with the new polling position of the NDP. This will bear careful watching.

I think the most likely result, based on recent polls, is that when the Harper minority government is defeated in the very first confidence vote, then the Governor General will, as convention requires, call upon the leader of the party with the next highest number of seats, to attempt to form a government that can command the confidence of the House.

The recent polls indicate that this will be the NDP. Of course, come election day, it is possible that the LPC will have more MPs than the NDP, in which case it will be Trudeau who will try to form a government that has the confidence of the House.

Whoever the G-G approaches, the other opposition party will have to decide whether to support either Mulcair or Trudeau as the replacement Prime Minister.

The negotiations will start for the terms of such cooperation, but the signing of a formal coalition agreement is far from certain. Neither leader can dare vote down the other opposition party leader: he and his party will pay a huge price come the next election.


  1. I'm one of those 'Boomers' who have tilted right for a while, but things have changed. It started when Harper promised to run the economy better, be accountable and protect us from 'them'. He's done none of the above and our country is the worse for it.

    For a short time, I had this sense of desperation and exhaustion and decided that regardless of what happened, I would support the Liberals in the next election. And then Justin stood up and said Bill C-51 was OK and he lost me. I am now firmly in the Mulcair camp and have expectations that when elected, he will introduce Proportional Representation or a similar renovation to our creaking democracy and we will never have to suffer through a Conservative leadership again.

  2. The NDP will never introduce PR. If we've truly moved past the two plus party system to a true three party system (and the verdict is still out on that), PR will not serve their long term interests. It's all hot air from the NDP.


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