It is safe to assume that Michael Ignatieff is feeling pretty good about himself right now, as recent poll numbers put him within striking distance of a majority government should the trend line continue. This week’s Ekos Poll has the Liberals at 37%, the Conservatives at 30%, and the NDP at nearly 16% nationally. If these numbers are accurate, it would suggest that that the Tories have lost nearly one million voters in only the past few months, many of those in the past few weeks. Most of that support has shifted to the Liberals, while the NDP has also lost some support to the fledgling Ignatieff juggernaut.
That which has me befuddled is what exactly has influenced this exodus? What happened? Ignatieff’s approval rating has gone up, Harper’s has gone down. Where the enigma presents itself is that Iggy hasn’t done anything! Sure, he gives wonderfully scripted press conferences proudly parading his extensive vocabulary and he seems quite comfortable in this idealess complaining. Call me a policy wonk, but I want to know what a political party intends to do if elected before I will even consider voting for them. At present, the Liberals have released no policy whatsoever, no suggestions, no ideas, nothing. On their website there is no link to any policy page. The NDP to their credit, at least have a page filled with vague and lofty platitudes. It seems counter intuitive to me that any political leader would experience such a dramatic shift in support without saying anything at all about what he would do if elected. Evidently this policy-free Rope-A-Dope is working.
If Ignatieff hasn’t really done anything, it is more likely then that the exodus is a result of Stephen Harper’s perceived failures. I just don’t understand what precisely Harper has done to persuade Conservative voters to switch allegiances. By all accounts, the Obama visit was a resounding success. The PM proved to be the superior orator in the Q&A with the media, as Obama without his precious teleprompter spent an unusually high amount of time mumbling and pausing. Did Harper lose a million votes for allegedly being in the shitter when the G20 was taking its team picture? Somehow I doubt that.
In this his 4th year as Canada’s Prime Minister, I think it is unlikely that a million people suddenly decided that they did not like him on a personal level. The perception of him as an icy and boring policy wonk was every bit as prevalent in 2006 as 2009. It is possible that this minor dust-up with Brian Mulroney has cost the Tories some support in the center, which would be ironic considering that Mulroney left office as one of the most unpopular leaders in a generation. Perhaps hindsight is 20/20 and his popularity has increased in retrospect as former PC’s reflect on the nostalgia of the 80s. If this is the case, it is elastic support that Ignatieff may not be able to sustain in the long-term.
The most likely cause behind the polling trends is the economy, as recessions are far more likely to punish the ruling government regardless of how much responsibility they bear for the crisis. In this case, the crisis originated in the United States and spread north of the border. Furthermore, the Canadian banking industry has been relatively insulated from the banking collapse in America and Europe. Many European economists are pointing to Canada as the model for how financial markets should be regulated. Of course I will give credit where credit is due and say that Paul Martin deserves some accolades for the state of our financial sector.
Unemployment has now reached 8% in Canada, which is still better than the United States. The Canadian job drop is due largely to a significant decline in consumer spending south of the border. As a result, Canada has experienced a significant decline in employment in both the manufacturing and resource sectors; two sectors that employ predominantly males, where men vote in greater proportion for the Conservative Party. This likely explains the significant exodus from a demographic that had previously voted Tory.
The good news for the Prime Minister, which seems lost on those answering telephone polls, is that the Toronto Stock Exchange is up over 20% since the beginning of March. Oil and other resources are back on the rise, which benefits the Canadian economy. If this trend continues, Canada could start adding jobs again in the near future. Equity markets always lead in front of employment statistics. We have yet to see what effect the massive Pelosi/Reid/Obama stimulus package will have on the American economy. I doubt that Mr. Ignatieff would openly cheer for its failure, but the truth remains that his probability of victory is significantly higher if the Obama Plan deepens the recession, keeping Canada in a state of economic melancholy.
"If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor."