With 2012 almost behind them, the competitors on Parliament Hill now look to the challenges of 2013. What do the five parties need to do to make next year a success?
It was a good year for Elizabeth May and the Green Party. The challenge in 2013 will be to keep the momentum going. After the party’s unexpectedly strong performances in two byelections last month, the Greens will need to put up some good numbers again in any new byelections in the next 12 months. That the Greens demonstrated they can win some votes in b-elections will make that task easier for them at the doorstep, but the other parties will not take the Greens as lightly as they did this time around. If the party puts up poor performances in any 2013 byelections, their successes in 2012 will be dismissed as one-offs.
Despite having four times as many MPs in the House of Commons, the Bloc was much quieter than May and the Greens in 2012. That will need to change in 2013 if the party is to have any hope of a comeback. The likely resignation of Denis Coderre in the riding of Bourassa will give the Bloc the chance to make some electoral noise in a byelection, but the riding is not a particularly strong one for the party. A good showing will give the Bloc a boost, but a poor performance will only add to their agony.
With their leadership race coming to a close in April, 2013 will be an important year for the Liberal Party. They will need to take advantage of the contest to present good ideas to the public and avoid tearing each other down. The party already has a reputation for infighting, making any sort of public rift all the more damaging. Once chosen, the caucus will need to stand behind the new leader and prevent the New Democrats and Conservatives from defining him or her. If Justin Trudeau wins, as is expected, he will have to present himself as a credible alternative to Stephen Harper. Polls show Canadians like him but they are more divided on whether they think he is ready for the top job. He will have to quell those doubts.
The selection of the next Liberal leader will also be an important moment for the New Democrats. The party suffered when their interim leader, Nycole Turmel, was outshone in the House of Commons by Bob Rae, but the ship was righted when Thomas Mulcair took his place across from the prime minister. The New Democrats will need to maintain their position as the alternative to the Conservative government by preventing the Liberals from eating into their centre-left support. Mulcair will need to keep the focus on himself and not the new leader of the Liberals, a task that will be made all the more difficult if the camera-friendly Trudeau wins. If the NDP can survive the initial, and virtually inevitable, honeymoon the new Liberal leader will enjoy, they will have a good shot at remaining Canada’s top progressive option.
Stephen Harper and the Conservatives will need to spend the next year rebuilding some bridges that were burned in 2012. The failures on the F-35 file have put a dent in the party’s reputation as sound fiscal managers, and if the economy remains relatively flat in 2013 serious doubts may emerge about the government’s ability to balance the budget. The Conservatives still have some time before the next vote, but the longer they remain in power the more dirt will stick to them. Better, then, to regain some of those lost supporters in 2013 than in 2015, when it might be too late. A kinder, gentler and more conciliatory Conservative Party in 2013 could go a long way. But is it in the party’s DNA?
Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on most Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.
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7. Strong, Stable Majority Government
Majority governments are by definition strong and stable, so this talking point essentially means nothing. Do the Tories really think they'll win another majority by reminding us they already have one?
6. The NDP's Illegal Union Donations
Curious about the questionable campaign fundraising done by Tory ministers <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/tag/peter-penashue">Peter Penashue</a> and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/dean-del-mastro">Dean Del Mastro</a>? Well the Conservatives have an answer for you. The NDP is much, much worse. While the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/27/ndp-union-sponsorship-donations-returned-elections-canada_n_1834802.html">New Democrats did pay back nearly $350,000 in sponsorship money from unions</a> after Elections Canada found the party guilty of violating campaign finance laws, that doesn't give the Tories the right to ignore legitimate questions about their own fundraising practices. Then again, why answer questions when you can just blame the other guy?
5. Alexandre Boulerice's Separatist Past
When NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice asks the government something in question period he usually already knows the Tories' answer. 'Remember when you were a separatist?' <a href="http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Politics/2012/06/08/19854701.html">Boulerice has long since admitted he used to sympathize with separatists</a> and it's time for the Tories (we're looking at you Pierre Poilievre) to let this one go.
4. Liberals Are The Only Ones To Be Found Guilty Of Misleading Robocalls
Instead of answering questions about allegations of misleading robocalls during the 2011 election, the Tories generally pivot and remind people the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/24/liberal-robocall-fine-guelph-crtc_n_1827915.html">Liberals are the only party that has actually been found guilty of phone-call shenanigans</a>. While this is true, it doesn't erase the fact that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/robocalls-scandal">Elections Canada's investigation seems to have a fair bit to do with the CPC</a>. Canadians deserve to know what really happened on election day, but the Tories seem content to remind us of their rival's misdeeds. Let's hope all that ends in 2013.
3. No Money Has Been Spent On The F-35 Acquisition
No answer regarding the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/f-35">now-scuttled acquisition of the F-35</a> is complete without reminding the audience that no money has been spent on the purchase. Well, as long as you don't count <a href="http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/06/05/opposition-parties-hammer-conservative-government-over-f-35-press-conference-that-cost-taxpayers-47000/">all the cash spent on the flashy press conference in 2010 when Peter MacKay got to sit in the cockpit</a> right? Wouldn't it be more accurate to say plenty of money has been spent trying to replace Canada's ageing CF-18s, it's just that none of it has actually been on new planes? The Tories aren't fooling anyone here. It's time to admit mistakes were made.
2. One Of The Strongest Economies In The Developed World
Concerned about a housing bubble? Worried about Canada's shift toward a more resource-based economy? Put those fears to rest, things are much worse everywhere else. At least, that's what the Tories keep telling us. But are they really? Two problems: 1. Were the Tories responsible for the relative stability of Canada's banking system after the crash? Not so much. The <a href="http://m.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/top-business-stories/ban-on-bank-mergers-helped-canada-withstand-crash-imf-says/article4600686/?service=mobile">IMF has credited regulations introduced by former Liberal finance minister Paul Martin in the 1990s</a>. 2. Things are now <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/12/01/canada-us-economy-gdp_n_2220164.html">better in the U.S., at least in terms of GDP growth, than they are here</a>. The U.S.'s GDP grew nearly 5 times faster than Canada's in the third quarter of 2012. It's time for the Tories to admit that while Canada weathered the economic crisis well, the country now faces new problems that will require new solutions and not more tired talking points.
1. Job-Killing Carbon Tax
Even though the <a href="http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/09/21/a-rough-guide-to-the-conservatives-carbon-tax-farce/">NDP has never proposed a carbon tax</a>, the Tories continue to hammer this talking point home every chance they get. Got a question about the F-35? Remind them about the carbon tax. Allegations of misleading robocalls? Did we tell you about the carbon tax? The phrase has become such a predictable refrain that it has <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/11/08/conservative-ad-carbon-tax-video_n_2092524.html">inspired one of the most dangerous drinking games in Ottawa's history</a>. Let's hope this one evaporates in 2013.