Election predictions and prognostications are unpredictable at best. However, in my thirty years of working on campaigns and advising elected officials, I have come to believe that there are several truisms about Canadian electoral politics that one simply cannot escape.
For example, authenticity is still very much valued by Canadian voters and it will often propel candidates beyond reasonable expectations and even to elected office. On the flip side, arrogance is a quality that Canadians rarely reward and can, in some cases, be the death knell of a government or party leader. It isn’t the mere existence of these qualities that will impact voter intentions – Canada has had its fair share of both arrogant and inauthentic leaders – but rather whether these labels “stick,” and determining whether they stick is anything but an exact science. What I can say with confidence is that in the absence of a clear ballot question (i.e. an election about an issue or a clear top of mind question for voters) governments run the risk of the election being about character.
I would argue that this factor represents a significant risk for the governing Liberal party. This is not to say Prime Minister Trudeau is without character or is corrupt, but there is a perception that he and his government have become arrogant. The early election call does not help this perception and with no clear ballot question emerging in the early part of this campaign the risks grow daily that Trudeau’s snap election call appears opportunistic and emerges as a character issue. If it does, the election – its outcome – becomes a toss-up.
Bliss Baker is former chief of staff to the northern development and mines minister in addition to being an advisor to two Prime Ministers and various elected officials. Bliss also has extensive private sector experience as Vice President of the Canadian Bankers Association, public relations experience in the pipeline industry, President of a national industry association, and various leadership positions in the public affairs arena.