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Your Next Prime Minister Will Probably Be a Liberal

No matter how good or bad the Conservatives have been, and regardless of who becomes Liberal leader, the odds are very much in favour of the Liberal Party in 2015.

The federal Liberal Party leadership contest now has a ninth candidate: former cabinet minister Martin Cauchon. The more the merrier, I say. At least, this will make the coronation of Justin Trudeau a little less likely.

The news will make every political pundit's heart jump -- this is the stuff we all live for. But ordinary Canadians should also rejoice.

While the Liberal Party is currently only Parliament's third party, the former Natural Governing Party should never be discounted or written off. Its time may come again, and if it does, wouldn't it be great if voters had a real choice?

Too many Canadians, including in the media, I find, are focused almost exclusively on the Conservatives and the NDP, as if the next election in 2015 will be nothing more than the ultimate showdown between the right and the left.

I tend to disagree.

In 2015, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives will have been in power for almost a decade. In politics, where even six weeks can produce 180-degree turns, nine years is an extremely long time -- it's virtually several political lifetimes.

What drives pollsters up the wall is the fact that people's behaviour can't really be predicted. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that people will do what people do. This means they will act without rhyme or reason, and at the end of election night, it's all we can do to stand around, with our jaws resting firmly on the floor in front of us, barely believing what just happened.

Most of us eschew change in our lives, even though once we give it a try and see the positive outcomes, we end up embracing it. When spinning the roulette wheel on someone else's behalf, though, we're not as squeamish.

Hence my prediction for 2015: No matter how well the Conservatives perform between now and the next election, there will be enough Canadian voters wishing for change, for the sake of change to oust Harper. Not only will the Conservatives have lost a lot of their previous voters, because in the latter's view Harper and his team weren't conservative enough, but a considerable number of them will also simply want a different government after so many years.

In 2011 Canadians were prepared to take a gamble on the NDP as the Official Opposition, but actually handing them the keys to 24 Sussex Drive was a big no-no then, and will continue to be in 2015. Thomas Mulcair is no Jack Layton. If Jack were still around, things might turn out differently two years from now. But with Jack gone, Canadians looking for change will choose a "safe option". (On the eve of the crucial Outremont by-election, I downed a beer with Jack in Montreal, and although I'm not what one would call the typical NDP voter, I liked Jack. He was a real and decent human being who cared deeply about his country.)

That is to say, no matter how good or bad the Conservatives have been, and regardless of who becomes Liberal leader, the odds (indiscernible by pollsters today, as well as in 2015) are very much in favour of the Liberal Party.

Yes, whether we like it or not, the Liberals may return to power in 2015. Saying that this couldn't happen is just wishful thinking (quite ubiquitous among Conservatives and NDPers alike). The realist, however, who understands that voters are only human, knows that a Liberal victory is a distinct possibility, especially if they manage to stay clear of any cooperation or merger deals with the NDP and Greens.

Canadians, for the most part, are a centrist bunch, which is why the NDP, or any party like it, has never been awarded (federal) governmental power in this country.

With Liberals seeking new leaders, and one hopes a new sense of direction, not only at the federal level, but also in Ontario and Quebec, 2013 could very well be remembered as the year of Liberal renewal -- provided they play their cards right this time.

As I mentioned, a coronation of any candidate should be avoided. Liberals may be fine with it, but Canadian voters at large could have a big problem with that, as it would put the legitimacy of the party's leadership in question.

Michael Ignatieff, who was acclaimed as leader, rather than elected, carried this "scarlet letter" with him wherever he went, and it did break his back in the end -- a shame, really, because as I said then, he would have made a good prime minister one day.

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