As we enter the final four weeks of this election, we find ourselves in a prolonged stalemate in the polls. All three parties are within a handful of points, well within the margin of error, and vote splits in dozens of ridings could determine the outcome. Strategic voting has been suggested by numerous people as opposition supporters question how best to defeat the current Conservative government. The Conservative government, despite high levels of voters calling for change, has a loyal and motivated base and makes a compelling case for stability.
We know from our polling and other publicly available polls that a large percentage each of NDP and Liberal supporters (over 30 per cent) is prepared to vote for the other if it is seen as the better option to defeat the Conservatives.
However, the current deadlock has not revealed who that is and any gains made by either group are small -- there is no daylight between the Liberals and the NDP that would see a mass migration of strategic votes from one to the other. The tipping point, if it in fact occurs, may come down to Canadians making a judgement similar to that expressed in folklore and widely known as the Judgement of Solomon.
As the biblical story goes, King Solomon is asked to make a judgement between two women who both claim they are the mother of a child. The King summons his sword and proclaims that each woman shall receive half. One of the women pleads with the King for the child to be given to the other woman, and is thus revealed as its true mother. It is considered an archetypal example of an argument to moderation and impartial wisdom.
Politically speaking, the electorate will need to use similar wisdom, although the decision is not as easy as the one faced by Solomon. Who represents the true change in this election between the NDP and the Liberals, and -- to add another layer of complexity -- is that change really necessary during a recession and global economic turmoil?
All three leaders have to balance the interests of the country with the partisan interests of their party, so it's unlikely anyone will cede all their partisan considerations for the good of Canada. Perhaps revealing a glimpse of what is their priority may break the stalemate.
As we approach the third debate later this week, watch for attacks between all parties to ramp up in both frequency and tone. But who loves Canada more, who puts the interests of our people above the interests of their party? I don't expect anyone will make a grand gesture of patriotism or encourage people to vote for another party for the best of the country.
However, under the increased pressure of the closing weeks of the campaign, a clearer picture of their priorities will emerge and the wise decision may be revealed.
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