1.1. Potential for Larger Harper Majority
Stephen Harper’s Conservatives face the prospects of a majority government—and quite possibly a huge majority. The Opposition parties can expect some surprises. These include the rise of the NDP in Quebec, its possible ebbing on the prairies, and the leadership-driven weakness of the Greens.
Falling short of a Kim Campbell-style shellacking, the Liberals nonetheless face the prospect of a historic shut out in French Quebec and being limited to islands of support in Atlantic Canada, English-speaking Montreal, the City of Toronto, parts of southern and Eastern Ontario, and parts of Vancouver.
These are the vote-related findings from the COMPAS Research poll, a representative survey of 2,251 Canadians. Without a major change in the nature of the election campaign, the Conservatives will end up with a lead of 21 percentage points that is potentially growing—more than enough to form a majority government.
Leadership gives the Conservatives overwhelming nation-wide momentum with some new, history-shattering advances for the NDP in Quebec. Harper is so much more favourably regarded than the other party leaders and especially than Michael Ignatieff that the Conservatives’ advance is being slowed mainly by the residual strength of the Liberal brand. The leader who can compete best with Harper in public trust is Gilles Duceppe on his home turf of francophone Quebec. In Quebec, Jack Layton’s image is rising in this unexpectedly fertile territory for the NDP.
Like the Liberals, the Greens also face the possibility of declining support as a result of comparatively low confidence in party leadership. Leadership is especially important in this campaign because Canadian voters, like voters in other democracies, have an underlying feeling of unease about the direction of the world economy.
1.2. The English Debate Likely Reinforced the Conservatives’ Campaign Momentum
“The fatal mistake of the Liberals,” says Dr. Conrad Winn, “is to deny that the credibility of the messenger drives the credibility of the message. Attacks from an Opposition critic in whom the public has limited confidence risk boomeranging against the critic himself unless the critic is very careful.”
“The Liberal leader’s performance in the English debate will likely weaken his party by attacks that focused too much on Harper’s ostensibly bad attitudes and not enough on provable behaviours that the voters deem important and can verify for themselves.
“The NDP leader was more effective in the debate than the Liberal but he too didn’t fully understand that more is often less. For example, Layton’s jab about Ignatieff’s poor Commons’ attendance would have been even stronger had he allowed viewers more opportunity to provide their own (negative) interpretation.”