I’ve had a lot to say here in this place about the dangers of going to an election right now for the Federal Liberals and why they should have continued to govern rather than seek a majority. I’ve been talking a lot about an unsettled, tired and “at the end of their ropes” electorate and the risks that could come with that. Some have wondered what that would look like and what that could result in.
Well thanks to Nova Scotia Liberal Premier Ian Rankin, we got the opportunity to find out. Back in mid-July, he called for an election, expecting a sleepy summer campaign that would see them walk into another majority government to help get them through the next four years. The polls showed that a Liberal majority was just a mere matter of showing up to campaign. Sound familiar? Well all these theories got put to a test last night and the result is one that has all of #cdnpoli talking:
Well this is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about folks. There is a lot to digest here but clearly there was a serious miscalculation among the Liberals in Nova Scotia. Conversely, the Progressive Conservatives of Tim Houston and New Democrats of Gary Burrill found a formula that worked for them. With so much to take away from this election that can be applied federally, let me just go point by point:
- This is another example of why campaigns matter. The Liberals had their mistakes at the start, including the dumping of candidate Robyn Ingraham. When you paired that with Rankin’s admission of his two past DUI’s, it set up for quite a double standard that reeked of sexism and had the power to turn off progressive voters. That set a tone that they clearly didn’t shake.
- When you look at how the PC’s got to their majority, you can see some subsets of issues playing out. Yes, healthcare was a clear point in Tim Houston’s favour, as he made it a priority of his campaign. But when you look at where they gained the most (the South Shore and West Nova areas), it appears to be more about constitutionally protected Mi’kmaq fishing rights and the ugliness that has come around that in the past year. While the provincial Liberals had nothing to do with that, it appeared that the electorate wanted to take out their anger on anything with a red sign. For those who thought that Reconciliation would be a big feature in the federal campaign and that maybe the Canadian electorate was ready to move forward, I present this as evidence of the status quo showing up and voting in the opposite direction.
- For another negative in this race, you can look to the riding of Cumberland North, where former Progressive Conservative MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin ran as an Independent. She was tossed from that caucus because of her anti-public health views and her support of highway blockades to that effect. By putting her name on the ballot again, that gave the people of Cumberland North the chance to repudiate her irresponsible actions and elect someone who would uphold public health. But instead they did the opposite, re-elected Smith-McCrossin and sending her back to Province House with wind in her sails. This is a blow to those trying to save lives, and will put wind in the sails of the anti-public health and anti-vax crowd like Maxime Bernier, which is probably the worst thing that we have right now.
- Speaking of wind in the sails, some posit that this result will put some in the sail of the O’Toole Conservatives and Singh NDP, but the facts tell a more mixed story. For the Conservatives, this won’t give them the boost that some would suggest simply because part of Tim Houston’s success came from completely disavowing Erin O’Toole and his party. Houston publicly went out of his way to throw O’Toole under the bus early on in this campaign, and I would argue that means that O’Toole doesn’t get helped by this development as much. But as for Jagmeet Singh, he does get some of that wind from the better NDP result because he was embraced by Gary Burrill. Singh campaigned with him for two days in and around Halifax and that appears to have paid off. So while Singh can ride some coattails here, O’Toole can’t ride the ones he’s never been invited to stand on.
Probably the biggest take away from last nights results is just a re-affirmation of the unsettled state of the electorate. For anyone who thought they would be able to get a quick, 36-day campaign done under the radar with an optimal result for an incumbent, it’s appearing that they were seriously mistaken. When you look at some of the public polling coming out in the past 24 hours from firms like EKOS and Abacus, all of this should scare the Trudeau Liberals, or at least have some serious questions being asked.
The fact is this campaign is really all about the Liberals trying to get that majority, and when you see what’s happened in Nova Scotia yesterday and where the polling is going nationally, they are getting further and further away from that goal. Of course it’s not too late for things to change, nor is it too late to correct course. Heck we’re only a few days into this campaign and still have more than a month left. Campaigns matter, but not just the first few days of it. Things could turn in any direction at this point but this idea that this campaign would be a quick, quiet summer romp to a majority at the expense of other parties is surely gone. So while the results in Nova Scotia last night may not directly affect the current federal election, there are a lot of strong tea leaves there telling the federal parties a lot of things, should they choose to read them. Last night was a bad night for the Trudeau Liberals and if they don’t read those tea leaves and act accordingly, it might prove to be a precursor for what might come on September 20th. Stay tuned folks, a sleep election this is not.