Liberals in a Precarious Place Federally

di Joe Volpe del 29 October 2019

TORONTO - It is remarkable, really, how the National Press and Media so quickly got themselves sucked into the post-election frenzy about (1) which leaders are edging closer to immolation or (2) how the country would address the “aggrieved” regions of Canada, given the voting results. Well, first o, regions don’t ever get aggrieved. Some of our Canadian citizens who live there or have moved there may have succumbed to their own hyperbolic bombast but, in the final analysis, people voted – some got the choice they wanted others didn’t. The election wasn’t one about “if I don’t get what I want, I’m leaving”.

Quebec, the famous petulant child of Canada, with its 78 electoral seats, decided it would be better served if 37 of them were to go to the Bloc Quebecois. Was there a viable alternative for them? As the Angus Reid Institute (ARI), a non-partisan, not for profit pollster reported, Quebec will not have been alone in making a last-minute decision. More on that later.

As for Alberta, and to a lesser extent Saskatchewan, they’ll get their pipeline (gas and oil). The government has already spent $4.5 billion on it and will spend an additional six billion plus. Whether the NDP, The Green or the Bloc support it or not, how many of the 121 CPC MPs will vote against what everyone in Alberta and Saskatchewan (minus some Aboriginal communities) desperately wants?

The two provinces won’t be eligible to have representation in Cabinet. Immaterial. Our Parliamentary system is based on a “responsible government” concept, not “representative” one. The Executive branch is responsible to the House (it proposes and the House disposes) where citizens from all provinces are represented by MPs.

If anything, the absence of a strong Cabinet voice to advance “the Province’s interests” just gives narrow-minded Premiers greater leverage. Better a strong Premier than a weak Minister in the Federal Cabinet. The governance issue is Trudeau’s problem, not the Provinces’. Nor is it one for Unity, despite what the Press and Media have to say …today.

That Trudeau “dodged a bullet” – this time – is borne out by the ARI’s report outlining (1) when voters made up their mind, (2) how many “switched” and (3) why. ARI’s numbers strongly suggest that in the end, the voters decided on the basis of Party allegiance first, policy platform second and leadership a distant third. An even more distant fourth consideration was the desire to keep the incumbent.

Remember that the Liberals suffered the biggest losses both in popular vote 16% (from 39.4% to 33.1%) and seats (from 184 t0 158). It could have been much worse. ARI found that fully 44% of those who voted Liberal did not decide to do so until the last week before the election. 23% had considered someone else and made up their mind on the October 20, and 12% did so only when they entered the balloting area.

What was the main reason for the switch? Nationally, 5% wanted to keep the MP they knew. Because there were many more Liberal incumbents, for them the average was 9%, according to ARI. In constituencies where the differences between first and second was less than 4,000 votes, the MP made the difference for the Party.

In the 92 ridings across the country where Italian Canadian electors numbered more than 5,000, Trudeau and the Liberal Party owe them a great debt of gratitude.

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