Campaign season has been on in Canada for three weeks, with a fixed election date in October. The usual 34 days or so is instead a marathon 80+ day affair, which seems like nothing compared to the 24/7/365 of American politics, but is unprecedented in modern Canada.
Conservative leader Stephen Harper’s strategy appears to be damage control. Scandals that are plaguing his party are wont to be forgotten over the long campaign season, and the Tory advantage with fundraising makes them far better equipped to weather a long-duration campaign.
As early polls have shown the New Democratic Party to be the favourite to replace the Conservative government, Thomas Mulcair’s impact has been muted, surfacing at appropriate moments to snipe at the embattled Harper record, but shying from the limelight. By contrast, Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party have hit the trail with a similar sort of energy that Jack Layton had when the NDP was a third-place party.
The NDP trails the Grits 44 to 35% (at 20% the Conservatives are not a huge factor). There is the occasional loud independent candidate in Newfoundland, but the leaders have mainly been visiting Nova Scotia.
The NDP/NPD’s chances at a government require them to hold their unprecedented return, making this the most important province for them. In the months leading up to election season, the NPD was showing weakness, but a poll from CROP of likely voters in Québec indicates a huge lead in NPD support in the key province at 41%.
No more than a sixth of voters have given the Conservative Party their support in recent polls, making la Belle Province mainly a battleground for the left. At the moment, les Liberaux are taking a nosedive, and the comeback envisioned by the Bloc Québecois has stalled as sovereignty is polling at just 37%. Voters appear to be accepting the NDP as the most credible voice of social-democratic policy, and therefore, the likely winner in the vast majority of Québec.
Seat-rich Ontario is a three-way race. Ontario is huge and has unique constituencies, but by and large this is a fight in the Toronto suburbs, with the Conservatives nominally polling just ahead of the NDP and Liberals, 32-31-30%.
The Conservatives have a hefty lead, but the region is not particularly seat-rich. Out of the gate, there was significant interest in the race in Alberta, following on the heels of a surprise NDP win in the provincial arena. However, the most recent polling shows that the Tories are gaining support on their home turf.
Winnipeg has seen all the party leaders already, though Mulcair has been around a lot less than Harper and Trudeau according to CBC’s mapping project.
The wildcard in the race is the Green Party, and nowhere in Canada is that more of a factor than British Columbia. The party has enough support on Vancouver Island and the southern Mainland. Party leader Elizabeth May claims that the bulk of their supporters would otherwise not participate in the election at all, but supposing that Green supporters still voted, just not for Greens and with a 50-50 split between the NDP and Liberals, there’d be at least 3 fewer seats for the Conservatives.
At the moment, the analysis suggests an NDP minority government. With so much time left in the campaign, there are still many twists and turns to come. There is some thought that the Conservatives are under-reported in polling in recent years; the current majority government was a surprise, looking solely at pre-election polls it was about 30 seats ahead of where everyone thought the Tories were.
Probably the most difficult scenario would be the Tories holding on to a nominal seat lead, perhaps 130, followed closely by the NDP and Liberals. Would Harper place his brand on compromise legislation to retain the role of PM, or would the left cooperate and force him out, despite their softer mandate?