Is a spring election a good or bad thing in your opinion?
|For CanWest News Service|
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Is the Dion bounce for real? The answer is "yes." At least out of the gate. Why? Because just as Stephane Dion was the ideal compromise candidate for delegates at the Liberal leadership convention, this first week as Liberal leader, he's the ideal compromise candidate for the pockets of voters in Ontario, Quebec, B.C. and Atlantic Canada that will decide the next election.
This week's Ipsos-Reid poll for CanWest News and Global National illustrates this point. Dion's victory has re-constituted a centre/left coalition that comprises the traditional Liberal core, plus disaffected New Democrats. This is the coalition that Jean Chretien rode to three majority victories in 1993, 1997 and 2000 -- and the demise of this coalition pushed a struggling Paul Martin into a minority government in 2004.
The immediate desire of the traditional Liberal coalition to embrace Dion puts proof to the point that Stephen Harper and the Tories weren't so much elected back in January, as the Liberals were defeated. Without a strong anti-Liberal issue like the sponsorship scandal at work, one wonders how successful the Tories will be in an election against a cleansed and re-energized Liberal party.
The major issue that Harper needs to confront in the run-up to the next election is that his party and leadership divide the electorate. Against a candidate who unites the Liberal coalition, this is a bad place to be.
How divided are Canadians on Harper? The percentage that has a positive impression of both Dion and Harper is roughly equal, but the group that has a negative impression of Harper is 17 points larger than the group that has a negative impression of Dion. Voters that have the most negative impression of Harper are urban dwellers, university grads and women. In fact, half of Canada's female voters say they have a negative impression of Harper. That's quite a head start to give to an opponent.
Importantly for Dion, Jack Layton's leadership is also divisive. While Layton does much better with voters than his party, he still has personal negatives that are 10 points higher than Dion's.
The big question about Dion has been about his ability to win seats in Quebec. This poll's results are somewhat ambiguous on this point. While Dion's leadership has pushed the Grits back to at least Chretien levels (30 per cent), this growth has come at the expense of neither the Tories nor the Bloc. It's mostly been at the expense of the NDP and the Greens. One has to wonder how real the Liberal gains in Quebec are given that these two groups are among the least likely to cast a ballot in a federal election.
So, where does this leave Canadian politics, and what does it mean for election timing? First, it means that the Liberals under Dion are definitely back in the hunt, and that Paul Martin did the right thing when he resigned after the last election. Second, it means that, unless Dion and the Liberals see a major dip in support, a spring election is off. Why? Because, given their current prospects, the NDP and Bloc are unlikely to agree to bring the government down. And, the Tories will not want to trigger an election until their numbers improve -- and that's going to take some time.
Darrell Bricker is president and COO of Ipsos Reid Public Affairs.
© CanWest News Service 2006
We can see "Pros" and "Cons" both for having a spring election, and not having a spring election. Please give your views as we are definitely "newbies" at the Canadian politics thing . . . .