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Harper's Bizarre Election September 5, 2008

Posted by tomflesher in Canada.
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There’s a reason I don’t do politiblogging anymore. When I kept a LiveJournal and used it mainly for polemics and political analysis, even my friends and classmates didn’t pay much attention. The problem, I guess, was that I was really bad. Really, really bad. If I were a political candidate, and I needed a strategist to work free, I wouldn’t hire myself. I predicted Thomas, then Luttig, to fill the Chief Justice slot after Rehnquist died, Edith Brown rather than Samuel Alito to fill Sandra Day O’Connor’s slot after Hurricane Katrina, and Bill Richardson for Barack Obama’s Vice President, after Obama defied my expectations to win the primaries. I’m batting a thousand.

With that in mind, let’s leave the analysis of the upcoming Canadian federal election to the experts. I’ll take a look at the news and editorials behind the cut.

It’s apparently all but certain that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will call an election this weekend. (Quick primer on the Westminster System as used in Canada.) This is widely considered to be fishy, since he introduced a law mandating fixed-date elections and setting the next one to be in October of 2009. Nonetheless, the Governor General is unlikely to refuse. Harper is leading a Conservative minority government, which is possible under the Westminster system largely because of the number of parties in Canada. (Ah! Parties in Canada! Greens! Red Tories! Honest-to-goodness socialists! A bunch of guys in Quebec who want to secede, and who manage to win seats in the national Parliament! It’s just all so quaint.) The strategic value of an election now is clear – if Harper believes he can get a majority government, then of course he’ll be all the stronger leading into the fixed-date election in 2009. Wednesday’s Globe and Mail editorial posits that Harper “senses an opportunity to grow.” Indeed, polling data from Simon Fraser University and a CBC poll indicates that the aside from NDP support rising, the Conservatives are up and everyone else is down.

But we’re getting into analysis, and that’s better left to the pros.

Stephane Dion is widely purported to be the auteur of this election:

The campaign will be a battle of low-watt personalities, leaders who have criss-crossed the country for a couple of years stirring up apathy. It will come down to one geeky guy.

We all know what Stephen Harper will do. With his Olympian self-assurance, he’ll run a cold-eyed campaign. It will be targeted and efficient. Few smiles. Even fewer stumbles.

We all know what Jack Layton will do. His brain is as tightly wound as his Schwarzenegger physique. Like the Prime Minister, this is his third campaign. He knows where to drive the orange bus.

These folk – and Gilles Duceppe, as well – are known quantities. That leaves Mr. Bean. The election will pivot, decidedly so, on his performance. If Stéphane Dion appreciably exceeds his remarkably low expectations, he can win. If, as most expect, he trips over his own tongue and toes, it will be John Turner revisited. Conservative majority.

That is to say, the election is Dion’s to win, assuming he doesn’t screw it up like he always does. Indeed, Roy MacGregor warns that Dion has been “underestimated by those who chose to dismiss” him.

Lawrence Martin, on the other hand, suggests that Dion will be hurt by the Greens, the Canadian version of the US’s Ralph Nader vehicle. Dion, indeed, has been trying to siphon support from the Green Party. This is Political Science 101 – when the Conservatives devoured the Canadian Alliance, they consolidated support. The Liberals are essentially running against themselves with the Greens and the NDP fighting for the same seats.

It’s going to be an interesting one for sure. Who’s going to win? Who knows? I don’t do political analysis anymore.

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