Just because people left Harper doesn’t mean he’s finished.
Author: Liam Fitz-Gerald
The Conservative Party has certainly seen better days. On Feb. 3, 2015, John Baird announced that he was resigning from his position as Foreign Affairs Minister and would not seek re-election in the upcoming election, preferring to look into private sector opportunities. He’s far from the only one. Recently, Tory MP Eve Adams and her partner, former Conservative Party Director Dimitri Soudas were involved in an ugly nomination battle last fall. Soudas ended up resigning his position as director over allegations of “interference” in the process, while Adams, well, ran out of luck in running in Oakville North-Burlington. Despite a private meeting in January with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to run in Mississauga-Malton, it was clear that her career in the Conservative caucus was over.
On Feb. 9, 2015, Adams announced that she was crossing the floor to join the Liberals and found herself sitting beside Justin Trudeau. Indeed, she said her mea culpa’s on income splitting, which “benefit only the richest few”—an issue she seemed comfortable with back in 2011, when she campaigned for it—and the “mean spirited [Conservative] leadership” composed of “fear mongers and bullies” that suddenly came to her attention after she was barred from running as a Tory.
At any rate, these departures are part of a general attrition trend over the last few years, which has seen a number of former Conservative MPs and aides—Brent Rathgeber, Tom Flanagan, etc—bid adieu to the Party, either by being forced out or simply not running again. Indeed, close to two-dozen Tories are leaving, including Gordon O’Connor, Diane Ablonczy, and Saskatchewan’s own Garry Breitkreuz. While some might see this as a sign of the end of the Conservative reign, it’s still far too early to come to that conclusion.
While last year’s polls showed the Liberals overtaking Harper’s party, 2014 ended somewhat in a tie. In the beginning of the New Year, Forum Research had the Conservatives ahead at 37 per cent compared to the Liberals’ 33 per cent. How could this be?
First, the Tories have convinced many Canadians that they are taking the threat of terrorism seriously in wake of the Ottawa shootings and a number of lone wolf’ attacks that have occurred across the Western world. Indeed, the Globe and Mail points out that the new anti-terrorism legislation has the support of 82 per cent of 1,509 polled Canadians. Even the Liberals are voting for the bill—though they have said they will introduce amendments to deal with some of the perceived troubling aspects of it—indicating that many Canadians see terrorism as a real threat and want real action taken on it. Moreover, Harper’s stance toward Russian aggression in Ukraine and the threat of ISIS in the Middle East also may contribute to why Conservative popularity has risen lately.
Even the troubling state of the Canadian economy might not necessarily be a death sentence for the party. John Wright, a senior vice-president at Ipsos Reid, told the National Post that the Conservatives have been seen by Canadians in recent years as better managers of the economy, and tend to get high ratings in that regard. Although a troubled economy is usually not a good thing for any political party, it’s not improbable that the Conservatives could portray themselves as better economic custodians and claim they helped Canada endure the financial crisis of 2008. It’s not so far-fetched; an Abacus Data poll found that Harper was seen as a CEO while Justin Trudeau was seen as ‘fun’. NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was seen as the guy to help you out in a jam. It wouldn’t be hard for the Tories to use data like that to their advantage for some kind of advertising.
Still, the polling gap has narrowed in recent weeks with a recent EKOS Research poll showing the parties virtually tied at 33.8 per cent for the Liberals as opposed to 32 per cent for the Conservatives. There remains plenty of political action left for 2015 and it’s going to be a thrilling roller coaster of a ride leading up to Oct.19, 2015.
Editor’s Note: In the print version of this article, the last sentence reads “There remains plenty of political action left for 2014…”. That has been corrected to read 2015 instead of 2014. The Carillon regrets the error.