With election pre-season we are now getting into silly season with every party starting to make preps for the campaign, while the fearmongering is ramping up on social media. I will discuss issues more once the campaign gets under way post Labour Day, but here are a few thoughts on both stuff happening here in Canada and also most recently in the UK.
Boris Johnson becomes PM
Starting across the pond, Boris Johnson has now become prime-minister and he promises to leave on October 31st with or without a deal. Its almost certain the EU will not agree to anything beyond the deal Theresa May achieved and despite his promise to leave on that date, no guarantee it will happen. There are enough Tory MPs opposed to a no deal that parliament has the numbers to pass legislation banning UK leaving without a deal. Still Boris could ask the Queen to prorogue parliament or get leavers in House of Lords to try and hold up the bill until after October 31st. Nonetheless its going to be a wild ride ahead. In terms of political predictions, lots of possibilities so here are my thoughts below.
Conservatives: The Conservative + DUP majority could disappear soon triggering another election as some Tory remainers may quit the party as unlike May who voted remain, Johnson is a leaver. On the one hand his strong leave stance should help win back many voters the Tories have lost to the Brexit Party, but I could see some in the business community, especially London and the surrounding commuter belt bolting to the Liberal Democrats. Nonetheless I suspect Tories will get a bounce in the polls short term. But if UK doesn’t leave on October 31st, Brexit party will likely rebound and possibly even higher and if he leaves and its chaos, party will take a hit too, so anything from a Tory majority to wipeout is within the realm of possibility.
Labour Party: With Corbyn’s low approval ratings and waffling on Brexit, I cannot see the party winning a majority unless you get very strong splits. To win, the party needs to move from the fence to unequovically for a 2nd referendum and will campaign to remain. It was young voters that helped Labour to do better than expected in 2017 and most of those are remain voters. Yes some Brexit party supporters are traditional Labour supporters and if UK does leave and it turns to other issues, they may win those back, but their indecisiveness on Brexit is hurting them. That being said Labour has a strong resilient base and concentrated vote so I don’t see a complete wipeout for them, but their path to a majority is more difficult than Tories. Also even if they win a plurality, they will only get to form government if Corbyn steps down as Liberal Democrats have made clear they will not support Labour in hung parliament unless Corbyn goes and his replacement is a firm remainer.
Liberal Democrats: While less newsworthy, Liberal Democrats chose their new leader a day before Tories and they chose Jo Swinson. With the Liberal Democrats being solidly remain, they are the best bet if one wants to stop Brexit. I can see them gaining some Labour supporters, but also some Tory remainers. The fear of a Corbyn government is the main reason many Tory remainers stuck with the Tories but as that threat diminishes, I could see some switching. Also for business community, Corbyn regardless of stance on Brexit is way too radical whereas Liberal Democrats may not be preferred choice, but they are hardly scary or alarming to this group. That being said the chances of them actually winning the election even if they win the popular vote are low. Reason is their vote is very inefficient so they don’t tend to translate their votes into seats nearly as well as Tories or Labour do. In 1983, they got only 2% less than Labour, yet only 1/9th the seats so that is the problem they face. Still there is a very good chance they could hold the balance of power and my guess is in this case they won’t support the Tories while will only support Labour if Corbyn is dumped and replaced with a remainer, otherwise Queen’s speech fails and another election.
Brexit Party: With Boris Johnson now PM, I suspect you will see a sharp decline in their numbers and their main goal is to get Brexit and with Johnson a good chance that happens. Their only real hope is if Johnson fails to deliver Brexit before next election in which case they may do very well. Still like Liberal Democrats, vote is very inefficient so even if they win most votes, unlikely to translate into most seats. Nonetheless if they held balance of power, would likely support Tories on the condition they deliver a no deal Brexit. That being said, I suspect their drop in support will benefit Tories most and help Labour a little but far less than the Tories while no impact on Liberal Democrats.
Other Parties: Greens and SNP are both left wing like Labour although unlikely Greens win anymore seats, even if they get as high as 9% as some polls suggest, but if Labour + SNP + Greens win most seats, Corbyn likely becomes PM, but probably one of the conditions will be a 2nd referendum and they support the remain side. If they need to rely on Liberal Democrats than probably a Labour government but with a different leader. That being said Greens should stay strong as long as Corbyn as leader but could fall if Labour chooses a pro-remain leader. SNP is in good shape to dominate Scotland and I cannot see Tories holding all their seats there and same goes for Labour. Their biggest threat is the Liberal Democrats since if Liberal Democrats gain well, Scots may decide to swing behind a national party rather than regionalist.
Back home we’ve had a few issues which I will summarize below.
