September sends us back to school and October will send us back to the polls.
And while the Canadian political landscape has been percolating, is there any reason to suspect we won’t see a rerun of the recent campaign in Alberta or last year’s in Ontario?
Forgetting outcomes for a moment, both elections were greeted with a groan by voters as exercises in nastiness, style over substance and politicking of the worst sort.
Both saw years-long campaigning against incumbents, well-entrenched positions, little policy discussion, accusations and lots of mud slung in lots of directions. When the dust settled conservative supporters in both provinces rejoiced. Liberals, New Democrats and other progressives recoiled, and the splinter groups that fell off all of the major parties were left frustrated.
Except for the fact that the result on the national stage is certainly more up in the air, it’s shaping up to be much the same formula employed after the federal election writ was dropped yesterday.
That will formalize the process of what’s become the multi-year, around the clock endeavour of campaigning by politicians and electioneering by parties and interest groups.
There’s barely a public statement not made by an ad in Canada’s multi-party system, that means shots fired in all directions of an increasingly divided and complex political landscape.
The New Democrats and Greens are battling for many of the same supporters and in Quebec that conversation includes the left-leaning Bloc Quebecois.
Meanwhile, the federal Liberals and Conservatives are becoming more polarized, yet each are losing some supporters while galvanizing others. The People’s Party of Canada is made up of sure-fire Tory voters who are frustrated on social and cultural issues as well as the most libertarian of economic positions.
The Greens and NDP are picking up 2015 swing-vote Liberals who are concerned on the environment, but then apparently losing them to each other.
So the Liberals are defending their environmental plans to the left hand and their handling of the economy to the right. The national economy, employment and a host of indicators are humming. They’re apparently willing to go to the wall on the environment. Yet, will either be enough to satisfy voters for which those are the key issues?
Similarly, the Conservatives are homing in on the economy, ethics, and ready to amplify concerns about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s leadership, which offends Tories to no end.
In the era of total, endless campaigning, the Conservatives have played the game well, and have put the government on the backfoot. Mopping up the SNC-Lavalin affair, trying to get a pipeline built, and responding to the social media criticisms of whatever day it is, is not what a first-term majority government wants to carry to the polls.
And it’s all happened without a charismatic leader in Andrew Scheer of the Conservatives.
Yet, his party is at least even-steven nation-wide with the personality-driven Trudeau Liberals.
That should lead us to believe that elections are all about the campaigns, and less about the leader. It was certainly true in Ontario and Alberta as those provinces voted for new governments.
There’s another strain from the provincial test cases that could prove true nationally.
With two such dominant viewpoints battling for the votes of an increasingly polarized electorate, is their room for more than two parties on the landscape? That’s now the reality in Alberta, and is certainly the current feeling in Ontario after the Ontario Liberals were thoroughly trounced.
The election is coming. Might a de facto two-party system be the result?