Sunday, April 4th is earliest date that the Liberals could call the election on the basis of the revised boundaries and the 308 constituency. They seem unlikely to do so.
What follows is a region by region assessment of our current politics. I am basing my views and analysis of likely outcomes on the regional results in the polls and that means in regions with small populations large margins of error. With that caveat let’s proceed.
One assumption I am making for the purpose of comparison that we can combine the PC vote with the Alliance vote.
The 1993 election fundamentally transformed the Canadian political system. And now that the PC’s and Alliance have merged I think what we have is a political architecture that should, other things being equal, yield a Liberal minority government. The key change is the loss of Liberal dominance in Quebec. Pierre Trudeau could not have built his majorities in 1968, 1974 and 1980 without Quebec.
To see where one is going it helps to look back to the last election. In Atlantic Canada, which is thought of as an area of Liberal strength, it might surprise some to learn that in 2000 the PC + CA total was larger (41.5%) than the Liberals’s 40.7%
However, out of 41.5%, 31.3% comes from the PC’s and the defections of Scott Brison (Kings-Hants) and John Herron (Fundy-Royal) and the retirement of Elsie Wayne (Saint John) illustrate the PC vote cannot be taken for granted.
Averaging all the polls we find the Conservatives are down to 35% while the Liberals are up despite the sponsorship scandal to 43.4% from 40.7% in 2002. The NDP at 15.7% have about as much support as in 2000. If this pattern holds we could expect to see the Liberals pick up perhaps one or two from the Conservatives, while the NDP hangs on to its four seats (one in Nova Scotia and two in New Brunswick) - in other words something close to the status quo.
I had a friend from Atlantic Canada staying with us a few weeks ago who said he would be happy to vote Conservative if Peter Mackay was leader but who was well aware of Stephen Harper’s comments about the region’s ‘culture of defeatism’ and therefore saw no choice but to vote Liberal. My guess is there are quite a few Atlantic voters who aren’t familiar with Harper and the views he expressed as head of the National Citizens’ Coalition. No doubt the other parties will make efforts to educate voters about the Conservative Leader’s past.
However, there is a core of constituencies that will stick with the new party. The Conservatives won 13 of 32 ridings in Atlantic Canada in 2000. They should win no fewer than 10 this time.
More to come....