Below is my thoughts on throne speech and Trudeau’s televised address while on four upcoming elections in order of election dates. First New Zealand, then British Columbia, then Saskatchewan, and finally the US.
Throne speech was very vague and had both good parts, but some very worrisome parts. I was happy to see attention to long term care facilities which as we saw in spring was a real weakness COVID-19 exposed. Also support winding down CERB and replacing it with a more flexible enhanced EI which can be more targeted to sectors and areas hit hardest. On other hand, the refusal to have any fiscal anchor is extremely worrisome. Yes austerity is not advisable at moment, but doesn’t mean you spend with no limits. Our deficit is expected to be around 20% of GDP which is above almost all other OECD countries and may even be highest despite our case rates for COVID-19 have been lower than most OECD countries. The government needs to get serious soon about controlling spending otherwise we are headed for another crisis similar to mid 90s sooner than later. When you have both past and present PBO, people like David Dodge and John Manley sounding alarm bells, that is a sign government needs to take this seriously. These are not right wing ideologues who believe in balanced budgets at all costs. They are centrists and non-partisans who have seen the dangers when you let deficit spiral out of control. Trudeau’s televised address was clearly partisan and inappropriate. In future networks for such announcements should ask for transcripts in advance and if partisan like his, deny them. An address on the strong uptick is definitely in the public interest, but his address should have focused on emphasizing COVID-19 is still with us and what Canadians need to do to help keep it under control.
New Zealand is having an election on October 17th and at this point polls strongly suggest Ardern will be re-elected. Unless something dramatic happens, I think she will get a second term. Bigger question is will Labour win a majority in their own right which no party has managed to achieve since MMP was introduced or will she have to rely on the Green party? While some on left are celebrating this, I don’t see this as a sharp turn to left. New Zealand is much less polarized than most countries and often likeability of leader plays a bigger role than it does in other English speaking countries. Since she is well liked and most believe has done a good job of governing, that is why she will likely win. National party will still some day come back and whenever people sour on Labour party that will happen. Also while a darling of progressives, she is a moderate centre-left leader, not a left wing ideologue like Sanders, Corbyn, or AOC. In fact on political spectrum, I would place her in similar spot as Horgan and Notley and slightly more centrist than Trudeau. Biggest determinant of whether she gets a majority or not ironically will depend on how ACT, New Zealand First, and Greens do. If all of those three get under 5%, they get no seats meaning as long as Labour beats National in votes, they win a majority. However, if all three get over 5%, getting a majority will be much tougher and will require either getting over 50% or very close to it. In past it seems many to avoid this swing to smaller parties late in game such as in 2008, 2011, and 2014 where National was polling north of 50% but fell behind towards the end so wouldn’t be surprised if same thing happens here. Not sure why, but perhaps Kiwis maybe prefer parties held in check so reluctant to give anyone a majority.
BC election is through its first week and a few things have happened. First on polls; things have tightened but NDP still ahead, but back in low 40s which seems to be their traditional level of support. Greens close to what they got in 2017 while BC Liberals clearly polling lower, but not as badly as they were pre-election. Interestingly enough; if you add BC Conservatives + BC Liberals, parties almost tied. As such as I said at beginning, I think most likely outcome is an NDP majority, but with a solid BC Liberal opposition and not a blowout. However, I think whether BC Liberals win or not will depend a lot on how BC Conservatives do. If BC Conservatives run a full slate and stay north of 5%, I think it will be very difficult, maybe impossible for BC Liberals. But if BC Liberals can keep BC Conservatives under 5% and they only run in a handful of ridings, then they have a chance. However, my guess is most Green supporters are upset at early call, but don’t want BC Liberals back in power so if BC Liberals pull ahead too early, then Greens will swing behind NDP blocking their path. So if BC Liberals are to win, they need to surge late in campaign so Green supporters don’t have time to react. Another interesting tidbit is BC doesn’t count mail in ballots until 2 weeks after election day so unless a landslide, good chance we won’t know who is winner until around Remembrance Day as unlike past elections, number voting by mail is likely to be close to half the electorate. Never mind we still don’t have reliable polling unlike US if there will be strong partisan differences between those who vote by mail vs. vote in person. If none, then better chance results called on election night, but if sharp division then may have to wait a couple of weeks.
In terms of campaign so far, Horgan has not had a good start and feels much like Theresa May in 2017, he is overplaying his hand and fails to understand how fickle voters are. At same time Wilkinson has been a mixed bag. His promise to make all flu shots free of charge is a good one, but his promise on PST cut I believe is not only a bad policy, but more likely to hurt than help party. With many people struggling, last thing people want is big spending cuts and with this blowing an $8 billion hole in budget on top of $12 billion deficit, many rightly worried it will mean big spending cuts down the road. I also don’t think it is very effective. I understand he wants to get consumer confidence up, but I believe a more targeted approach is better. Tourism and restaurant industry have suffered the most so my suggestion would be after a vaccine is ready in BC, for one year allow all residents to deduct up to a $1,000 from their income for every hotel and restaurant purchase they make. Those who stay at hotels in BC get a tax receipt while for restaurants, every resident would be mailed a sheet where each time they eat out (take out won’t count), they enter amount paid including tips, have server sign and give name, address, and phone # of restaurant. Also, restaurants would keep a record of those doing this for audit purposes. This costs less and is a more targeted approach at sectors hit hardest. Also since we want to discourage people from going to both until vaccine, this would only begin once vaccine is ready.
