Can some kind of Mike and Jack show in Ottawa still lean Canada forward?

Nov 15th, 2010 | By | Category: In Brief

Canadian federal voting intentions in Quebec, Léger Marketing-Le Devoir, November 15, 2010: “Au Québec, le parti de Jack Layton est à égalité avec celui d'Ignatieff.”

Technically, a Canadian federal election on December 31, 2010 could still be called as late as November 26 — 11 days from now. (And as some will want to remember here, the Federal Court of Appeal has “ruled that the Bill C-16 fixed-election-date measures” which became law “in May 2007 … did not … change the Canada Elections Act to prohibit the Prime Minister from calling snap elections” — under such parliamentary circumstances as those of minority governments.)

There have in fact been two December federal elections in Canadian history — on December 17, 1917 (during the First World War), and December 6, 1921. Barring the quite unlikely prospect of a call to democratic arms over the next 11 days, however, it is now very close to certain that there will not be yet another federal election this year — to nicely match the sequence 2004, 2006, 2008 with a 2010. Those of us who think an election fairly soon would be a good idea can only look forward to a “campaign expected in the spring [of 2011] … that will almost certainly determine whether Stephen Harper remains prime minister.”

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, right, and his wife Zsuzsanna Zsohar serve lunch at Shepherds of Good Hope soup kitchen in Ottawa on Sunday, October 11, 2009. PAWEL DWULIT / THE CANADIAN PRESS.

Recent opinion polls suggest that the most likely result of a Canadian federal election in the very near future would be yet another Conservative minority government — in which case Mr. Harper would remain prime minister, for the time being. But seat projections for the latest EKOS poll, released this past Thursday, also indicate that, while the Harper Conservatives would continue to have the single largest number of seats in yet another minority parliament, the Liberals and New Democrats together would have almost 30 more seats than the Conservatives — and even lie within striking distance of a bare parliamentary majority, without the strictly confidence-measure voting support of the (allegedly separatist) Bloc Québécois.

NDP Leader Jack Layton and his wife MP Olivia Chow watch returns at his election night headquarters in Toronto on Tuesday October 14, 2008. Photo by Nathan Denette/CP.

As various commentators have noted, the wily PM Harper’s recent decision to extend Canada’s Afghanistan mission beyond next year, for alleged “non-combat” purposes, is, among other things, nicely dividing the Liberals and the New Democrats, just when they ought to be thinking harder about getting together to bring down the (still perhaps?) mean-spirited, right-wing, soft-on-Canada ideologue, Stephen Harper. Something else that is no doubt doing Mr. Harper a similar favour is the unusually strong showing of Jack Layton’s New Democrats — in the EKOS poll from this past Thursday, November 11, in an Abacus Data online poll from Thursday, November 4, and now in a November 15 Léger Marketing-Le Devoir poll, which shows “Au Québec, le parti de Jack Layton est à égalité avec celui d’Ignatieff.”

Today’s Léger Marketing-Le Devoir poll even shows that the Layton New Democrats (NPD) are actually slightly ahead of the Ignatieff Liberals (PLC) among Quebec francophones (see eg the chart above). Just what this means — or how durable it is — remains far from clear. It is no doubt worth noting that while Mr. Layton is not a certified francophone, he nonetheless does qualify as a Quebec native son, whose grandfather actually served in the provincial cabinet of the old-style Quebec nationalist, Maurice Duplessis. Things of this sort are still noticed in a province unlike the others whose licence plates declare “Je me souviens.” (It is probably worth noting as well that in today’s Léger Marketing-Le Devoir poll, the Harper Conservatives are not all that far behind either the New Democrats or the Liberals in Quebec!)

Michael (l), Olivia, and Jack at the 2009 Dragon Ball in Toronto. That may also be Zsuzsanna on the far right, with her back to the camera?

Personally I am still counting myself among those Canadian people who feel that the most likely way of articulating MSNBC’s current “Lean Forward” slogan up here in the northern North American wilderness still lies in some form of Liberal-New Democrat co-operation, after the next federal election at least. I hope someone is reminding Mr. Layton that the NDP cross-Canada vote still does not translate into parliamentary seats at all as efficiently as the Liberal vote. (The projections for the latest EKOS poll still give the Liberals 93 seats, versus a mere 49 for the New Democrats.) But I also hope someone else is reminding Mr. Ignatieff that, if he has any realistic hopes of becoming Canadian prime minister in any near future at all, he and  Zsuzsanna probably ought to be taking Jack and Olivia out to dinner a few times over the coming winter months, perhaps at some quiet Greek restaurant on the Danforth, in darkest Toronto (and also in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Montréal, and Halifax too).

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