In the run up to any election, observers are always trying to read the tea leaves about wat that campaign might bring. We look at polling, both public domain and internal, we look at trends and we look at the issues that we expect to dominate the discussion of the campaign itself. Before the writ drops, we try to know as much as we can to try to deduce how the different parties will react and how things will all unfold.
But in politics, like in life in general, there are always surprises that come out of the woodwork. Those can be things that we didn’t see coming, or something we know will happen and just don’t know what it will be or how people will react to it. In the run up to this federal election there has already been a couple of those out there, like the potential of work actions by teachers in Ontario during the election and the Manitoba provincial election (which will be done just before the federal writ drops). We can add another one to the list, and this one has the potential to be bigger than them all:
Yep, Jody Wilson-Raybould has a book coming out on Friday September 20th, less than a week after the writ is expected to be dropped on the 43rd General Election. Depending on what is in that book and what new details may come out from this, this could be explosive and bring back a lot of bad news and bad stories for the Liberals at the worst time. When you add to the fact that Gerry Butts will now also be a part of the Liberal central campaign team, that just adds more potential juice to this story.
You can believe that the Liberals will be doing everything they can to try to figure out what that book will say, how damaging it might be and do everything they can to prepare for the moment it starts to get released. Conversely, the Conservatives, New Democrats and Greens will be able to make similar preparations, planning for how to pounce on this news and try to drive the campaign narrative to their advantage for as long as possible during the short campaign period.
If this book turns into a 1-2 day story, the Liberals will be giddy. If it becomes a week long story or more, the opposition parties will be the happy ones. Given that a typical Canadian election campaign is 36 days, any day lost to a narrative that’s not yours is a huge loss. So the longer that narrative captivates the campaign, the more and more severe that damage becomes. Given the history behind this story, it’s guaranteed that on that Friday the eyes of political Canada will be on that release, looking for any new details.
Over the past few months the Liberals had managed to move beyond this story and had turned the ship back around, but this release has the potential to turn it all around fast. If election campaigns in Canada over the past decade have shown us anything, it’s that many voters are more willing to switch sides in big numbers. We saw the Orange Wave in 2011, in 2015 we saw the rise of the Alberta NDP out of nowhere and then months later we saw the Trudeau Liberals go from third place to a majority government.
While a lot of the public polling hasn’t been clear about who might win this election, one thing that has been clear is that the majority of the voting public is not exactly enamoured with their choices so far. That unhappiness makes it harder for parties to convince voters to stay with them, so adding the revival of the SNC/PMO Scandal could have drastic effect on how people eventually vote. Will it deliver government to one party or another? Probably not, but until the book comes out we won’t know how bad the potential damage could be. This book could be an explosive bomb on the Canadian political scene, or it could be a relative dud. We can read the tea leaves as best as we can for the next two months, but come Friday September 20th we’ll have a much better idea about how this surprise development will affect the results in the 43rd General Election.