Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives begin an election campaign this weekend far ahead of their political rivals in public favour and would be poised to win a "comfortable" majority if Canadians cast their votes now, a new poll has found.What's confusing, though, is the fact that another poll found that voters are increasingly skeptical of the government:
The national survey, conducted exclusively for Postmedia News and Global National, reveals voter support is declining for the opposition Liberals who have put forward a non-confidence motion that will lead to the defeat of the Conservative government in the House of Commons this afternoon.
The March 22-23 poll by Ipsos Reid found public support remains solid for the Tories despite recent opposition attempts to draw attention to such controversies as the government's treatment of Parliament and revelations that an ex-senior aide to Harper lobbied a department to get funds for his fiancée, a former escort.
The Conservatives are now supported by 43 per cent of decided voters -- up by three points from two weeks ago.
Just as important, the Tories now have a widening 19-point lead over the Liberals led by Michael Ignatieff.
The Grits, who have been trying to incite public fury over the government's ethical record and improve the public's negative impression of Ignatieff, now have the support of just 24 per cent of voters, down by three points.
Jack Layton's NDP, which put the country on the path to a spring election by announcing earlier this week it would not support the Conservative budget, are backed by 16 per cent of voters -- no change from the previous poll.
A poll conducted for The Globe and Mail and CTV by Nanos Research shows that 41 per cent of Canadians trust the Conservative government less than they did a year ago. Only 6 per cent trust it more. Forty-eight per cent feel about the same, and 5 per cent just don’t know.What is going on here? One interpretation is simple - one (or both) of those polls is just plain wrong. But there's another possibility, and a disturbing one at that. It could well be that corruption and dishonesty in government tends to favour the political right, even when it's a right wing party that's being corrupt and dishonest. After all, people who have made up their minds that all politicians are crooks are going to be more inclined to give their (grudging) support to a party they believe will reduce the role of government... which is precisely how right wing parties like to market themselves. Notably, prominent Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella thinks the Ipsos poll is accurate, and that a Conservative sweep is coming.
I'm not 100% certain of this, of course, and I really hope it's not the case. If it is, our democracy is even more broken than previously thought.
Of course, one of the biggest problems in our democracy is first-past-the-post. Given this, some people are bound to advocate tactical voting (or, as it's become trendy to call it in this country, "strategic voting"). Now I'm a "never say never" kind of person, and I recognize that in extremis this might be necessary. However, most of the time it doesn't do any good, and you're simply wasting a vote on a party you don't even really like in the mistaken view that you're helping stop the Cons. That said, tactical voting might help if, and only if:
1) The national situation is such that the Cons are either on the verge of a majority (as they may well be now) or on the verge of being pushed into second place. The key, though, is on the verge. If things are such that a majority is inevitable - or impossible for that matter - there's no benefit for tactical voting (though there may be a benefit to the party that advocates tactical voting, which usually means the Liberals). Now this is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for this approach to help. The other is:
2) The situation in your own riding must be such that the Conservative candidate could credibly either win or lose. This rules out a riding like Winnipeg Centre or Elmwood-Transcona (where the Cons are a non-entity) as well as ridings like Provencher or Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette (where most of the population thinks they'll go to Hell if they vote for anyone else).
It's worth noting too that even in such a case, the best tactical vote might actually be for the NDP (especially in parts of BC or Saskatchewan) or even the Greens (in Saanich-Gulf Islands, for instance) but I doubt too many Liberals are going to point out subtleties like this. Myself, I'm kind of hoping a Liberal canvasser comes to my door and tries to sell me on the subject of tactical voting so that I can rub his or her face in this fact.