Surge roundup

The unprecedented rise in support for the NDP is provoking a lot of reaction from various thoughtful observers. Here’s a compendium.

From Frank Graves of Ekos Research, author of yesterday’s dramatic poll putting the NDP in second place nationally with a projected 100 seats, in a live chat this morning at

Nothing is absolutely ruled out. But I think the public is answering Mr. Harper’s request for a majority with a pretty clear “No.” The intricacies of vote splitting might confuse this as late campaign shifts, but at slightly under 34 points, the Conservatives are well short of a majority. In fact, the implication of a majority between the NDP and the Liberals coupled with a diminished Conservative minority may pose some extremely interesting challenges.

The evidence from the surveys suggests that the NDP still have room to grow. Particularly in Ontario where they are rising, but have seen a dramatic spike up in second choice. They now lead nationally with first and second choice at 54 points — nearly 14 points ahead of the other contenders. So, yes still room to grow, but I don’t think the public have fully grasped where they have arrived and it is not outside of possibility that there will be a recoil effect. So whether the NDP wave is analogous to Clegg in the last UK election or perhaps Bob Rae in Ontario.

Graves had this to say about the Dips’ prospects in Atlantic Canada:

The Atlantic has changed dramatically in the past week where the NDP have bulled their way into what was a two-way race. The NDP began in the Atlantic in single digits and now lead. So that will be fascinating to see how that concludes.

From Andrew Coyne, @acoyne, Maclean’s National Editor and a genuine Lockean conservative (not the fake Harper kind), a series of exasperated tweets:

Oh for – arrgh!: “Harper is asking voters to consider whether they want their riding to be left outside the Tory tent.”

Where they serve the pork. RT @markdjarvis: “People have a decision to make…abt whether they want to be at the table.”

But all the Tory partisans & professional shills will rationalize it to themselves that they’re the party of the taxpayer & free markets.

They’ve just utterly corrupted themselves & hope to corrupt the public. But then, if the public weren’t already corrupted, it wouldn’t work.

Politics in much of this country is just a two-way auction: state goodies in exchange for votes; votes in exchange for goodies.

Just friggin’ look at yourselves, Tories. Look at what you’ve become. Look at what you’re peddling.

From CBC’s Keith Boag, a strong critique setting forth Harper’s false statements about how parliamentary democracy works. [Unfortunately, the CBC provides no easy way to embed it.] As a Contrarian friend writes:

The most despicable thing Harper has ever done is lie to people about how their government works. It’s the big lie, so appalling no one can imagine it’s untrue.

Harper has done this twice: in the current election campaign, and in the prorogation scandal of 2008.

From former Daily News cartoonist Theo Moudakis, now inking for the Toronto Star, this take on Canada’s unnecessary election:

unnecessary election-550

The redoubtable Elly Alboim has a pot pourri of fresh #elxn41 observations: That leadership numbers and party preference are starting to come into consonance; that the NDP surge can be viewed two ways, as likely to build and spread, or likely to whither in the face of inevitable attacks from Libs and CPCs; plus some knowledgeable analysis of the variance in polling numbers and the validity of seat projections.

This final week will be the Grimm brothers’ story book of election campaigns. The potential narratives are legion and becoming more and more compelling.

There is the potential Greek tragedy in Mr. Ignatieff and the Liberals. There is the obvious Cinderella story in Mr. Layton and the NDP. Mr. Harper may get his majority he has doggedly sought (the little engine that could) or keep rolling his ball up an endless hill. If you want an alternative that’s a bit more modern, he may finally kick the field goal or like Charlie Brown, have the football snatched away yet again.

On the same excellent Carleton Journalism School website, Chris Waddell and Paul Adams offer tart assessment of the Liberals’ campaign. First, Waddell:

First the party and Mr. Ignatieff have been ineffective in opposition in parliament and its campaign has done nothing to shake that view among it appears almost three-quarters of voters.

Second Liberal policy is not sufficiently distinct from the Conservatives on economic issues for the public to notice a difference, the Liberals haven’t campaigned on the economy and the party has no recognized spokesperson with gravitas on economic matters.  Yet those issues remain very important with voters across the country and the NDP does offer a clear difference here although its policies have never faced much scrutiny. (The Liberals are trying to shine that spotlight on Mr. Layton this week.)

Third, the Conservative pre-election framing of Mr Ignatieff’s personality, character and interests has proven devastatingly effective with voters and Liberal campaigners are getting that regularly on doorsteps. Mr Ignatieff’s campaign hasn’t shaken that impression in the public’s mind.

And from Paul Adams:

The Liberals are caught in a historical dilemma. Unlike the situation during most of the 20th century, the Liberals are now alone among the parties, in that they have no roots as a populist party. The Conservatives have Reform as a predecessor. The NDP came from prairie populism and union activism. The Bloc from the separatist movement, and the Greens out of environmentalism.

But the Liberals have always been different. They have been a brokerage party with no clear ideological ground on which to stand. No one can ever remember a time when they did — except, perhaps, on the constitution and Quebec, which is hardly likely to help them now.

And as they try to perform a Gestalt in the final days of the campaign, they only reinforce the idea that while other parties stand for something, they don’t.

Finally, the Chronicle-Herald’s consistently reliable Stephen Maher notes two trends:

In 2004, Stephen Harper’s newly merged party took 24 Ontario seats with 31.5 per cent of the vote, pushing Paul Martin’s Liberals into a minority. In 2006, the Tories took 40 seats, with 35 per cent of the vote. In 2008, the Conservatives won 51, with 39 per cent of the vote.

Step by step, Harper’s team has moved in from the white, Protestant countryside, which by long tradition gravitates to the Tories, toward the multi-hued suburbs of Toronto, where significant numbers of immigrants and their children are embracing a modern Conservative message that has been carefully calibrated for them.


Voters in Quebec, in contrast, have mostly turned their backs to Harper’s stern warnings, shocking everybody by warming up to Jack Layton.

After a strong French-language debate performance, Layton’s party is now leading the Bloc Quebecois. With his folksy Montreal street French and a policy book that has been carefully shaped over the years to reduce friction with nationalist Quebecers, Layton can now hope for a real harvest of MPs on Monday.

He has been preparing the ground for years. With little hope for immediate gains, he worked hard to make the NDP electoral effort in Quebec more than symbolic. The first seedling to sprout was the election of Thomas Mulcair, giving the party, for the first time, a talented bilingual spokesman.

Before concluding…

These developments in Quebec and Ontario are terrible news for the Liberals. Some national polls now show the Grits behind the NDP. I don’t believe, given the weight of tradition and the power of incumbency, that the NDP can surpass the Liberals on election day, but who knows?

As the election began, I thought Michael Ignatieff had a good chance of connecting with Canadian voters. Until the debates, when he failed to make a persuasive case for a Liberal government, it looked like his energetic and free-wheeling rally performances might give Canadians cause to reconsider him, setting up a momentum-building redemption narrative.

Instead, in the final days of the campaign, voters on the left are evenly divided between the Liberals and New Democrats, which is ideal for the Conservatives, since strategic voters may not know how to vote to block a Tory majority.

Preston Manning’s father, Ernest, dreamed of a political realignment in Canada, with a right-wing party and a left-wing party, rather than two parties of the mushy middle.

The goal of the movement, for decades, has been to squeeze the Liberals. By framing this election around the question of whether a coalition is a venial or a mortal sin, Harper is moving closer to realizing the Manning dream.

I’m not convinced Monday’s outcome will be any sort of dream for Harper, but that’s certainly one possible result.