Monday, 19 November 2012

Trudeau knocking out NDP's chances of forming gov't?

Justin Trudeau, pictured after a charity boxing match.

Trudeau is the "perceived frontrunner" in the 
Liberal leadership race.

Liberal poll numbers have risen following
his entry into the race.

Image Source: REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Posted in the National Post
On October 2 the charismatic Justin Trudeau entered the Liberal leadership race. While the Liberal leadership convention isn't until 2013, Trudeau has received lots of media attention. Right now the CBC describes him as the "perceived frontrunner". Were the convention held today, I'd expect it to be a shoe-in for the 15th Prime Minister's son. No offence to Martha Hall Findlay or the other contenders, but that's an undeniable truth.

The Liberals have longed look for saviours in leaders. Slapping on a new face is a hell of a lot easier than changing the party, after all.

First there was Dion - crushed by Tory attack ads as "not a leader". Then there was Ignatieff - tarred by Tory attack ads as a "cosmopolitan", fair-weather Canadian, and Liberal elitist. Finally came Rae's brief, intern leadership - only for Rae to be blown off as a bad Premier of Ontario (the actual facts be damned, of course).

The irony about most Liberal "saviours" is that the were always old, white men well entrenched in the Liberal Party establishment who really weren't telegenic at all. I'm sure they could all work a room, but Dion, Ignatieff, and Rae aren't the type of people I see resuscitating a dying behemoth. If anything, they reminded voters of what an old and antiquated an institution the federal Liberal Party could be.

Will Tom Mulcair withstand a Trudeau-led Liberal
Party? And will the NDP form government
next election while bleeding support to the Liberals?

Image Source: Canadian Press/Adrain Wyld

Post on CityTV Toronto
Trudeau, by contrast, is a young, telegenic white male inside - but not that inside - the Liberal Party establishment. His father was the 15th Prime Minister of Canada, but he's a newcomer to Parliament Hill - having a career as a school teacher and high profile advocate for various causes prior to his 2008 election as MP for Papineau. From what I hear, he can attract attention, work a room, and draw a crowd of fans - some of whom don't even have to be "plugged" into politics. He's also clean of the Chrétien-Martin feuds and Adscam. 

If the Liberals ever had a candidate for Party saviour, Justin Trudeau surely is the best fit. 

But what does this mean for Tom Mulcair and the New Democrats' prospects for reorienting Canadian parliamentary politics around a rightwing party facing off against a centre-left populist party?     

From earlier on this blog:
Trudeau is running on a centre-left populist platform - promising shared prosperity, a strong middle class, more equality of opportunity and a unified Canada. A Liberal Party under his leadership would certainly compete intensely with the NDP for the centre-left section of ideological turf, especially given that building the Liberal Party in the West and Quebec seems to be a major objective of Trudeau - two key regions the NDP's seeking to establish a strong base of centre-left support in.
The message, of centre-left populism in a post-2008 crash/post-Occupy age, is a vote winner. US President Obama won re-election talking like a centre-left populist. Senate and House Democrats south of the 49th parallel won based on centre-left populist platforms. Canada isn't at rock-bottom, unlike the home of the global meltdown (the US) or the home of the stupidest response to it (the Tory austerity-suffering UK). The Conservative leader here is not an obvious country clubber or plutocrat, unlike failed US GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney or UK CON Prime Minister David Cameron.  Nevertheless, many Canadians are hurting and response to this crisis - like deforming OAS and Employment Insurance - deserve populist retorts.  
But the two biggest Opposition Parties are both delivering this message and are competing against each other. In the case of the Liberals, it looks like the Trudeau candidacy has lead to some resurgence in their support at the expense of the NDP and not the CONs.

Take poll analyst Eric Grenier's projections:

The province appears to be going through (another) period of flux. If we look at the last 10 polls done in Quebec (stretching back to the end of August), we see that the NDP has averaged about 33.8% support. But in the 10 polls before that (stretching back to mid-June), the party averaged 39.5%. In contrast, the Liberals averaged 17.4% in the older polls but 22.4% in the newer ones. They appear to have gained about five points, almost all of it at the expense of the New Democrats. That should be worrying to Thomas Mulcair.


