In the federal election expected in October, one may speculate that the final outcome will be determined mainly by six participants, not two.
Though the two federal frontrunners are still the ruling Conservatives and the Liberals, they will not be allowed to tango by themselves. Furthermore, if this dancing contest was to be categorized as a race, the NDP would not finish first nor second, it would come – like the pun’s proverbial frog – toad.
Having thus eliminated the NDP from the main casting, the next step is to identify the six key dancers whose actions and reactions will be decisive: the Harper Conservatives, the Justin Trudeau Liberals, the Kathleen Wynne provincial Liberals, the John Tory municipal government in Toronto, the voting public of Ontario and the voting public of Quebec.
The thinking behind that selection is based on the principle that the two key regions in the electoral outcome will be Quebec and Ontario, the voting pattern in Quebec being as important as, if not more important than, the voting pattern in Ontario.
Why that emphasis on Quebec? It is clear the Quebec-based parties have lost their previously dominant position and the Bloc Quebecois has lost its traction. It is also safe to presume the NDP will not be capable of keeping its majority of federal ridings in the province, so there is room for the Liberals and the Conservatives to increase their number of ridings.
Even considering any major missteps by the provincial Liberal government that may tarnish the Liberal brand, the Conservatives will face a greater uphill task in their efforts to increase their federal seats here.
On the other hand, the Liberal brand in Ontario does not appear to be as tarnished as may be expected by the constant airing of allegations of major irregularities and missteps by the previous and present Liberal governments. Coming on the heels of last year’s collapse of NDP forces under Andrea Horwath and the defeat of the Conservatives under Tim Hudak, the Kathleen Wynne Liberals are still enjoying some Teflon effects.
Shinier than that Teflon coating and newer than the Wynne government’s image of vigour and action, the John Tory government in Toronto is well placed to play a decisive role in this federal election. Positioning himself outside of the ongoing differences of opinion, policy and priorities in the strained relationship between the Harper and Wynne governments, Mayor Tory’s advocacy for the interests of the people of Toronto is having a positive effect on the interests of both sides.
As Tory’s more cordial relationship and greater political compatibility with Prime Minister Harper’s conservative values lead to increased cooperation, cost-sharing and financial inflow from the federal government to programs presented by the municipal government, the Greater Toronto Area and Ontario as a whole stand to benefit. The Harper government also gets more opportunities to enhance its image as an active contributor to the wellbeing of the people of Toronto and the vote-rich GTA.
All of those developments, however, are being overshadowed by the increasing momentum of the Justin Trudeau Liberals. The improvement in the Liberal brand provided by the Wynne government in riding-rich Ontario is crucial. But there are other equally important factors such as the “Trudeau brand” and the “Justin effect” which are attracting the positive attention of voters nationwide.
Trudeau is building on his father’s legacy by blending his own approach to issues and policies with a combination of tone and image that suggests youthful vigour, renewal, generational change and hope for the future.
Consequently, the Harper Conservatives are offering Canadians a picture of stability and continuity, traditional values, enhanced security and sound economic management. They are being challenged by the Trudeau Liberals’ three-part choreography: social justice that enhances national unity, inclusiveness and equity; environmentally sound economic development that includes employment and poverty reduction; and a focus on youth and sustainable community lifestyles.
Mr. Harper has musical talents. Mr. Trudeau has charm and social skills. Shall we dance?