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RSR ROBBINS Research - Canada Politics October 14, 2008
  Oct 14, 2008

Commentary
As a longtime pollster-my rationale for staying outside the mainstream was reaffirmed by last night’s Canadian general federal election. Voter turn-out was low— lowest of all time and included higher standards of identification—a wrinkle that did not garner very much attention during the course of the campaign—and likely knocked out younger voters—the most disinterested of eligible voters. Media attempted their dime store version of cheerleading democracy to get the vote out—but with little success. The subsequent failures which emerge for this group---lower audience rates—advertising revenues—will be remembered over the course of the coming months until the next general election. If this were a weekly show—I might find it interesting—but after two years plus---dreadful—an embarrassment.
The lowest turn-out for an election makes it by my definition a loser---and for the participants—no matter how delighted the re-elected may be---they are the loser too.
The discussion of why people should vote—or criticisms of why they don’t vote—is far too pedantic to deal with---I love my country—but its politics are not very interesting---and media coverage of the same is less so. It requires that I keep one station on Family Guy—just to keep my thought processes sufficiently lubed to follow the Canadian political action.
Stephen Harper won the short end of a super minority—but he lost the election—because he did not achieve what he wanted to. He carried around his main competitor Stephane Dion for well over a year---did not call elections when even the most accurate of the pollsters—ROBBINS included—told him he had a majority. “Fixed election dates” was the pompous explanation.
Well--- fixed election dates was a bogeyman excuse-- and the PM went ahead anyhow. The Conservatives ran an above average campaign with far more money than the other parties combined. The headlines read $300 million for no real change. The Canadian people did not show up to vote—16% less here in Canada than in Iraq where voters were threatened with potential death or injury for the right to vote.
I am left as Prime Minister Harper is—to determine what benefits accrued to myself—in this case my polling firm—ROBBINS—“The most Accurate in the World.” I have good news and bad news for myself.
ROBBINS nailed Ontario—(39%)—mainstream had Conservatives as low as (31%) in the last week of the election. We accurately declared Stephen Harpers gains there—8-12. ROBBINS did not nail British Columbia—although we did declare the Liberals far ‘deader’ in BC than the mainstream pollsters did. We believed the New Democrats increase popular vote by 20% +, they did not—they did increase—their seat total by better than that. We expressed grave doubts about the mainstream’s claim that the Greens were well into double digits—and we were right on that. We also recognized in the last week that Harper’s free fall to the low thirties in public support had stopped and Liberal momentum had as well (well—that and the CTV—interview-gimmick).
Our biggest claim to success in an election did not have a direct link to percentages of public support for leaders, parties, programs or issues—instead it—was our absolutely prophetic advice to Stephen Harper to provide monies to culture--- we set out clearly—a Quebec strategy—that was a national matter—albeit not a high priority—that would have added 20 seats from Quebec and a certain majority—to the Harper government.
You can lead a horse to water. As I said about the Palin campaign in the United States presidential race “Robbins could have run the Conservative campaign better drunk.”
We had considered providing paint by numbers—but thought this too condescending---this ROBBINS advice was the lynchpin to a Conservative majority. It was ignored—and an island full of political opportunity was thus squandered in the province of Quebec. There are books that could be written about what this breakthrough might have meant for the Conservative Party of Canada—at this time in our history—particularly given the economic calamity we are in. I would bet few would read it however.
Children in school will continue to be taught the Holocaust as the historical basis to Canadian history.
At the end of the day—of the election—an above average Prime Minister took an average party—and (barely) beat (don’t forget that Dion was charging back—than the CTV interview) a below average leader of the Opposition and his below average party—for a new Parliament that changed little—and wasted time and money—for the ponderous incremental aggrandizement of one person—the Prime Minister. Like a boring Stanley Cup final—Canada’s fortieth (?)---amounted to little.
At the end of the day—this will be forgotten. What will become most important—to the fewer and fewer Canadians who pay attention—will be how the Prime Minister and his party deal with the worldwide economic crisis. If the Canadian economy goes south—questions will be asked “how much did Stephen Harper know—and when—and is this why he called the election in the first place—to avoid a meltdown while in Parliament?”
What about the theory that Stephen Harper presented—recently—that Canada was moving Conservative. The elections results don’t bear this out. Quebec is the second largest province in the land—and it isn’t going Conservative. Gains were made in Atlantic Canada—but seats were lost in Newfoundland and Labrador—you can’t say the Atlantic provinces are going Conservative.
Ontario and BC are going conservative—the prairie provinces already are—except for that little trouble coming in Edmonton—but it isn’t true that Canada is going Conservative.
Jean Charest—the current Quebec Premier and former Progressive Conservative star was once a name dropped in many circles for Prime Minister. He did not help Prime Minister Harper—he has a minority government in Quebec—elections are coming there and he wants a majority. Knowing Jean Charest’s ambition---and the likelihood that he will rule Quebec after that provincial election suggests to me—help won’t be coming anytime soon to Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in La Belle Province.
When one thinks about the staggering amount of political and actual capital the Prime Minister invested in Quebec relations—and looks at this electoral outcome---and the position of the Prime Minister on Canada’s budgets---and the fact that every major city—where the Conservatives failed to win one seat—wants infrastructure dollars---while Quebec continues to scream for more—what precisely is the Prime Minister going to say to someone like James Moore in suburban metro Vancouver—where his big win will be accompanied by bigger expectations for money—when according to the Prime Minister—the only dollars available are for the banks.
‘Yes James—I will be getting those hundreds of millions out to your friend Gordon Campbell—he of the carbon tax---as quickly as I can. I’ll tell Toronto and Ontario where I won more than double the seats to go to hell—I’ll tell Alberta who gives me more seats than BC to wait----and I’ll make everybody west of Quebec happy by telling that province to “get stuffed” there’s no money for you.’
Or, does the Prime Minister take up Opposition parties platforms—and start the FDR-look alike project—of spending deficit dollars to build up the crumbling urban and national infrastructures? What about all the promises made during the election—about prudence?
If Canada runs steady for the next year—than Harper will likely be Prime Minister for at least another six years. If it doesn’t and the proverbial other economic shoe—that no-one really talked about during the election//recession---drops--- and the Liberals can get their reformist House in order—than this may be PM Harper’s swan song-a sign that an electoral win of “the Canadian election that never was”--- is infacto defacto—told ya so-- a loss.
With considerably less vigour I conclude—that once again-- “you heard it hear first”.

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