Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Layton sneaking up...but he needs to stay clean

Ever bet the ponies? If you have then you may be familiar with this old saw..."when the odds are split between the favourites, bet on the long shot". Monday's National Post is reporting that polling numbers indicate that the Liberals and Conservatives are in a virtual dead heat, with 33.8% and 31.3% national support respectively. The NDP, or "The Democrats" come in a distant third at 18.7%, but are up almost 2 full points while the Liberal and Conservative numbers slide.

The biggest concern for Canadians remains the economy, with 33.8% rating it number one, but that number is down 5.4% from June. It seems the message that the recession will soon be over is finding some resonance, recent job loss numbers notwithstanding.

So will we have a fall election or won't we? And if we do...what can we expect to result from a trip to the polls?

Given the weakness in the economy I still consider an election sooner rather than later to be a safe bet. Going strictly by the numbers a Liberal or Conservative minority would seem the most likely outcome. I would give the Tories a slight edge based on superior organization and deeper pockets, though as I said...that's going 'strictly by the numbers'.

But polling numbers don't tell the full story. The next election is going to be nasty, the Liberals under Michael Ignatieff have gained some strength. Their financial position has improved significantly, which should enable them to better withstand the barrage of a Conservative attack, while firing off some salvos of their own. How will Canadians react to the leaders of our two main parties slugging it out, doing all they can to make the other appear incompetent and dangerous?

Which brings me back to the Democrats under Jack Layton.

If Mr. Layton can craft a message that speaks to Canadians, one that addresses the challenges facing this country, without resorting to partisan mud slinging...he and his party could be the big winners. I'm not suggesting the NDP will form the next government, but I can envision a tight 3 way race.

Whose vote are the leaders of our three main parties going to be fighting over? While not intending to sound egotistical, its mine...the undecided. I've voted Conservative, Liberal and NDP over the years, and I still haven't made up my mind about the coming election. I haven't completely written off Elizabeth May and the Green Party, but it'll take a lot to sway my vote in that direction.

Expect to see the rhetoric ratcheted up in the coming weeks, with the Conservative and Liberals sharpening their attacks on each other. In my opinion it will serve Monsieur Layton and the NDP well if they can stay mostly out of the fray, letting the two heavy weights bloody each other's noses. Jack has always struck me as more than a bit of a Beau Brummel, and blood stains wouldn't look good on the nattily attired leader of Canada's labour party.

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