Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Election: Things to Watch For

What are we to make of the election campaign more than half way through? It depends on how you look at it. This leader said that; this party candidate said stupid thing X. Harper looked “cool under pressure.” Duceppe won the French-language debate. This is the normal type of reporting and there is a place for it. Election campaigns are important and do make a difference. I’d like to believe, however, that there is more to the campaign then a hockey playoff play by play. I’d like to believe that elections, parties, issues, etc., can tell us more about the character and nature of Canada and where it might be going. Let’s approach the election campaign in that way.  I will confess, however, that I have no crystal ball. Instead of suggesting that the election means, then, let me suggest some things to watch for.

First, youth vote. At the start of this semester, the vast majority of students in my intro class claimed at least to not vote nor did they express much interest in voting. At the end of the course, the vast majority claimed they were going to vote. The difference was not me. Formal education, we know, makes a difference in intention to vote. I hope, however, that something else might be underway, a political re-engagement among Canadians who have been alienated from the political process. One thing to look at closely, then, in this election is whether or not we see at least some of that re-engagement.

Second, the Quebec vote. The polls at the mid-point suggested an increased fragmentation of the vote in Quebec with the BQ dropping as low as 32.X percent. Again, this should not surprise us after what has happened to the  PQ in Quebec and what seems like an increasingly clear search, on the part of Quebecers, for other viable political alternatives. My bet is that a lot of that vote will return to the BQ. By yesterday the BQ was back up in the high 30s in projected pop vote and the distribution of seats means that even if they dropped to the low 30s, it might not seriously hurt their total seat count. I’ll save armchair quarter-backing for another day. It will be interesting, however, to see if the vote in Quebec fragments.

Third, how much will the Tories and Liberals be helped by the “first past the post” system. The details here would take a long time to explain but the Canadian political system has, for a long time, translated minorities of vote into majorities of seats in the House of Commons. Chretien never won a majority of the popular vote. Canadians don’t seem to like our current system but they also don’t seem to like potential alternatives to it. The NDP historically has been the big losers. I’ll comment on this in another post. The degree to which this trend continues will be interesting to note.

Fourth, what has happened to the Green Party? My gut tells me that a lot of their vote is migrating back to the Liberal Party. The Greens, from what I can tell, never took a lot of vote from the NDP. They seemed to be siphoning off middle class voters who normally would have voted Liberal. As time goes by some of that vote seems to be slowly moving back to the Liberals. Will this trend continue in the election?

There might be other things that are important to note, as well, such as the degree to which political reporting in major media outlets effectively assessing the implications of this election or even reflects the public mood. Perhaps you have some thoughts or this or some other matter?
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