Centre Block in Ottawa. W. Lloyd Mackenzie photo.

COLUMN: Impossible to divine a federal election winner

Lots of storylines to keep an eye on over the next month as campaigns kick off

The writ has dropped and another democratic experiment is underway.

After toppling a Conservative majority government four years ago, Justin Trudeau and the governing Liberals have been running the show.

And on Oct. 21, Canadians will have the chance to vote for more of the same or choose a different governing alternative.

I’ve misplaced my crystal ball; I can’t divine who will win, but I know for certain that this election is going to be fascinating to watch, both regionally and federally.

First, Kootenay-Columbia.

IN 2015, Wayne Stetski, the incumbent NDP MP, won the riding by just under 300 votes.

When looking at the electoral map from from that election, it’s pretty striking to see the East/West Kootenay divide; voters in the former tended to throw their support behind the Conservative candidate, while voters in the latter overwhelmingly supported the NDP candidate.

However, there are a few interesting variables to consider this time around.

One is voter antipathy towards the provincial NDP and Horgan’s approval of Site C and support for LNG projects. Will provincial NDP voters, disappointed with Horgan’s decision to move forward with the dam mega-project, take their anger out on the federal NDP?

Will that bleed support to the Green Party? Bill Green, who ran under the same party as his namesake, had the Green’s best showing in Kootenay-Columbia in 2015 since it began fielding candidates in the region. Can the party build off that this time around?

In the same vein, will disappointment in Trudeau, especially regarding his broken promise to pursue electoral reform, push federal Liberals to the NDP or the Greens?

There are also some interesting variables on the other side of the political spectrum.

The Conservative leadership campaign shook up the party with long-lasting effects that are still reverberating across the Canadian right.

Maxime Bernier, who narrowly lost the leadership vote to Andrew Scheer, broke away from the Tories and built his own following through the People’s Party of Canada.

Will Bernier’s appeal to the more hardcore right-leaning wing of the Conservative Party siphon away Tory voters in Kootenay-Columbia and beyond?

While the Kootenay region is going to be one of the most fascinating ridings to watch this election, it will also be interesting to see what happens across the country.

A red tide swept over Atlantic Canada four years ago; all 32 ridings in the Maritimes went for the Liberals. Can the Grits repeat that success?

It’s no secret federal elections are won and lost in Ontario and Quebec.

They combine for just over half the country’s population and roughly the same ratio of ridings as compared to the rest of nation’s provinces and territories.

Any path to victory runs through those two provinces.

If a party can’t make inroads into Ontario and Quebec, it better get comfortable on the backbenches.

Long seen as the left’s power base, Ontario voters fed up with their provincial Liberal government recently elected a Conservative majority that wasted no time announcing funding cuts to programs and services across the board.

However, those spending cuts came with consequences.

It is legitimately impressive how fast Doug Ford’s approval rating cratered less than a year in office.

In the country’s most populated province, will voters disgruntled with the Ford Conservatives flock to other federal alternatives? Or simply stay away from the polls?

Last election cycle, there was an undeniable undercurrent of antipathy towards Stephen Harper from disenfranchised voters after serving nine years as Prime Minister. Will voters have that same kind of emotive response to Trudeau after only four years on the job?

Polling may shed a little bit of light on these questions as we get closer to election day and there’s still plenty of time for gaffes and mis-steps.

But till then, I’m going to keep rummaging around for my crystal ball.


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