22 January 2006

The Carrion Forecast

     Tomorrow's election day in Canada, and that fabled fat lady is about to sing, providing she doesn't swallow her epiglottis in rehearsal.  The Liberals are making their last protestations of relevance, the Tories their last blushes of coyness, while Rex Murphy sharpens his arsenal of aphoristic alliterations.  Layton, Martin and Harper are lurking in the wings, waiting to be summoned to the stage, and they all know one thing, that the fat lady won't be singing Verdi tomorrow, much to the fifth party's chagrin.  No, the playbill is promising Wagner, which usually means a long trip to Valhalla for the governing party.  (Just ask Kim Campbell.) 
     But wait--- let's think a bit before we let visions of metaphysical abattoirs dance in our heads, because that fat lady can be pretty temperamental and she might still surprise us.  Let's factor things through:
  • With all the talk about the inevitability of a Conservative government, remember the first rule of politics, Sometimes it doesn't help to be in the lead.  With poll numbers favouring the Tories so heavily, there is the possibility that a number of Conservative swing voters won't bother dragging themselves to the polls, assuming their votes won't be needed.  This won't matter in neck-and-neck ridings like many of the ones in British Columbia, and it won't matter in ridings in Alberta that are foregone conclusions.  It may matter, though, in kinda blue ridings, where the Tory lead is just big enough to allow complacency and not large enough to survive it.  The Liberals are under siege, and their supporters more than ever are sure to vote.  The Dipper vote, where it is substantial enough, may spoil more matters than any strategists are expecting.  At this stage of the game, this is the Liberals' only hope, the "false surmise" (in Milton's phrase) of a Tory win.  This is a double-edged sword for the Grits, though, as some Toronto ridings may not be as safe as they have so far seemed. 
  • The true indication of how things will turn out will emerge from Quebec.  The Tory infrastructure in la belle province isn't as established as the Liberal one, and this could spell problems there in terms of getting out the vote.  A party on election day is only as strong as its foot soldiers.  If, though, the Tories can win more than eight seats in Quebec, the Liberals may as well ready the boats and prepare themselves for a mass Norse funeral. 
  • Ontario, contrary to public expectation, will be formative rather than decisive.  The Grits are being eaten from both sides outside of (and in a few cases, even inside of) Toronto, and the issue here is merely how many seats here will be chomped from the Liberal carcass.  The Tory support, where it exists, is crystallized, and the Dipper support, again where it exists, is stauncher than it has been since 1988.  For once, Ontario won't decide the result, but it will provide-- Zelda will like this-- the carrion forecast.  (By the pecking of their bones, / Something ticked-off this way comes?)
  • British Columbia will decide the fate of the next government, although it seems that by the time the results start pouring in, the Liberal fate will have long-since been certain.  BC has a lot of three-way races, and a number of two-way races in which the Liberals are not contenders, and strength of the Tory win-- if it happens-- will be decided by its battles with the New Democrats on the West Coast.  This could prove the province of dark-horse victories and grand upsets, and electoral turn-out will be more crucial in BC than in any other province.  If the Dippers don't draw significant blood here, from both Tories and Grits, we could be looking at a majority government. 

In other words, it's going to be a late night tomorrow for those of us on the Eastern side of Manitoba, waiting to look upon the feast of Stephen.  Let us hope, too, that if the Tories win we can finally have a respite from the wretched wailing of Western injury we've endured for so long. 

     That's the election stuff, but elections are like bikinis and statistics in that what they reveal is often less interesting than what they conceal.  If the Liberals lose tomorrow night, the cries for blood within that party will be audible from Mongolia.  The real story may be in what the Grits do to themselves in consequence, beyond the obvious matters of leadership.  Liberals do not take well to being out of power, and some Liberals, looking to opt out of an age of internecine warfare, may well switch allegiances to the Tories or the Dippers.  Unless the Big Red Machine can miraculously turn things around, we may be looking at Mr. Martin's legacy, a party staring at its own wrists and seeing less flesh than red.  And frankly, that wouldn't bother me a bit.  The Liberals need to decide what they're really about-- beyond cynical hectoring and insidious fear-mongering. 

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