Yesterday Prime Minister Stephen Harper called what will be the longest and most expensive federal election in Canadian history. The NDP and Conservatives are virtually tied for the lead in most polls, while Liberals trail in third place causing some to write them off.
It might appear that way based solely on polls but appearances, like attack ads, are deceiving. The truth is only the Liberals are already winners in this election.
I’m not promising once ballots are counted Justin Trudeau will be our newly elected Prime Minister. Win or lose though, they are the only party almost certain to come out of this election better off. That in itself is a win.
Yes, the Liberals and Trudeau were leading in the polls and now they aren’t. If a week is a lifetime in politics, those polls were light years away from an election. If you want to get a sense of how much value polls that early hold ask Premier Hudak or Mayor Chow.
Since those polls and since being elected leader, Justin Trudeau has been subject to an attack campaign as ridiculous as it has been relentless. A subsequent decline in the polls was as easy to see coming as a recession. Unless your name is Joe Oliver of course.
What even Joe should understand is unlike the Liberals, the NDP and the Conservatives need to actually win this election. Anything less will be labelled a disaster for either one.
The Conservatives have been in government for 10 years now. Losing power, which includes winning a minority, would clearly be a failure for them.
An early election call means they can out spend their opponents, and their Fair Elections Act despite its title should provide them an advantage. This is in addition to the $750 million dollars of Canadians’ money they have spent telling Canadians how well they spend Canadians’ money.
Despite these advantages, or hopefully because of them, Canadians want a change in government. Perhaps it’s the Conservatives’ terrible economic record, their lack of accountability, various Conservatives themselves or simple voter fatigue.
Regardless, for Stephen Harper this election could be a disaster and like an asteroid decimate quite a few more dinosaurs.
Stakes for the NDP are equally high, and rest entirely on victory. As her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition they are the government in waiting. Polls suggest they may not have to wait long.
Premier Notley’s unlikely victory in Alberta has NDP supporters enthralled by an even more unlikely scenario, Prime Minister Mulcair. I say unlikely only because the NDP have never won a federal election. They only became the official opposition for the first time after the last election, under a different leader.
As it stands now they may be poised to change that, but if they can’t it will likely mean returning to the House of Commons with fewer seats then they currently hold.
A stronger Liberal party, a challenge from the Bloc Quebecois, and a party platform perhaps best known for one or two constitutional land mines are all factors that make an NDP government anything but a certainty.
What is certain is conditions for an NDP win have never been better. Which would make a loss all the more devastating.
The Liberal party enters the official campaign in no real danger of finishing with fewer seats than the 36 they currently hold. They are likely to at worst double that. Even tripling their seat count without winning the election is not out of the question. For any leader to accomplish that in his first national campaign is an incredible feat, and must be attributed to more than his hair. Which is nice though.
All summer on child care, taxes, the environment, and on government itself Justin Trudeau has unveiled policy that is detailed, progressive and incredibly bold in scope. The Liberals are third in a three party race, yet can be virtually assured a successful election if not a victorious one.
They have nothing to lose, no need to play it safe. In hockey terms, the NDP and Conservatives will try to sit on a lead while the Liberals can pull the goalie. Ask Leafs fans how such gambles work out, but have a tissue ready for them. It’s still too soon.
Campaigns matter, and come election day a moral victory is almost certain for the Liberal party, but no one should rule out a real one. The same polls people say show the Liberals are finished allow them to campaign free of caution. To propose real change to an electorate looking for just that.
If Justin Trudeau continues to campaign as though Liberals have nothing to lose it is very possible they won’t.
Follow Andrew on twitter: @AndrewTumilty