As we all know by now, the 42nd federal election began this past Sunday morning at around 10am. And it’s going to be looong topping out at 78 days when all is said and done. This might be a good thing because everyone brings baggage to the campaign.
1. Conservatives: Theirs comes from a number of places. They begin from what should
be a place of strength: incumbency- 10 years of it to be exact. But there’s a sense of fatigue surrounding this government. Cabinet ministers are leaving, and there have been multiple defeats at the hands of the Supreme Court. The economy is sputtering, and the party unwilling to talk about it. And then the scandals, the most high-profile of which is about Senate spending . Mike Duffy’s trial resumes this week and the one inescapable fact is that Stephen Harper named Duffy to the Senate. An argument can be made this goes to judgement, and judgement can be considered a quality in a good leader. This is going to make for a rough campaign.
2. NDP: Theirs are labelled: Ontario and Quebec. The party made historic gains during the last federal election in Quebec. But those are in some doubt with the return of Gilles Duceppe to the Bloc Québécois making them a credible alternative. Outside of Northern Ontario, Hamilton, and sections of Toronto, Ontario has been difficult to crack. Many still remember Bob Rae as an NDP Premier, and the social contract and won’t vote for them. What could help the NDP make gains? Position Thomas Mulcair as the pragmatic leader. Remind voters he was once a Liberal Quebec cabinet minister, and courted by the Conservatives. Turn the inevitable “flip-flopper” label into flexible, and willing to go for an idea no matter where it comes from.
3. Liberals: It’s Bill C51. The huge question is how they can reconcile Liberal ideals of freedom of expression, and religion, and the right to a fair trial with the concept of supporting a piece of legislation that arguably does none of that. This is particularly potent because Justin Trudeau’s father was the one who repatriated the constitution, and included a Charter of Rights & Freedoms. It’s about positioning. They could’ve let the legislation go, and then told us why they opposed it, and they would’ve done differently. Communication might end up a problem for them too over as the campaign continues. It’s early days, but it’s looking like Trudeau has a dual message track. The first is the “fairness for the middle class”, and the second is tailored to whatever area of the country he finds himself in. And sometimes he’s been leading with the second, instead of the first. If the “Fairness for the Middle Class” idea is lost in confusion it will lose him the election. And it’ll play into the concept that he’s not ready.
4. Green Party: Two words: Elizabeth May. Specifically the performance at the press gallery dinner where she appeared less than sober. The rant on Omar Kahdr, and the federal cabinet was caught on camera. So was the rescue by Transport Minister Lisa Raitt. When your party is struggling with legitimacy, and trying to win seats these are the last images you need. It’s going to cause a credibility problem.
Now let’s unpack.