Hang on, it's going to be a rough ride
In any campaign the national news media looks for a compelling narrative - because good stories create interest and that means more viewers.
ive revolved around the abysmal Liberal campaign and the error prone leadership of Stéphane Dion. His blunders are now legendary: failing to order a campaign plane, not knowing what a car pool was and then melting down in an English interview with ATV. If nothing else it made for compelling television.
Naturally, no two campaigns are the same.
However, there was a clear expectation when the current election was called that the Liberals would again stumble, while the Tories sailed to victory.
The more gripping question, given the relative closeness of their polling numbers, was whether the NDP could supplant the Grits as the official opposition.
As we pass the halfway mark of the campaign, a different story has emerged. Ignatieff has run a competent, relaxed campaign; the Conservatives have been on cruise control and the NDP numbers have stalled.
Ignatieff’s surprising performance proves the old maxim, never underestimate the power of being underestimated.
So where does that leave us as we pass the halfway mark?
In Atlantic Canada, as of April 13, Ekos showed the Liberals 12 points ahead, Decima had a statistical tie and Nanos revealed a large Tory lead. Here are the likely seat totals if the election were held today. Liberals 15 Conservatives 15 and NDP 2.
In Quebec, the Liberals were dead last as the campaign began. But at the halfway point Nanos showed them statistically tied for second with the Tories. Meanwhile Angus Reid claimed that it was clearly the NDP who had the momentum. The key element in all the polls is that the Blocquistes have been bleeding support to the federalist parties. Seat totals are: BQ 43, Liberals 18, Conservatives 11, NDP 2 and Independents 1.
In Ontario, most pollsters have shown a tight race with the Conservatives slightly ahead, the Liberals gaining and the NDP vote drifting to the Grits. The key question is whether the Tories will gain enough seats in the 905 region to form a majority. At the halfway point it’s Conservatives 53, Liberals 41, and NDP 12.
In Manitoba the Tories dominate. Conservatives 10, Liberals 2 and NDP 2.
In Saskatchewan, the Conservatives appear unstoppable. Conservatives 13, NDP 0 and Liberals 1.
In Alberta, the diminished NDP vote will likely mean a clean sweep for the Tories. Conservatives 28, Liberals 0 and NDP 0.
Finally, in B.C., every pollster except Ekos has shown the Tories significantly ahead. Most put the NDP in second and the Liberals a close third. The Greens have been polling much higher in B.C. (13 per cent) than anywhere else in Canada, which likely reflects Elizabeth May’s strong numbers in Saanich.
Whether she has enough support to defeat a sitting Conservative cabinet minister is uncertain.
Conservatives 22, NDP 9 and Liberals 5.
Including the Territories, here’s the final tally: Conservatives 152, Liberals 84, BQ 43, NDP 28 and Independents 1.
As we enter the final days of the campaign, what will be the dominant storyline of the 2011 election?
Will it be the Conservative narrative of effective economic leadership or the Liberal tale of respect for parliament?
Will voters be swayed by Harper’s victory in the English language debate or by the leaked Auditor General’s report?
Majority or minority?
The polls have been wildly contradictory, so we probably won’t have those answers until the evening of May 2.
In the meantime, to paraphrase Betty Davis, fasten your seatbelts. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
— Ray Smit is a regular columnist for The News.