Gomery watch : the rolling numbers

Apr 12th, 2005 | By | Category: Ottawa Scene

Even if you remain sceptical about just how much good a fresh Canadian federal election can do, it’s hard not to be duly impressed by the latest numbers on the impact of the most recent Gomery testimony.

A dramatic new EKOS poll commissioned by the Toronto Star has even raised some dim prospect that Stephen Harper’s Conservatives might win a parliamentary majority without taking any seats in Quebec. And Globe and Mail conservative pundit John Ibbitson’s prophecy of early last summer – that the Liberal Party of Canada is destined to follow the lead of the now-vanished Eaton’s cross-Canada department store chain – is starting to look a bit more like deep insight again.

The trouble with this kind of thing is that, once it gets seriously started, all the many varieties of political junkies across all the regions of Canada will want to join in – whatever other better judgments they may have. It could be that we have suddenly almost reached this point already, though this thought seems a bit too breathtaking quite yet, even for the hardened professionals.

The EKOS poll also includes some continuing suggestion that the people of Canada do remain moderate above all else. Only 15% of its respondents wanted an election right now. At the other end of the spectrum, more than 20% had already decided that the sponsorship scandal doesn’t require another election in any case. And in the great and most moderate middle more than 60% wanted to hear the complete Gomery inquiry testimony before another election is called (which apparently puts things ahead to at least the end of May).

The EKOS poll results were presented by the TV Ontario program Studio 2 on the evening of April 11. Some detail appears on the Reuters Canada and Halifax Live websites. A report by Chantal Hebert in the Toronto Star – “Liberals’ ship is sinking fast” – touches on the  dilemmas that the surprisingly strong Conservative showing in the rest of Canada, and very strong support for the Bloc Quebecois (and seminal weakness of the Liberals) in Quebec, might portend.

The poll puts the Conservatives ahead of the Liberals across the country – about 36% Conservatives to only 25% Liberals. In the most populous province of Ontario Conservatives lead the Liberals by 40% to 33%. Chantal Hebert also notes that the “NDP has moved into the lead in the Prairies and British Columbia.” (Which helps suggest as well that, as Ms. Hebert puts it, while the Conservatives “could still win a majority” on the EKOS numbers, a Conservative “minority government would be a more likely outcome.”)

Meanwhile, on other fronts an online poll on the Vancouver Sun and other Canada.com websites shows 85% of respondents answering Yes to the question “Will the Gomery Inquiry and its revelations into the sponsorship scandal bring down the Liberal government?” A TV Ontario Studio 2 online poll shows 70% answering No to the question “Would you be happy if a spring federal election was called?” A Montreal Gazette article indicates what the Gomery inquiry suggests so far about the “dollar amounts” involved in the sponsorship scandal – and they continue to add up to a great deal less than another federal election will cost. And a few Liberal MPs are already starting to think about deserting the sinking ship.

There still seem many good reasons for remaining sceptical about at least the deepest depths of the “Liberals’ ship is sinking fast” scenario. (Not the least of which is that a rather similar scenario which evolved during the last campaign didn’t work quite like all the experts finally expected on June 28, 2004 either.)

But at some point soon no doubt a lot of people like the counterweights editors could wind up deciding that, if yet another Canadian federal election only about a year after the last one is just going to happen anyway, and if you are a political junkie too, you might as well enjoy it. What else can a reasonable person do? In the end it is democracy in action, after all.

TUESDAY, APRIL 12 LATE AFTERNOON UPDATE: A new Ipsos-Reid poll suggests somewhat more moderate conclusions than Ekos, but still broadly supports the “Liberals’ ship is sinking fast” scenario.

An analysis in the Globe and Mail by Brian Laghi – “Do the Tories have the guts to wait?” – also stresses how the new Ipsos-Reid poll suggests that the Conservatives are not so much gaining support as the Liberals are losing it.

Outside Quebec, Laghi goes on (and as Chantal Hebert noted yesterday as well), it’s the NDP (and the Green Party) that seem to be getting a lot of the stray Liberal vote. A Conservative majority in a fresh election is still a pretty big stretch, and something that Stephen Harper and his colleagues would have to work very hard (and courageously) to cultivate.

At the same time again, a Globe and Mail online poll shows some 22,000 respondents close to evenly divided on the question “Do you agree with Paul Martin’s assertion that he still has the ‘moral authority’ to govern Canada?” – 51% Yes and 49% No.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13 UPDATE: Very early in the morning the Globe and Mail reported that “Harper opens way to spring election … He sees no need to wait for Gomery report … Tories and Liberals gear up for June vote.”

Later in the day a Canadian Press report in the Vancouver Sun and elsewhere told how “Martin argues against early election, warns of Tory-Bloc alliance.”

Then it became official that Alberta Liberal MP David Kilgour will break ranks and sit as independent (leaving Alberta with only one Liberal MP, who is also deputy prime minister).

In Canada’s most populous province, the taxpayers’ political day ended with Mike Harris and Preston Manning on TV Ontario’s Studio 2. They were arguing for a more decentralized and privatized Canadian health care system, with a very limited role for the federal government.

Earlier in the day, in parliament in Ottawa, and also on TV, Paul Martin had already attacked Stephen Harper and the Conservatives on the same Preston Manning-Mike Harris proposal.

It was at least beginning to look quite a lot like a real election campaign. But of course we still won’t know definitively for a while yet.

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