And They’re Off…

I know some people don’t like it when I compare politics to sports, because they think I am trivializing the political process. But there are similarities. You have winners and losers – and a lot of heartbreak.

The stakes are higher though. When it comes right down to it, it doesn’t matter who wins the Stanley Cup, the World Cup or the Super Bowl. Good government is far more important.

If you don’t believe that, you probably live in a place that has usually had good government. Try living under a dictatorship and you will soon come to appreciate democracy, as imperfect as it can be.

News reports have the Prime Minister of Canada going to meet the Governor General today, asking for a dissolution of Parliament and and election for October 21. It’s going to be an interesting few weeks as Canadians (hopefully) debate the issues.

One of my university degrees is in Political Science. I have volunteered on numerous campaigns for several different parties. I am more than an interested observer.

This is the first time in more than a decade that I haven’t had a financial stake in the  outcome. No, I don’t gamble – but I used to work on Parliament Hill, and if my boss were to lose the  election I would find myself unemployed. It feels strange not to have that pressure this time around.

Leading up the the vote on Oct. 21 I have a number  of posts planned that will take a look at some of the  major issues of this campaign and why they do or do not matter to Canadians. We’ll talk about the environment and ethics, immigration and the economy – and who knows what else. It will be fun, I hope. (That’s the political junkie in me coming to the  fore.)

As for predictions, at this point I have no idea what the outcome will be. Living in Germany I don’t have the same feel for the country I used to have. I haven’t heard the conversations at the bus stops and coffee shops, haven’t been immersed in the media coverage the way I used to be.

As a political scientist, I note that the last time a Canadian federal government that received a majority on its first mandate was defeated in the subsequent election was 1935. We tend to give Prime Ministers a second chance. In 1935 the country was in the depths of the Depression and the government shouldered the blame.

Economically this isn’t 1935. The incumbent government has been beset by scandals and broken promises, but is that enough for it to be rejected by most voters? Is there one thing that is a tipping point that will cause a shift in voter patters?

To me this feels a lot like 1972, when a popular Prime Minister named Trudeau discovered his popularity had taken a huge hit during four years of government. Early results on election night had his Liberals behind the Progressive Conservatives in the  number of seats taken, but in the end he squeaked through with a minority.

So if I had to make a prediction today, I would say a Liberal minority is the most likely outcome. I wouldn’t bet on it though.

We should all know on the  evening of October 21.


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