The Tories are on the prowl.
Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have drawn up a list of about 45 opposition-held ridings across the country that would be vulnerable in a federal election. Most of them are in urban Southern Ontario. Winning a third of those seats-in-play would secure the Conservatives a majority government.
That doesn’t make a majority inevitable, or even likely, given that the Tories aren’t any more popular now than they were when the party won minority governments in 2006 and 2008.
But the scenario emphasizes that while the Conservatives hunger for a majority, the Liberals and NDP must look first to protecting what they have.
Election speculation is in the air since Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff told The Globe and Mail that his party will oppose the 2011 budget, expected in February or March, unless Finance Minister Jim Flaherty cancels planned corporate tax cuts and puts the planned $16-billion purchase of new fighter jets out for public tender.
“If Iggy really wants to force an election, based on our data it’s not in his interest,” a senior Tory MP said in explaining Mr. Harper’s wish list. “We will do nothing to provoke [an election] other than things we’ve already indicated, such as corporate tax reductions.”
Of course, the Liberals have tried to bring down the government before and failed. Mr. Harper could survive a budget vote by wooing the Bloc Québécois or the NDP. Whether he wants to is the political question of the season.
So where are these vulnerable ridings? Here is a look at three that are typical of what’s in play.
St. John’s South-Mount Pearl
MP: Siobhan Coady
2008 margin: 949
Former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams was so angry with Stephen Harper’s intransigence over changes to the equalization system that he campaigned against the federal branch of his own party in the 2008 election. As a result, the federal Conservatives were shut out of the province, losing three seats. They want them back and then some, starting with this St. John’s riding, which the Tories lost by less than a thousand votes.
MP: Ruby Dhalla
2008 margin: 773 votes
As Brampton-Springdale goes, so goes the GTA. Well, maybe. The riding is typical of many of the edge-of-Toronto seats held by the Liberals: large and middle-class, but filled with voters who are troubled by the recent recession, lost manufacturing jobs and general economic uncertainty. The riding is also typical in that a large minority of residents – 24 per cent in this case – arrived in Canada within the past 20 years. Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla barely kept her seat last time out, and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has been relentlessly wooing new Canadians, arguing that Conservative social and economic values are closer to their own. There are about a dozen ridings in Greater Toronto where the Liberals are vulnerable, and others in the Golden Horseshoe, Guelph and London.
MP: Bill Siksay
2008 margin: 798 votes
It’s not just the Liberals who need to watch their backs. Several NDP seats in B.C. are anything but safe. Bill Siksay, who took Burnaby-Douglas riding by only 798 votes, is retiring. Mind you, the Tories are also vulnerable in Vancouver, having won several of their seats by squeakers, and lost others by a hair’s breadth. Liberal Keith Martin, who’s stepping down, won Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca by all of 68 votes, while Ujjal Dosanjh enjoyed a plurality of 22. If the Conservatives can hold on to all of their seats and pick up a few of the seven B.C. seats in play, they’ll be on their way to a majority. But “if” is the biggest word in politics.
The conservatives smell success and its most probably coming their way absent
a dramatic change in leadership of the Liberal party.
With the greatest of respect to Iggy, despite his honesty, integrity, his incredible experience and education, he simply does not have the charisma, passion, ability or even the determination to be the next prime minister of Canada.
That falls to Justine Trudeau and its only a matter of time before the Liberal Party makes that unavoidable decision.