It may be the Premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, who may have summed up best the state of pollsters in Canada these days. He said, "when political parties start negotiating with pollsters now, they may ask for the Alberta discount." In the just concluded Alberta provincial election, while most pollsters predicted the Wildrose party and its leader, Danielle Smith, as an eventual winner, it was the status quo that won on Election Day.
Earlier today, the Canadian Press Harris Decima survey revealed a surge for the federal NDP and its new centrist leader, Thomas Mulcair. According to the survey, the NDP is now in the lead with 34 per cent of popular support while the governing Conservatives are at 30 per cent. With a margin of error of 2.2 per cent, the NDP is clearly in the lead.
In rural Canada, where the NDP has never done well except for a short time in 1987 under Ed Broadbent, the party enjoys a 31 per cent support while the Tories are at 35 per cent. According to the chairman of Harris Decima, a onetime former Prime Minister Kim Campbell pollster, the New Democrats "appear to have supplanted the Liberals as the natural party among women."
The party of Trudeau, Laurier and Chretien, the Liberal Party of Canada, is far behind at 20 per cent in a survey of just over 2000 Canadians. It seems the natural governing party of Canada mantra that the Liberals owned for a long time is far from reality these days.
For the NDP that once viewed Ed Broadbent's triumph of 43 seats in the Free Trade referendum like federal election of 1987, this must be an inspiring moment. With a new leader on his honeymoon and it seems, so far, muted of any opposition in the likes of Jean Chretien - Paul Martin within his own party, it seems a Prime Minister named Thomas Mulcair is a vague possibility.
This is not the first time the NDP has been high and mighty according to pollsters. In the 1987 federal election for instance, a year before an eventual election, according to pollster Angus Reid, the party was at 37 per cent, followed by John Turner's Liberals at 36 per cent and Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservatives at 25 per cent. In a three way race, it seemed Canada was ready to elect its first Social Democrat Prime Minister mere three decades after its birth.
From the House of Commons, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney even joked how he was getting Sussex ready for the NDP leader. The respected Angus Reid predicted how the NDP has been consistent with these numbers for over a year and how they can even go a bit higher. When 40 per cent is usually considered a majority government in Canada, for the NDP at 37 per cent, it seemed a real possibility an NDP government for Canada in short months.In the election that followed, the NDP was reduced to its traditional third place, while the conservatives won re-election by a huge margin. The NDP received 43 seats, the Liberals 83 while the conservatives received 169 seats.
The NDP leader that was predicted to be a Prime Minister soon left politics to join a human rights foray with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The Liberals were clearly divided along the wedge issue of Free Trade suffered a humiliating defeat. They soon replaced their one time golden boy of Canadian politics with Shawinigan's Jean Chretien. The Progressive Conservatives held on to power having been in third place just a year ago.
In an election that is more like a marathon rather than that of a sprint, polls mean virtually meaningless three years away from an election. True pollsters preform an important contribution to public service in Canada however who should never take them serious are the political parties.