Did you ever just wake up one day and know deep down that something important was going to happen to you? That was the way I felt last month at the turn of the New Year. Something deep down told me the first year, of the second decade, of the third millennium, was going to be a pivotal year.
How we, and our political leaders, choose to answer the questions below will shape the kind of world our children will grow up in.
Will there be a federal election in 2010?
The posturing has begun, but the odds of an election are not as high as the media might make you believe.
Why? Two reasons: First, because every leader has too much to lose, and second because Canadians don’t want another election, so whichever party is perceived as forcing the election will lose votes.
Ironically, every leader except Gilles Duceppe needs an electoral breakthrough, or risks losing leadership of their party:
Stephen Harper’s leadership of the Tories will be in jeopardy if he doesn’t get a majority in the next election. Mr. Harper has led his party in 3 elections so far, and if he doesn’t achieve a majority in the fourth, he is unlikely to get a fifth chance. This makes the next election high stakes poker for both the Tories and Harper. None of Mr. Harper’s potential leadership successors are well positioned to keep the former Progressive Conservative and Reform factions of the party united. And a split would be devastating to the Tory cause. Thus Harper must be super confident he can get a majority to warrant the risk of forcing an election.
Infighting amongst the Grits, and Michael Ignatieff’s less than stellar leadership run so far, means the next election will be a referendum on Mr. Ignatieff. If he doesn’t significantly increase Liberal seats in Parliament, the knives will come out. Coupled with the Tories advantages in fundraising (and organization) and the legacy of Mr. Ignatieff’s ill advised threat to force an election last fall, the Liberals have the most to lose in forcing an election this spring.
The NDP appear to have plateaued under Jack Layton’s seven-year tenure as leader. Like Mr. Harper, Mr. Layton has led his party in 3 elections, if he doesn’t get a breakthrough in his forth; he won’t get a fifth chance. This is a formidable challenge as the NDP benefited from the abysmal election effort of former Liberal leader Stephane Dion in 2008. Just holding the existing NDP seats would be a significant victory. Mr. Layton’s recent cancer diagnosis makes it extremely unlikely the NDP will force an election anytime soon.
The NDP and Greens haven’t yet nominated candidates in 15 ridings we recently surveyed. When asked, NDP Riding Associations indicated they were in “no hurry” as “the word from back east is there won’t be an election soon.”
That said, recent polling shows that Canadian’s political preferences are very fluid. Events can swing voter intention by double digits in a matter of weeks. Positive press about the government’s response to the Haitian crisis or a large medal count in the upcoming Olympics could quickly inflate support for the governing party, and a budget with cuts to programs dear to both the Grits and NDP could spur an election.