With these numbers, the Conservatives would likely win around 167 seats on the proposed boundaries of the 338-seat map. That puts them three short of an outright majority, but that margin is close enough that the Tories could easily pull it off.

The New Democrats win 82 seats and the Liberals win 50, while the Bloc takes 38 seats and the Greens keep their one.

That swing in Quebec is hugely important, as though the Bloc did not make any real gains they move ahead in many ridings simply because of the NDP's slip. A lot of them would be incredibly close, however, so the potential for a dozen or so seats to go back to the NDP is not out of the question. But that is somewhat besides the point - the Conservatives aren't at play in Quebec.

("NDP support drops in Abacus poll". Eric Grenier (Nov. 14, 2012).
Seat Projections from Erin Grenier.

Image Source: Erin Grenier's

The Trudeau candidacy is also bringing some women and seniors back into the Liberal tent, at the expense of the NDP. A Justin Trudeau-led Liberal Party may also have the potential to chip off young voters from the NDP and increase youth voter turnout. An energized youth vote, as the US found out, is a mighty force.

Will Stephen Harper come out of a Dipper-Grit
mad dash for votes with another term as Prime

Image Source: Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press

Posted on theSpec
The bad thing for opponents of the Harper CONs, as it stands now, is that Justin Trudeau seems to be inspiring more voters to switch from NDP to Liberal than inspiring new voter turnout. Not enough to replace the NDP as official opposition, but enough to give the Harper CONs a pathway up the middle in many ridings.

If things continue as they have, come election year this will be degenerating into a squabble between two powerful centre-left parties. Stephen Harper, his country club Conservative donors, and union busters across Canada will be quite pleased.

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  1. It really is a bit early to really assess how things will unfold. Latest Ipsos poll shows the Liberals even higher and the Tories in a minority.

    So many factors yet to affect public opinion. I expect the Tories will run pre-election ads as always so it remains to be seen whether the Liberals can respond. For the past two leaders, they simply took it on the chin as there was no money or organization to give as good as they got.

    One thing is certain: the lack of a provincial NDP party in Quebec hurts the NDP. They won seats in that province despite the lack of organization there. It may come down who can get the vote out there better in the next election and with the PQ in power, the BQ gets a boost.

  2. Mulcair is no Jack Layton. Not even close. Trudeau connects with me more than any other leadership candidate of any party. I'd rather give the NDP a chance at running things than reward the Liberals for the Conservatives failures and vice versa, just swapping parties every few years like the Democrats and Republicans do in the USA, but Mulcair has done nothing to differentiate himself.

    Best case scenario for everyone really is the Trudeau Liberals taking Ontario, NDP taking Quebec, and both picking up seats in the west. A Liberal/NDP coalition could be a fairly stable minority parliament.

    Hopefully the Conservatives don't sell out the country to the Chinese long before that can happen.

    1. What, particularly, do you dislike about Mulcair?

  3. Mulcair is definitely more hot tempered and thin skinned.

    I will be interested to see how Mulcair will respond to the inquiry on corruption in infrastructure and whether he was witness or had any knowledge in regards to it as minister responsible for several highways constructed under his watch in Quebec.

    Reed: Trudeau has said he supports the sale of the oil company in question to the Chinese. On the whole, I can't see a reason why not to let it proceed. The oil in question still requires substantial investment, will not be undersold because it is priced to world prices, must have staff in Canada who are mostly Canadian and still be subject to Canadian laws on labour, environment and corporate reporting.

    I think Trudeau taps into a populist aspect of politics that Layton once occupied that Mulcair doesn't easily slip into.

    As I said, it is a very long time to the election but there is an indication that something is changing out there.

    1. Well, as this one Liberal said, the leader of the Official Opposition needs to be angry. I do think it'd be better to have a leader of the Official Opposition who merges anger and populism, to project that they're angry on behalf of the people.

  4. John, I'm not too fussed about selling the oil company to the Chinese. I'm annoyed by the Canada-China Free Trade agreement that gives up our sovereignty and locks us in for three decades (unlike NAFTA which we can opt out of in 6 months).

    As for Mulcair, I don't hate him, but like I said, nothing he has said has made an impression on me or connected with me in any way.