Real change versus change

Rousing the Rabble column by Roy Ronaghan, Oct. 28 Grand Forks Gazette.

In the aftermath of the long 2015 federal election the pundits are doing their best to sift through the results and come up plausible explanations for what happened? Why were the pollsters so wrong? How did the man they said wasn’t ready win by a large majority? Why did the NDP fail to convince the electorate that they could govern the country? Why did the Conservatives fail in their bid for a fourth term?

We were all witness to a long campaign with a surprising outcome. Isn’t it enough now to watch what Justin Trudeau and the Liberals do?

Perhaps the answers to the questions are as simple as the electorate deciding to take decisive action and rid the country of a prime minister who worked to make Canada in his image. They saw an opportunity for “real change” in a party led by a young and energetic Justin Trudeau and took it.

Although he was an effective adversary in his opposition role in the House of Commons, Tom Mulcair failed to inspire voters during the campaign like his predecessor, Jack Layton.

George Heyman, an NDP member of the B.C. legislature, summed up the NDP’s demise on election night. “People were waiting to see who the agent of change would be. I think many elements of the NDP campaign were very good. But we were unable to project to Canadians that we would be bold and adventurous. And Justin Trudeau saw a gap and leapt into it.”

Doug Ward, a columnist for The Tyee online newspaper, identified three key elements behind the shift of anti-Conservative voters to the Liberals and not the NDP.

• Trudeau embraced short-term deficits to fund needed infrastructure. It was a bold move. The NDP on the other hand stuck with a “balanced budget” approach.

• The debate on the niqab in mid-September weakened the NDP support in Quebec and when voters saw the party slipping in the polls they shifted to the Liberals.

•  Trudeau was able to match Mulcair in the debates and throughout the campaign. His youthful appearance and energy was refreshing for most people who had grown tired Harper’s stiff and dictatorial approach

Greg Lyle, an expert on elections and public opinion and head of the Innovative Research Group stated, “the Liberals became ‘real change now’ and the NDP was ‘some change, some day’.” According to Lyle, what worked for the Liberals was a shift to the left of the NDP. It worked because people don’t think about being left or right, but they want something done.

Thomas Homer-Dixon, an international affairs professor at the University of Waterloo is of the opinion that Canadians were sick of austerity and liked Trudeau’s activist approach. They were not concerned about a balanced budget.

Homer-Dixon sees Trudeau as a clever political operator and like Jean Chretien he is consistently underestimated.

David Moscrop, a professor of political science at the University of B.C., saw the NDP’s campaign as timid and much like the provincial NDP campaign in 2013. Had they been the party to announced running deficits they would have been pilloried for doing so.

Had the campaign been the usual five-week version instead of 11 weeks, Mulcair might have fared better. The longer campaign worked to the advantage of Trudeau and to the disadvantage of Mulcair and Harper. Trudeau proved that he was a quick learner, grew as the campaign progressed and proved that he was a force to be reckoned with.

Chris Wood, a journalist for the Tyee, advised his readers, “But for now, let’s pat ourselves on the back for ballots well cast. Let’s breathe the morning air delightfully free of paranoia, suspicion and fear. Let’s be grateful for voters who broke the curse of the three-legged dog. And then let’s do a bit more, and give the man a chance.”