Halfway through the election campaign and the race to govern Canada is proving to be a rather lacklustre affair.
The recent leaders’ debates failed to ignite any serious fireworks, unless you include NDP’s Jack Layton getting jiggy with it and throwing in the word “bling” (albeit preceded by the word “the”). He even made a reference to Twitter in critiquing Conservative polices: “hashtag: fail.”
Conservative leader Stephen Harper is sounding like a broken record with never-ending warning of a coalition of others should his Tories fail to win a majority.
While he did modify the warning this week, saying the other leaders may not make it an official coalition government but rather rely on each other for support, his bogeyman prediction is a little hard to swallow. As the leader of a minority government for the last five years, he has relied on other parties many times to have bills and budgets passed. Under his new definition, wasn’t that a coalition? Or was it that rarest of sights in Ottawa of late, a minority parliament (momentarily) working?
As for Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, he continues to fail to ignite a groundswell of national support for his campaign and party. The Conservatives attack ads portraying him as a political carpetbagger, as mean-spirited as they were, appear to have worked with many voters. While Harper is seen by his detractors as a cold fish, Ignatieff is viewed by his opponents as indifferent and aloof.
Meanwhile, the Bloc’s Giles Duceppe seems more intent on telling his constituents—Quebec voters—neither he nor Layton are going to be prime minister. The attempted inference maybe “don’t vote for the NDP” but it comes across as “don’t bother voting for me either.”
So it is Layton who appears, according to the polls, to be connecting with the public. Canadians view him is the most popular leader but leader popularity does not always translate into votes. Layton may be striking a chord but Duceppe is right, he is not about to become prime minister.
Then there is Green Party leader Elizabeth May. She is battling just to be heard. But her message is not getting through.
Locally, the two Central Okanagan campaigns should start to heat up this week with several all-candidates meetings scheduled. It is at those meetings where the public gets to see the candidates together and contrast their styles, messages and appeal.
Last week Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal Kris Stewart went after Conservative incumbent Ron Cannan for the sins of a committee he was not on when it took comments by federal Auditor General Sheila Fraser out of context. Cannan said his name was on the report because he was on the committee when the report was tabled, not when the report was written. Stewart didn’t buy it, saying Cannan should have done his homework and been aware of what was happening. The story didn’t go farther.
Politically, it was a good attempt but, given the traditionally strong support any Conservative candidate enjoys here, it will take a stronger issue to make headway.
To use Layton’s new found phase: hashtag: fail.
Alistair Waters is the Capital News’ assistant editor.