Canadian Politics from Canada's Centre

Monday, December 26, 2005

Why Stephen Harper is Winning the Race

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We're midway through this electoral campaign, now, and Stephen Harper and the CPC are far and away leaders in the race. While many are expecting the campaign to degenerate into personal attacks and negative campaigning beginning January 2nd, policy is currently the sujet du jour. As it should be; politicians should be elected on the basis of their platforms. Votes should not be based on a candidate's hairstyle (Layton or Harper for PM!!) or whatever personal issues might be brought up. That said, Harper is winning the leadership race as he has been the leader on policy.
Since the beginning of the campaign, the Conservatives have announced new planks in their policy on a near daily basis. They've also been the party with the most attention grabbing announcements, and the ones promising the most change. A few examples can help illustrate this point.
1)The 2% reduction in the GST was a grand announcement that made front-page headlines across the country.
2)$1200 for daycare fees (per child, if I'm not mistaken) grabbed more headlines. It even made the three point play when Liberal bigshot Scott Reid made his now infamous "beer and popcorn" comment alleging that Canadian parents would spend the money on junkfood rather than their kids.
3)Decentralizing power and giving provinces a presence on the international scene. Being a Quebecker, I can assert with confidence that that resonated here, and the newspapers loved it (though it didn't do much for the CPC in the polls). Tied in here somewhere was dealing with the fiscal imbalance, which was also a big play here.
>The Liberals promised to reinforce their day-care system (newspapers: "yawn, boring.") and ban handguns that are already mostly banned. Nothing earth-shaking.
Now I don't endorse all of what Harper's promising, let's be clear on that. The 2% cut apparently does nothing for poor and middle class Canadians, which is most of us (though I unfortunately have only read the newspaper analysis, and readily admit I haven't done my own homework beyond that). It costs $5/day for day-care here in Quebec, which is heavily subsizidized. The Charest government announced a price rise to 7$/day. Regardless of what price you look at, $1200 doesn't pay for 261 days of daycare, which would be everyday of the year except weekends. Throw in 8 weeks of vacation (more than what most people really get), and it still doesn't work out. And prices are apparently the cheapest here in Montreal, according to CRS. Scott Reid, though he didn't phrase it right (kinda sucks when your communications guy can't communicate, huh Paul?), made a good point that this is basically just a tax cut dressed up as child care. Decentralizing power might be nice, though I wonder how the Americans will react if the PQ take power. A provincial PM who's a gay separatist and former cokehead talking internationally? Granted they can't stop Andre Boisclair being an gay separatist ex-junkie, but giving such a person the potential to speak on more international platforms... not such a good idea.

In short, Stephen Harper is leading the race right now because he's getting people hyped and interested in his campaign with bold policy announcements. That isn't to say they're necessarily smart policies (though I have yet to research them thoroughly enough to say), but they're grabbing the headlines, and that's key. He may not have been more than ordinary in the so-called "debates," but besides some shouting and posturing between Martin and Duceppe, those are forgotten in the main. It should be noted the far-right of his party has been mute, and so the Liberal attacks on social values don't make such an important impact. Within the next day or two I'll post analysis of his free vote on gay marriage, and social policies.


At 11:46 p.m., Canadian Politico Blogger Scott Tribe said:

Even if this premise is true, it certainly hasn't translated into "leading in the polls". Sat=y what you will about polls, but it appears from them that Harper has failed to erarn the trust of Canadians even with all his promises and trying to appear moderate.

So I think I take issue with you saying Harper is leading/winning the race, even as I acknowledge he has taken the policy initative. Those 2 things are (IMO) 2 separate kettles of fish.

At 9:09 p.m., Canadian Politico Blogger lecentre said:

If I understand you correctly, leading the polls shows who's winning the race.
While that may be the statistical way of arguing the issue, I'm looking at who's leading on policy, because ultimately, you're voting on people's policies. Though Harper's not necessarily the best thinker, he is leading on policy, why is why I say he's leading the race. A valid point nonetheless, and I must admit it was an oversight not to mention that in the article. Thanks for bringing it up Scott!


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