For weeks, like most political junkies in Canada, I've been watching the polls indicate the federal race months out from the October election is turning into a tight three-way race.
The latest proof is out today with new four week rolling average data released by Nanos tracking the Conservatives at 32 percent, NDP at 30 per cent, the Liberals at 29 per cent, and the Green Party at five per cent. Clearly the NDP is back in this game and Justin Trudeau's fading a bit.
Like in last year's Toronto municipal race, where progressive voters like me were desperate to rid ourselves of the nasty Ford brothers, we are also desperate federally to kick out the regressive and destructive Harper government. Almost ten years in power is long enough; the cumulative damage to our economy, our environment, our status in the world and our democracy caused by the Harperites needs a major correction.
Before this year, it seemed that Justin Trudeau's Liberals were the only party that could end Harper rule. That's no longer the case.
It's true that Justin Trudeau may end up running a superb campaign from here on in by releasing a coherent platform and narrative that re-captures Canadians' minds and hearts and re-inspires a tired electorate looking for change. But based on recent events, we shouldn't hold our breath. Warren Kinsella explains well here all the reasons for Justin's slow decline.
I'd also add Trudeau's incoherent reasons for supporting Bill C-51 - opposing many of its provisions but voting for it anyway - lie at the heart of his collapse in support among progressives this year, who didn't need another major reason to distrust the Liberals. As more Canadians become gravely concerned about how the burgeoning spy industry/security establishment has encroached on their privacy and basic human rights, many see the NDP as the party they trust to restore balance.
Progressive voters also seeking genuine action against climate change also rightly worry that Trudeau - with all his pro-pipeline and Chinese investment talk - would be little different than the current regime. The federal Liberal failure to take action on climate change in the past is further proof of that.
In addition, while assumed by some to be inside baseball politics, the Trudeau team's support for Tory turncoat Eve Adams to win the Grit nomination in Eglinton-Lawrence has hurt him considerably. "Eve Adams" is raised over and over again with me by non-partisan, progressive people who now say they plan to vote NDP. She's a woman of no substance and even less talent. The fact that Trudeau has rolled out the red carpet for her (while kicking more talented, long-time Grits to the curb there and in other ridings) defies understanding.
I have to say I'm now officially undecided in this federal election. I can't afford to remain committed to one party when the federal race is now confirmed as up-in-the-air. I have to be pragmatic. On many issues, including security, climate change, banking fees and foreign affairs, I see great value in the NDP forming a government in Ottawa this year.
That means my vote in Toronto Centre is up for grabs: either I'll vote Liberal or I'll vote NDP. Both local candidates are strong. It's rare that I disagree with NDP candidate Linda McQuaig's frequent newspaper columns, and Liberal candidate Bill Morneau's experience is impressive. Both can win the reconfigured Toronto Centre riding. In fact, I predict which ever opposition party emerges as the strongest challenger this year will win Toronto Centre. I have the luxury of choosing between the NDP and the Liberals in my riding since the Tories have zero chance of victory. (Were I living in a riding where the Liberals are the exclusive anti-Conservative hope, and there are many such ridings across the country, I would definitely still be planning to vote Liberal.) Thus, which ever national party emerges as the strongest challenger to Stephen Harper will get my vote.
Justin Trudeau still has great potential. While the "not ready" criticism seems to be resonating with some, it's likely that Trudeau will win over Canadians and form a government eventually. It's possible it might even still be this year. But if not, I agree Tom Mulcair does appear ready for the prime minister's office now. Mulcair's slow, steady positioning of the NDP as a government in waiting now seems to be bearing fruit.
Tom Mulcair's NDP now seems firmly back in control in Quebec. The Orange Crush there looks like it will repeat itself in 2015. The NDP's recent win in Alberta proves the party has surprising growth potential in places it has never won before. I've had my doubts about Mulcair's leadership in the past. But I can't deny that he's ready to govern. If Trudeau can't win this year, I must hope that Mulcair can do so instead. And that would be great for the country.
Anything can happen this year. All three parties have the ability to win. The next few months will be a crucial time in Canadian politics. As we saw in Alberta, campaigns matter a great deal. We shall see how it all unfolds.