By Jason Menard
While some may look at the latest Decima Research poll as the final nail in a long-delayed Liberal coffin, it may in fact be the defibrillating jolt that the Grits need to breathe new life into their campaign.
It’s serious now for many Canadians. The debates are out of the way, the holidays are past, and the dull grey January weather is the perfect background for playing out this political drama. And with the latest poll results showing the resurgent Conservative Party enjoying a nine-point lead amongst decided voters and those who are leaning in one direction, we’ve come to the time when the left-leaning voters have to make their choice.
It’s a test of faith that will decide the outcome of the next election.
Nine points is nothing to laugh about. At 39 per cent of the decided voters, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are sniffing a majority government. Alone on the right, they’re not only enjoying voters’ lack of trust in the Liberals, but also their apparent belief in the power of Jack Layton’s New Democratic Party. Even in Quebec, the Conservatives appear to be working their way back from the brink of extinction to become an actual viable alternative, as evidenced by their six point increase of support that comes courtesy of the Bloc’s precipitous drop of 11 per cent support.
So the path of the current election is clear. If voters hold true to their stated intentions, the Conservatives will ride to a majority and the Liberals will be swept from power. But in this majority scenario, so too does the left-of-centre influence find itself on the outside looking in.
That’s where those left-leaning voters have to do a gut check and see where their priorities lie. And it’s the only hope the Liberals have to retain any semblance of power.
As Layton has expressed repeatedly through the campaign, he feels the Conservatives are just wrong on the issue and he appears to be angling for a stronger role for his NDP candidates in the next House of Commons. This campaign strategy is all fine and dandy when we’re looking at a minority government because, as he’s shown, a smaller party can have a disproportionate impact on the fortunes of the government. But in a Conservative majority, how much influence will those powerless MPs really have? In essence, Layton could find himself with more NDPs in the House of Commons, but with less power than he enjoyed in the last House with fewer representatives.
In last year’s election, polls pointed to a dead heat between the Conservatives and Liberals as voting day approached. Apparently, once voters got to the polls, they chose to vote strategically and not with their heart as NDP support migrated to the Liberal camp in order to keep the Tories and their alleged right-wing agenda out of power.
If lefties were scared last year when the polls showed a neck-in-neck race, they must be quaking in their boots now at the prospect of a Conservative majority.
Best of all, for the Liberals, is that the numbers are so striking the average Canadian can easily do the math and draw their own conclusions. There’s no need for the Grits to unleash the smear-and-fear strategy – the writing’s already on the wall and the voters don’t need anyone to spell it out.
Unfortunately for Layton, it appears that most Canadians view the NDP as a wonderful party to act as the country’s conscience, but not one to actually take Canada’s reigns and guide it in the next House in a leadership role. So that leaves the tried-and-tested Liberals.
Those soft-NDP voters, and even those disgruntled right-wing Liberals who have drifted to the Conservatives, have to take a look at the strength of their convictions. The reality of a government dominated by a right-of-centre party is upon us and they have to choose what they want their Canada to look like.
Much like Quebec, where elections are less about parties than ideologies, this federal election is shaping up to be a battle not between individual candidates, but rather a contest pitting right versus left. The battle is at hand and the right has their champion. The leftist camp has to decide whether to continue to split its forces, or consolidate their power into one front.
Voting with their hearts or their minds – it’s a test of faith for the left in which the country’s future rests.
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