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Poll shock and coalitions – how about Conservative-Liberal?

I’m beginning to feel like the guy who wrote the famous headline, DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN, in the 1948 U.S. presidential election. Harry Truman of course beat Dewey handily, and he never tired of holding up the front page of the Chicago Tribune to show how wrong they were to rely on early returns.

We had a similar occurrence in Canada in 1957 when Maclean’s magazine came out after the election with an editorial written before the voting,  saying the Liberals had been re-elected. The only trouble was that on voting day, John Diefenbaker’s Tories  had defeated the Grits!

My mea culpa comes from a blog I posted a few weeks ago predicting the political death of Jack Layton. Honestly, for all I admire the man, I just couldn’t see him withstanding the physical strain of the campaign. Who would have known?

Now that all the polls are showing the NDP as the only party with momentum, and EKOS having vaulted Layton’s crew into line to become the Official Opposition, everyone is frantically revising their assessments and forecasts.

Based on this poll, either a shadow of things to come or an off-the-wall aberration, Stephen Harper’s minority would be cut to 130 seats, with 100 seats going to the NDP, 62 to the Liberals, 14 for the Bloc, and one independent. I don’t know which is the most shocking — the NDP gain or the Bloc collapse.

If the NDP were to become the Official Opposition, I think the Liberals would be more inclined to swallow another Harper minority than to put Layton into the prime ministership. Playing second fiddle to the NDP would be the end of the Liberals; they’d go the way the Liberal party did in England during the rise of the Labour party. Also, while the Liberals have a left-leaning platform this time, if it came to a fundamental choice for the Grits and the corporate establishment that still backs them, I think there would be more acceptance for a Liberal-Conservative coalition, possibly under someone other than Stephen Harper. This would be especially the prospect if Michael Ignatieff were to stay around for a while.

A Conservative-Liberal accord under a new Tory leader could be sold as a national unity government, the only acceptable arrangement at a time when economic uncertainty is still a fact of life. There’d be many Tory claimants for the top spot, but someone like Jim Prentice, the former environment minister who left Harper for a top banking position, would be an acceptable compromise if he’d come back.

While Ignatieff has failed to do himself much good in this campaign, I think he has been successful (more so than most realize) in crippling Harper’s bid for a majority. I suspect his sharp and pointed denunciation of Harper’s anti-democratic record has stiffened opposition to Harper, even though it’s failed to warm up voters to the Liberals. So the NDP has become the natural beneficiary of Canadians’ continued suspicion of Mr. Harper’s real intentions. That 500-page dossier of Harper’s “problematic” quotes, compiled by his own party, tells you just how much this guy has had to swallow to present himself as deserving of a majority.

The forces at work in Quebec, meanwhile,  differ from those in the rest of the country. I’m disappointed to see Layton take such a pro-nationalist position — promising to open up the constitution, and to put federal workers under Bill 101. If voters in the rest of Canada decide this is just another example of Quebec getting what it wants, it would be a major turn-off for the NDP outside La Belle Province.

I voted Monday in the advance poll, and there was a long line-up ahead of us. Who ever said this was an “unwanted and unneeded” election?

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