Food Guide and Scheer’s comments
I believe on food guide, Scheer made rather stupid comments. Yes few people read it and true the criticism it might be too expensive for low income families and those living in Northern communities is quite legitimate, but I think Liberals are right, health experts not industry should determine policy. And I think his sucking up to the dairy industry is going too far. Most live in rural areas so outside Quebec and possibly even there he will get most of those votes. Tories only danger is if they oppose supply management, they might lose this group, but Scheer has been clear, he supports supply management so that is all they need to do. While not a fatal mistake and it is summer when few are paying attention, stupid ones like this can add up and one own its own is not fatal, but several can be.
It goes without saying as someone who supports the charter of rights and freedoms and non-discrimination, I am totally opposed to this bill. I agree with Brian Pallister’s opposition, however at the federal level I can kind of understand the position’s of the parties. The bill is very popular in Quebec and if Scheer wants to win, he needs to get CAQ voters to vote Tory, while Liberals cannot win solely on PLQ votes, they need to win over some CAQ votes and opposing this by either party could be a problem. If Liberals do well in Ontario which looks promising for them at the moment, but far from a certain, they can win a minority, but to win a majority they need to do well in Quebec also. Tories as Harper showed in 2011 can win without Quebec, but only if they do really well in Ontario and with Doug Ford’s unpopularity; a repeat of 2011 results for Tories in Ontario is a tall order so as a backup plan, it makes sense to aim to do better in Quebec and their potential voters are mostly CAQ ones. That being said popular or not, I believe in politicians doing what is right and this is bill is wrong. At the same time I also believe in politicians bringing all parts of the country and not pitting one region against another and due to its popularity in Quebec, I think we need a better understanding of what is motivating Quebecers to support this and he can we shift public opinion away from it. I don’t think most Quebecers are racist; I think rather on secularism and religion, Quebecers take a very different stance than the rest of Canada. Sort of akin to UK vs. France as France has similar laws while UK does not. In Quebec prior to 1960, Catholic church had a real iron grip on the province while in rest of Canada, Protestant churches never had such iron grip and this led to a strong backlash in 60s. As such I think this created a strong secular culture and with many recent immigrants being strongly religious, you are seeing a backlash, whereas in rest of Canada we never had in our history any religious organization have such control so there isn’t the same fear. I think the fears are irrational, but I believe that is the primary reason they exist.
Liberals rebounding in Polls
Unlike a few months ago where Tories probably would have won most seats but fallen short of a majority, I believe an election today would yield a Liberal minority and a Liberal majority is still within the realm of possibility. I believe the shift is happening for two reasons:
- Every time Trudeau does something stupid be it India trip, Aga Khan vacation, SNC Lavalin, his popularity and poll numbers take a hit, but as time passes they rebound but only partially. Good news for him is little time for another major screw-up before the election. Bad news is there will probably be another if he gets a second term and his party cannot fall any further thus if party gets a majority they should find a way for Trudeau to resign in 2022 and hand it over to a successor
- A few months ago, few knew who Andrew Scheer was and I’ve found generic unknown leaders tend to poll better than real ones. People tend to envision their ideal one, but once reality sinks in, it usually is not their ideal one thus some swing back. Its same thing we are seeing in US, almost every poll shows a generic Democrat fares better against Trump than any actual real Democrat and I think with Scheer when few knew him; many dissatisfied with Trudeau imagined their ideal Tory, but once they got to know him, some liked him, but many did not and some who disliked Trudeau decided Scheer was no better.
Now that does not mean Tories are out of the game, far from it. Their base is more motivated than other parties, although I think success at provincial levels of right wing parties has woken up many progressives that 2019 won’t be a cakewalk. Also they do better amongst older voters who are more likely to show up. Big problem Tories have is vote is their vote is less efficient than Liberals so even if they win the popular vote, they need about a 2-3 point lead to win more seats and 7-10 point lead to win a majority while Liberals only need 3-4 point lead to win a majority. Reason for this is Tories are running up massive margins in Alberta and Saskatchewan, but there is no place where Liberals are running up similar margins. In those two provinces, people hate Trudeau with a passion, but elsewhere more mixed. Still Tories can win, but need do a few things they are not so far.
- Looking to the 2006 election where Harper started even further behind, but won, they need a strong, but simple and appealing platform. Otherwise find 5 priorities that will have strong appeal and deal with Canadians’ concerns and make those the focus of the campaign.
- Inoculate against attack ads, otherwise make clear on all the areas they think Liberals will attack them on, they are either false or the Liberals are wrong in their position (On things like abortion, immigration definitely former, things like raising OAS age and cutting top marginal rate maybe latter or perhaps just to try avoid those issues if possible altogether).
- Look competent and like a leader. Scheer too many comes across as weak so to win he needs to show he knows what is doing and come across as competent. Trudeau has his issues, but people aren’t interested in replacing him with a weaker leader.