Before anyone believed the NDP under Tom Mulcair could win, Stephen Harper enjoyed a slim lead over slumping Justin Trudeau from last fall until May of this year.
But now that things have changed, we’re seeing the various players react. Voters who were unsure about Justin Trudeau’s readiness and might’ve stuck with the Harperites are now seriously considering a vote for the NDP. Old ideologies are breaking down, especially in Ontario.
The private media are still shooting at Justin Trudeau to try to undermine any possible recovery this year. But now they have a new enemy: Tom Mulcair. Hence, the Tory-inspired attacks this week on Mulcair’s credibility, trying to undermine his reputation as a progressive politician.
The attacks won’t work. Mulcair’s response this week has again been virtuoso. Most Canadians are willing to consider all options when looking for new work. His explanations seem quite credible. While Mulcair even considering a job with the Conservatives might displease some dyed-in-the-wool New Democrats, they’re still going to vote NDP. But to centrists hoping Mulcair is a moderate, it makes him seem quite reasonable. And centrists will decide this election.
Were Mulcair some amoral chameleon, he might’ve gotten into bed with the Conservatives anyway, or jumped over to the federal Liberals. But the attack falls to pieces based on history: Mulcair chose the most difficult path by running for Jack Layton’s NDP and blazing a trail that would lead to the 2011 Orange sweep of Quebec. To suggest he was only guided by money and power makes zero sense.
I expect this attack alone won’t undermine Mulcair’s current momentum. But it’s likely only the first of many such attacks coordinated by the NDP’s enemies.
In the mean time, Justin Trudeau and his team have revised their plans in response to their gradual decline in the polls. I think that the recent policy announcements will stem the decline and give them breathing room to rebuild.
But even more importantly, Justin’s perseverance against the vicious bullying from the right and the left are making him appear stronger. He’s a fighter and he’s responding to the blows by fighting back, while maintaining his composure and dignity, as well as his authenticity. His policy plan paints a much clearer idea of where he wants to take the country and gives progressives like me many reasons to reconsider him. So Trudeau is very much back in the game.
At this point, I’d predict there’s no way Trudeau’s Grits will get less than 29% of the vote this year. And perhaps even more.
At the same time, I’m sensing a growing fatigue with Harper’s Conservatives, which is not helped by our slumping economy and the constant stream of rats leaving the ship. The Tory claim that we’re “better off with Harper” now seems laughable. Voters determined to throw the bums out will do so with either the NDP or the Grits. At this point, it seems that the NDP has the upper hand in that fight. This will continue to push the New Democrats up based on their strength in Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario.
Barring some terrorist attack in Canada this summer (wouldn’t that be convenient timing for Harper’s Conservatives?), things aren’t looking good for the Harperites. The Conservatives have no morals anymore and are desperate. They’ve cheated in every election since 2006. We can assume they will cheat and lie and break the law again this time. So it’s going to be nasty.
But we’re getting to the point when most Canadians will start tuning out the repetitive Tory talking points. They’re not convincing anyone outside of their shrinking base anymore. The only decision to be made by 70% plus of voters will be between the NDP and the Liberals.
The way things are now going, I’d say that third place for the Tories come Oct 19th is definitely a possibility. They’re already fighting for second or are in third in polls today. Mark my words.
Follow Matt Guerin on twitter: @mattfguerin