Election 2015: Conservatives showing signs of concern in steadfast ridings

If the polls can be trusted, Canada is in for a political change.

If the polls can be trusted, Canada may be in for a political change.

As of Friday morning, the Liberal Party was in the lead, although nobody is making definitive prognostication based on available figures.

“Like everyone else, I sense that the Liberals have some momentum at the moment, but even four days away I’m reluctant to make a call,” said Hamish Telford, a political analyst who’s authored several books on Canadian politics and teaches political science at the University of the Fraser Valley.

“We have seen in a number elections now where polls have misled us.”

Having said that, Telford said that everyone is seeing the same trends, including the political parties which oftentimes get more accurate information than the general public.

“If the Liberals do come first, I think it’s an extraordinary campaign on their part,” said Telford, pointing out that the NDP started this campaign ahead of the races.

The undoing of both the Conservative and NDP parties may come down to the niqab.

The right of Muslim women to remain veiled during Canadian citizenship ceremonies was challenged by the Conservative party, and became one of the more contentious issues in this election campaign, despite critics saying that it was a distraction from the issues of more widespread significance, like the environment or the economy.

The Federal Court of Appeal earlier this year overturned a ban on face coverings at citizenship ceremonies, following a highly-publicized challenge by Zunera Ishaq, a 29-year-old Muslim immigrant.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government plans to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

“What the debate has appeared to have done is put a dent into NDP support in Quebec,” Telford explained. “When they came out in defence of a woman’s  right to wear a niqab, people turned away from the NDP and that left (Justin) Trudeau as the only option.”

While it may sound like everything in this election will be decided across the country, Telford said if the results are close in Quebec — which could very well be the case — the country will have to wait and see what happens in B.C.

In the 2011 election, the Conservatives won 21 of 36 seats in the province and are projected to lose a few of those.

This time around, 42 seats are up for grabs and B.C. voters tend to gravitate to either the NDP or Conservatives, when voting federally.

Signs that the Conservatives fear challenges in ridings they’ve held may have been demonstrated early on in their campaign, said Telford.

As has been chronicled by news organizations in ridings across this country, many Conservative MPs have been no-shows for events aimed at informing the electorate and silent when asked questions by reporters. Conservative MPs in this riding have been available to local media for the most part, save for one all candidates event apiece.

That silence, or lack of communication, is a sign of Harper’s mistrust of his cabinet, said Telford.

“I think it’s a sign he’s nervous about his people blowing it and creating stories that take the Conservatives off message,” he said.

That’s prompted him to look beyond candidates running for a helping hand, but options are limited.

“Harper has burned bridges with former conservatives,” said Telford pointing out that  he doesn’t have old guard party members to call on like Justin Trudeau has, with the likes of Jean Chretien.  Conservative alumni like Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark are not within Harper’s following.

So, who’s been  speaking most recently are former public safety minister Stockwell Day and outgoing Industry Minister James Moore.

Neither are on the ballot this year, but they’ve hit the road in the party bus to shore up support among party faithfuls and those who may be wavering in their dedication to the party. Day was in Kelowna to campaign last week.

Despite apparent concerns about what will happen nationally,  polls don’t project many changes locally.

The website strategicvoting.ca, which uses among other things publicly available riding-level opinion polls data to find the best option to unseat the Conservative Party, has put local Liberal candidate Stephen Fuhr as their best contender.    In the Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola  they pointed to NDP candidate Angelique Wood.

MPs  Ron Cannan and Dan Albas  won both ridings in landslide victories in the 2011 election.