Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Canada poised for Conservative majority

Well, it was the lead story in Tuesday's Toronto Star. According to the latest EKOS Research Associates poll for the Star and La Presse, the Conservatives are now in majority territory: "The EKOS survey of 1,240 Canadians through the weekend and yesterday found 39.1 per cent support for the Conservatives. The Liberals had 26.8 per cent support; the NDP 16.2 per cent; the Bloc Québécois 12.6 per cent; and Green party 4.6 per cent."

Of course, it all depends on how the election plays out on a riding-by-riding basis, but this recent surge of popularity -- if real, if sustained -- could lead to an outcome that only a couple of weeks ago seemed, well, unfathomable: a Conservative majority government led by (gasp!) Prime Minister Stephen Harper. If the surge is expanded, we could be looking at 1984 all over again, when Brian Mulroney's Conservatives ended two decades of almost continuous Liberal dominance with a landslide victory over John Turner's Liberals.

I'm not yet convinced, however. The Liberals have begun their ramped-up campaign to discredit Harper and to frighten voters away from the Conservatives. It worked in 2004 and it may yet work again. My tendencies are with the Liberals, and I may end up voting for my local Liberal candidate (for whom I don't much care) in a close race against a high-profile NDP candidate. But the Liberals, much like the Republicans, play dirty very, very well, and it's all quite distasteful.

There are now less than two weeks left before the election, but these polls can be deceiving. It's possible that voters will look at these poll numbers and conclude that it's finally safe to vote Conservative despite Liberal admonitions to the contrary. But it's also possible that voters will look at them and conclude that the impossible has become possible, that they could wake up on the morning of the 24th with a Conservative government and (gasp!) Prime Minister Stephen Harper. That might just stir them enough to vote Liberal once again.

I know it's already stirring me.

Don't count out the Liberals yet.

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