Two days after BC votes, Saskatchewan goes to the polls. By and large those looks like a snoozer as Saskatchewan Party has a 30 point lead so barring some massive scandal, I think a Saskatchewan party majority is a foregone conclusion, just a matter of how big. While NDP like any party should have goal of winning, realistically that is not going to happen. Instead their focus should be on winning back their urban seats and trying to win around 20 seats giving them a decent size opposition and putting them in a good position to win in 2024. If Saskatchewan party gets another blowout like last two elections, it will be very difficult for NDP to win in 2024 and more importantly party is more likely to get arrogant and do stupid things than if they have a strong opposition. I will likely endorse Saskatchewan party but as always want to see campaign just in case before making one. Likewise NDP’s real problem is like elsewhere in much of the developed world, party no longer is competitive in rural areas. In most provinces, that is not a problem as more live in cities than towns and rural areas, but in Saskatchewan, majority live outside two main cities so until NDP finds a way to re-connect with rural voters, they are likely to remain stuck in opposition.
Finally, last by not least is US election. Looking at polls, Biden looks in good shape to hold all states Hillary Clinton won in 2016 with Minnesota, Nevada, and New Hampshire only ones Trump even has a remote chance at winning. Michigan and Wisconsin look good while Pennsylvania tightened a bit but Biden still in the driver’s seat. Arizona also looks good and Biden’s only real risk there is poor Hispanic turnout. Florida has though tightened but Biden still narrowly ahead. North Carolina is a dog fight, while Ohio lacks polling but looks close too. Georgia and Texas have Trump barely ahead, but strong turnout by non-whites and millennials could lead to an upset in either although Texas is probably the more difficult of two for Biden. Iowa lacks polling, but all signs suggest Trump slightly ahead but much closer than in 2016. As such, Biden is clearly favoured, but Trump is not totally out, but with more than usual voting by mail, time is running out. A swing needed to give Trump electoral college win (him winning popular vote is probably no longer feasible) would not be unprecedented and has happened in many previous elections. At same time with electorate more polarized and few undecided voters, chances of it happening are lower than in past elections. But still Trump is not out of it, but definitely Biden has a strong edge.
For senate, things are still tight and with recent death of Ruth Ginsberg (more on that later), this becomes even more important. I think Democrats have slight edge in senate, but it will be the toughest for them to win of the three houses. Democrats should lose Alabama and a slight chance they lose Michigan if things go really bad but unlikely. Colorado looks almost certain to flip and Arizona looks likely. Democrats also have edge in Maine and North Carolina so that gives them 50 right there. Montana and Iowa are competitive but in both I would give GOP slight edge but definitely toss ups. Some polls suggest Lindsey Graham is in trouble, but with South Carolina having few swing voters, I still think he will narrowly win. Texas may be in play for White House, but Cornyn looks safe. Georgia should also elect two GOP senators since while Democrats may come out ahead on first round; unless they get over 50% on first round it goes to run off. And history here shows run offs have much lower turnout and tend to heavily favour GOP.
Ruth Ginsberg died recently and GOP has decided to plow ahead with a conservative nominee even after blocking Obama from nominating Merrick Garland. Shows just how they care about power and not principles. So far only Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins have promised not to support appointment meaning they have enough to appoint who they want. But with only 36 days left, if Arizona goes Democrat (senators elected in special elections sworn in sooner than those in regular ones) it becomes a 50-50 meaning Pence would have to pass tie breaker. Appointing one in a lame duck session may be legal but would set a horrible precedent. While I don’t like idea of packing court, Biden may have no choice since risks of abortion being outlawed, gay marriage being banned, and 20 million kicked off health insurance are serious enough that this maybe only way to stop this. But should be done as an absolute last resort. Democrats should do whatever they can to prevent appointment before election day. If Trump gets back in and GOP holds senate, then they will have earned the right to proceed even in lame duck session. But if GOP loses either, I believe it would be immoral to proceed and they have no choice but to wait until next senate is sworn in.
Finally we get first glimpse at Trump’s tax returns. I doubt it will cost him any support from his loyal followers, but definitely presents an opening for Biden to appeal to few swing voters out there. Trump paid only $750 in taxes which is less than what a typical middle class American family pays. With income inequality at all time highs in US and pandemic making it worse, I don’t think many find that morally acceptable even if its legal to do so.