From the Editors: The Election

Finally… it is done

Geoffrey Nilson / The Runner

It’s been a wild ride, friends. Given the way our production schedule works, you’ll be reading this after the election, knowing who won. But one thing that even I know, in my pre-results position writing this, is that this election was a weird one.

While 2011 was the first election I was old enough to vote in, I don’t remember that one being half as weird as this one. Harper showed up to the CBC English debate. Attack ads were effective against Michael Ignatieff, who was even less impressive as a leader than Stephane Dion.

This year was very strange. The traditional CBC debate didn’t happen, which is supposed to happen every election, as it has since they started being televised in the 1960s. We did get a bunch of other debates, and while many of them were excellent, such as Maclean’s and Munk, very few people even watched them.

Our election was much longer. Nothing like the American ones which seem to last at least a year, but still longer than expected, 78 days instead of 37.

Trudeau, like Ignatieff, had plenty of attack ads directed at him, but unlike Ignatieff he bounced back from them with confidence. When the Conservatives said Trudeau “just wasn’t ready,” Trudeau replied with “I’m not ready… For four more years of Harper.” He then proceeded to to debate confidently.

In some ways, the attack ads backfired on Trudeau. These advertisements lowered the expectations of Trudeau to such lows that all he needed to do was show up wearing pants in the first debate to “win.”

On top of this, Trudeau has also done a commendable job of handling the media and critics. His answer to the Bill C-51 question has been satisfying to many, replying with a truly centrist “we can increase safety to Canadians while protecting their rights as well.” It was also nice to see him defend a journalist who, when asking Trudeau about Dan Gagnier, was being heckled.

The NDP, historically viewed as a “wasted vote,” started the election as the official opposition. They definitely started out strong as far as the polls go, but over the last 11 weeks have been slipping considerably. I think it has more to do with Trudeau’s strong performance than with Mulcair himself. Many Liberals jumped ship to the NDP and Conservatives in 2011 when Michael Ignatieff came off as a wet towel, and wasn’t able to appear like someone who could stand next to other heads of state. Now that the Liberals have a strong leader, the NDP suffers.

Others have said that Thomas Mulcair doesn’t have a very good personality, but I don’t see this. I have read comments in some forums that have argued Trudeau wants what’s best for Canada while Mulcair just wants to “win.”

The Conservatives made many campaign moves that perplexed me. Had Harper allowed more of his MPs to talk to the media, and attended more interviews himself, I think the poll numbers might have been different for him. Harper is an intelligent, calculating, and ruthless leader, and he seems to be most comfortable when talking about the economy—after all, he has a degree in it. The problem for him came when he started saying stuff like “marijuana is infinitely worse than tobacco,” and stuff about the hijab. While it’s not Ted Cruz-style whackiness, it’s quite whacky by Canadian standards.

So as I write this on a Sunday afternoon, it looks like Monday night could grant us a Liberal minority government, but this assumes that the polls are accurate. Éric Grenier’s poll tracker was quite accurate last election, but it gets more and more difficult to track polls accurately as time goes on. Lots of people don’t pick up their phones when they think they’re about to polled, and the pollsters that only call landlines have a low success rate. The polls for BC’s provincial election predicted a NDP majority, and that obviously didn’t happen.

The likely explanation is that plenty of people don’t make their minds up until they actually walk into their polling station. My dad, for instance, doesn’t know if he’ll go Liberal or Conservative, and there are more than enough people in the same mindset who can shift an election.

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