Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Canadian federal election: Some thoughts on the campaign so far.

Well we're finally getting into the last stretch of Canadian federal election and things are looking pretty bleak for the Liberal's. The overwhelming urge to boot out Canada's natural governing party that comes over the population in waves is definitely riding very high in this election. Change for the sake of change is definitely the idea with the most force this campaign. While there are certainly legitimate reasons for being motivated to vote for change (to shake up entrenched bureaucracy, to bring in fresh ideas, etc.), it's hard to deny that detailed evaluation of policy is taking the back seat.

This will probably strike a lot of people as a strange thing to say since Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have been described as running a policy-driven campaign. While it's true Harper has kept the campaign focused on policy, the policy ideas they've unrolled haven't exactly sent chills of anticipation down anyone's spine. There's really nothing they've put forward in their platform that's galvanized support from any side. Instead they've taken the softer approach and slid down the mushy middle- which happens to be the sweet spot for them this election.

It definitely hasn't been a campaign putting forward bold new ideas or one where they've aggressively taken the message of the true believers to the masses . The platform the Conservatives have put forward has kernels of their ideology in it, but it's more an exercise in building a palatable moderate platform then a blueprint for restructuring Canada.

While Harper himself maybe a 'policy-wonk', the campaign experts surrounding him certainly aren't, and they wouldn't have advised him to babble on about their platform if it didn't fit into their campaign strategy. Since making Harper seem acceptable to most voters is what they needed, and the platform they've put forward during the election has been quite moderate, focusing on the moderate platform has won them a great deal of support. It was a good judgment call on the part of Cons since they could have easily slid into full time anti-Lib mode. If they had focused solely on the sponsorship scandal and lib bashing, they still wouldn't have convinced the public that they're a viable alternative. Since the general sentiment against the liberals given the scandals and the feeling of entrenched privilege is already there, and of course the urge for democratic change for its own sake is riding sky high, all they really needed to do was sell themselves as moderate and they've done this very very well.

While the Cons appear to be poised to form the next government, it's clear they don't have a strong mandate for pushing forward any major policy. Rather the Canadian public is giving them an opportunity to show they can govern as a moderate party, and they're giving Canada's natural governing party a breather.


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