Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Forget Labrador: Bourassa will be the real test

The Little Prince, and The Bear

The loss of Labrador by Conservative incumbent Peter Penashue marks one of the few times that the Harper government has not been able to retain a seat in a by-election and the first time he has lost a cabinet minister since 2006.  As Sun News' David Akin recently observed, there have been 20 by-elections called by Harper since 2006 and Harper has not only not lost any seats, he has actually gained three.  As the Conservatives are now saying, it is unusual for majority governments to retain seats in by-elections, but for Harper this is rather unusual.

However there are mitigating factors which make this electoral test less interesting and less indicative of things to come.  For starters, Penashue is currently under investigation for receiving illegal campaign contributions, including corporate donations which are illegal in Canada.  That Mr. Penashue went down is also not such a surprise as Labrador has gone Liberal since the riding was established.  In 2008, the Liberals took it with over 70% of the vote.

If recent polls are correct, Harper is in read trouble though.  Harper's Conservatives are at 28% nationally, according to the most recent poll  I could find, which was conducted by Canadian Press-Harris Decima.  But, whether or not the Liberals or NDP will be able to knock Harper out of office in 2015 comes down to the battle between them as much as it does with any change in narrative from Harper.  Harper's ceiling seems to be in the low 30's now.

A much more interesting by-election could very well come in Bourassa Quebec if Denis Coderre fulfills expectations and runs for the Montreal mayoralty.  If this happens, we can expect to see a real battle between the two Quebec leaders, the NDP's Thomas Mulcair and the Liberal's Justin Trudeau.  Though recent polls have shown that the Liberals have surpassed the NDP in most parts of the country, the NDP is still going strong in Quebec and would likely be able to launch a more effective campaign in Bourassa than the Liberals.

The Liberals though are benefiting from the honeymoon period, or at least so says the Winnipeg Free Press, that generally comes with a new leader, and the fact that that leader is a Trudeau doesn't hurt, at least in media exposure.

Mulcair in Quebec:  CBC Photo
But, Mulcair is an incredibly effective campaigner and he has many rising Quebec stars in his caucus.  With the right candidate and the right messaging, he could give Mr. Trudeau a nice little wake-up call.

Very soon, the public is going to want to see more substance from the Liberals and begin to seriously analyze which party really supports the issues they care about.  Since 2004, more and more Canadians have been moving toward the NDP as being that party.

 It's not surprise that the NDP has fallen to third place in the interim, but when people seriously consider who has the experience, the leadership ability and the platform, they will see that it is Mr. Mulcair.  It is Mulcair who has the governing experience, and it is Mulcair who has a grasp on the real issues.  He doesn't speak in platitudes and he keeps his politics professional, away from the personal and exudes dignity and competence.

I think Canadians have had enough of the pettiness of Harper, Pollievre, and the rest of his loud caucus, and have had enough with the gaffe-prone Liberal rump.

I might be wrong, but I know that I'm right on this:  if Coderre steps down, there is going to be one heck of a battle in Bourassa and that battle will be between the bear and the little prince.

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