Monday, September 08, 2008

Canada's Election, and a few pointers.

Canadians have just been told of an impending fall election set for October 14th, 2008. 

Canada has five major political parties:

The Liberal Party of Canada
The Conservative Party of Canada
The New Democratic Party of Canada
The Bloc Quebecois
The Green Party of Canada

Other smaller parties include:

Marijuana Party
Canadian Clean Start Party
Libertarian Party of Canada
Communist Party of Canada
Western Canada Concept Party
Marxist - Lenninist Party of Canada
Canadian Action Party
Rhinoceros Party of Canada
Canadian Confederation of Regions Party
Socialist Party of Canada
Christian Heritage Party of Canada

The Green Party.

Green is something that could become more electable in the future. In the next decade, if managed properly, the Green Party could make significant inroads into Canada's political system. For them to become successful, there are some key elements that need to be addressed.

- A leader the public can connect with, possibly from within, but likely from outside the party.
- Fielding recognizable, quality candidates. The Greens just turfed a candidate for alleged anti-semetic remarks. Whether anti-semetic or not, he was formerly a candidate for the Marijuana party - enough said.
- Continued focus on being the best party to solve Canada's environmental woes, while providing viable economic, energy and health care plans to become more than a one trick pony.

New Democratic Party

The NDP's are almost always on the outside looking in. They are the third place finishers in essentially Canada's two party Federal election. They are too far on the left to appeal to Canada's mainstream voters and NDP leader Jack Layton portrays an opportunist scatterbrain. At every possible chance he reminds voters that the NDP is the best option for all issues, although he never really convinces us why. The NDP party, along with the Bloc Quebecois, provide Canadians a service when propping up minority governments and trading off concessions (usually overspending) for their supporting votes.

The Bloc Quebecois.

If Quebec represented Canada, the Bloc might have a chance. But the party only runs in one province, and mostly to provide a voice for Quebeckers. They are the majority spoilers and, IMO, serve little purpose other than to prop up minority governments in return for political capital directed to Quebec. Suffering from lack of support, the Bloc Quebecois is on the decline and is being pushed to the sidelines by the Parti Action Democratique du Quebec in provincial election popularity.

The Liberal Party

The Liberal Party are in a fight. Firstly to stave off a Conservative majority, and secondly to try and grab enough votes to get themselves into a minority position. Their plan of attack should be on several fronts, starting with an offensive attack to show why they are the better alternative.
- They need to sell the carbon tax plan that Harper is so effectively cutting down with attack ads. In doing so, they also need to show weaknesses in Harper's own policies.
- Expect the Liberals to continue putting out the message that Harper has a secret agenda. This includes showing Harper's closeness to George Bush at every available opportunity. Afghanistan, abortion, human rights, guns, and the environment are other issues of attack.

Economy - Harper inherited a strong economy with pleasant budget surpluses. He's had the fortune of riding three years of strong economic growth. But it's a bad year and market conditions are turning. Liberals would do well to remind us how they reintroduced the budget surplus and appeal to Canadians natural fiscal conservativeness. 

We need to continue paying down the debt, which sits at half a trillion dollars. Canada's fiscal irresponsibility of the 80's and 90's has only recently been brought under control.  It would take fifty years of ten billion dollar anual surpluses to pay off the debt.

At 500 billion dollars. Each Canadian (man woman and child), in tax alone, with interest at 5%, has to pay approximately $750 per year just to cover the interest on Canadian debt.
That's 24 billion dollars in interest payments. 

Should Canadians really be happy about the periodic ten billion dollar budget surplus? 
Canada's eight largest budget deficits in history occurred under the last conservative majority government and can be seen in the chart below.


Canada's actual surpluses for the past seven years have been:
  • 2008/09 (projected) $1.7B
  • 2007/08 (projected) $1.5 B
  • 2006/07 $13.8B
  • 2005/06 $4.5
  • 2004/05 $5.9
  • 2003/04 $9.1B
  • 2002/03 $7B
  • 2001/02 $8.9B
  • 2000/01 $18.1B
  • 1999/00 $12.7B
  • 1998/99 $3.1B
  • 1997/98 $3.8B

Health Care - Canada's most significant health care woe is the lack of family doctors. In 2000, the Liberals introduced a plan to address the shortage by creating family clinics with trained nurses diagnosing up to 80% of patients and thus greatly increasing clinics patient loads. The plan was initiated under the Liberal Government in 2000, but has yet to take effect. It is a major failure of the Conservative government to continue this policy. The fallout currently has 17% of Canadians without primary care, and many exasperated by the inability to find a family doctor. The Liberals need to show Harper as failing to follow through on a successful Liberal idea of family clinics. They should also focus partisan anger over the Conservative inability to continue Liberal initiated programs.

The Conservatives.

To win, the Conservatives must tout their accomplishments. Though the green thumb of Harper is sorely limited, he should show off the environmental projects he did initiate and use them to combat Dion's Green Shift plan.
Harper's attack ads claim Dion's carbon tax policy will create higher gas prices and across the board inflation. I've long been an advocate of higher gasoline taxes, particularly in the US, but also in Canada in order to regain better control over oil prices. Unfortunately, the majority of voters jump for the guy who promises the lowest gas prices without considering the consequences.
Harper's plan, if you throw enough mud at someone, lots of it is bound to stick in the uninformed voters mind. Harper is doing that successfully.
Harper's campain also successfully portrays Dion as a fumbling leader who lacks experience or direction. It's working. Unless Stephan Dion steps up his advertising, does well in the debates, and portrays a better image, his ratings will continue to struggle.

According to a Globe and Mail poll, 83% of Canadians have made up their mind who they are voting for. Granted, online polls have major room for error, however assuming some level of accuracy, if 17% of voters are swingable the best Dion can hope for is to stave off a Conservative majority.

A recent poll indicated the conservatives with a strong lead. Thanks to Canada's first past the post system, this actually tells us very little.

As of Sept 4, 2008

If the federal election were held today, which of the following parties would you vote for?

Total %

Conservative party


Liberal party


New Democratic Party


Bloc Québécois


Green party


Source: environics survey

Trump Cards

Unlike previous elections, this election could be won and lost on the internet. All parties would do well to create spoof ads highlighting opposition weaknesses. A good place to start would be too look up 2d political spoofs. One similar to Blair and Bush could be particularly damaging to Harper. 
While conservatives could highlight Dion's weaknesses. The ads must be funny and create a buzz for viewership. An internet traffic expert would be a particularly valuable addition to any campaign in order to drive traffic to the sites.
Spoof ads, such as this one, could go a long way to helping parties get their message across. Although in this spoof message case, someone with a booming radio voice could portray the message much better. 

1 comment:

Jill Stewart said...

Perfect summary! I think the winner is definitely not sure. This year has been too wild and polls can't react so quickly. As a Toronto realtor I am most interested in emerging real estate problems, then we have health care problems with Castonguays critic and the new president of CMA, who may play some role, gas prices going up and now quickly down again, rising inflation, news about unemployment, Afghanistan and Iraq news - this mix is too complicated! Some things in favor of liberals, some better for conservatives.