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November 16th, 2009:

Nik on the Numbers and Harper’s best options

As someone in the information collection industry, I tend to look to look at polling numbers with a bit of a critical eye. Sample sizes and distributions, question wording and order and the presence of absence of any group (e.g., political) affiliation always plays on my mind when I see the “latest numbers”.

That being said, I have the utmost respect and admiration for how Nik Nanos goes about his business. He is informed, employs scientific, robust methodologies and has no apparent vested interest in the results that he produces.

This is why I don’t really give any great cred to most of the other polling firms. Most but not all (Environics and Decima are also respectable) have an agenda biasing their research that is more often than not funded by a political master or someone beholding to a political master. Not so with Nik.

I have the latest Nik on the Numbers emailed to me as soon as they are available and are often the highlight on my data-filled day.

Yes, I am that lame.

From collection ending Nov. 10:

Looking at which of the party leaders Canadians believe would make the best Prime Minister, Stephen Harper now leads by a significant, 17 point, margin over over Michael Ignatieff. This represents the widest gap since Ignatieff was elected leader of the Liberal Party.

Factoring the advantage in the ballot box and on the best PM front, the Conservatives currently have the upper hand. The dilemma they face is that their numbers are strong but it is difficult to take advantage of it politically because of the Harper communications mantra that “this isn’t a good time for an election”.

Likewise, with a defeat in parliament at the hands of the opposition parties not imminent, it is hard for the Tories to plead the instability or unworkability of parliament.

Dead on.

Harper is in an enviable situation. The economy is on the upswing. His MPs haven’t done anything way too moronic lately. He is looking less like a robot and more like a cyborg.

And there is really no serious opposition. The recent by election results have confirmed this.

The Grits are in big trouble as Iggy has yet to define himself in any meaningful way. I’m sorry Warren et al, but he just hasn’t done it for Canadians yet. This lack of an identifiable Opposition leader has given the ReformCons ample opportunities to slip in their agenda relatively unopposed because they know that if the Opposition were to bring the Government down on a confidence motion at the moment, a Harper majority – and possibly a large one – would be the result.  Then the Harperites could go back to pleasing their base of the support (western social conservatives) by passing legislation that will have little appeal outside of the West or rural, backwoods ridings. But it won’t matter at that point since he will have been given a firm mandate for 4 years and damn the bleeding hearts to hell if the abortion, capital punishment, anti-drug issues are back front-and-centre and environmental initiatives and social programs are shelved.

I have warned the Grits before
that if they did not get down to the business of having Iggy grab an issue – any issue – and running with it, then the Cons would continue to frame the debate to their advantage. And they have.  This could have been mitigated if Iggy had:

  • Not been invisible last summer
  • Stood up as the champion of the Canadian health care system while it was being assailed south of the border. Even the Albertans would have applauded this!
  • Clearly enunciated a distinctive environmental policy that would move us toward lessening our GHGs
  • Fill in any other example you can think of

So what is Harpy to do? In my mind, he is correct from a strategic perspective to not force an election right now. Canucks are too preoccupied by the Piggy Flu, the onset of cold weather and how much the Leafs are sucking this season.

His chance will come in the spring when the economy has picked up a bit more steam, the flowers are blooming and Canadians from coast to coast emerge from their annual winter funk. Around the beginning of April, I reckon, Stevo will introduce poison pill legislation that none of the 3 Opposition parties can stomach.

And unless the Cons stumble badly over the winter, we’ll be looking a predominantly blue HoC by June.