Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dion Gets Some Benefit of the Doubt

The Ipsos-Reid post convention poll shows Dion has some traction in Ontario and Quebec. Just as one swallow does not make a summer, one poll does not make a trend.

Dion is getting some benefit of the doubt in BC and Alberta with a 41/35 and 39/33 favourable over unfavourable rating respectively. The sleeper statistic is the “Don’t know enough about the person” shows 24% in BC and Ontario and 27% in Alberta. He obviously needs to spend some “quality” time in the west between now and the next election.

The Liberals are not out of the penalty box yet either, nor should they be. When asked if the Liberals “deserve to be elected and govern under the leadership of Stephane Dion nationally 44% agreed and 50% disagreed. In BC 56% disagreed and 66% said no in Alberta. Ontario and Quebec were ambivalent at about 50/50 but the Maritimes liked him with 54% agreeing the Liberals with Dion deserved to govern and only 37% disagreeing.

The next federal election will be a contest between two leaders who have two different visions, two different ideologies and different perspectives on the role of government. It will be less about “charisma and style” more about policy and ideas. Wahtever ballot box issue emerges it will be influenced by Canadian's perceptions about the characters and trustworthiness of the two major party leaders.

The sub-plot to the personality/character drama will be the environment. That will be the platform where the battle is staged and fought the hardest. It will vary in content and context in different regions across the country but it will be pervasive.

The environment as a major decision driving political issue will give the Greens a credibility boost and may actually generate some seats this time. They will get a chance to set the agenda and the tone of the debate. They will have to be able to embrace the integration of a growing economy and enhanced environmental outcomes to be successful. Picking one over the other will set them back, and maybe way back.

This next federal campaign may relegate the NDP to the sidelines. They have to find a resonating issue that claims and frames their place in the race. It they fail, this election will be the begininng of the Greens as the new Third Party. The NDP risk in this election is that they devolve into a rump and becoming a relic as a federal political force.

The unofficial campaign has started and the race for the hearts and minds of Canadians is definitely on. Everything out of Ottawa will be done and designed through an election lens by all the political players all the time. In the short term expect more heat then light.

Harper picked his spot for the last election. He does not have that luxury this time. He may still try to engineer his defeat with timing and an issue that will be more propitious and firm up his base. He can do this by having the Bloc “force” him into an earlier election over our role in Afghanistan.

Alberta politicos’ fresh off the PC leadership contest can catch their breath over Christmas but we better be ready to roll early in the New Year.