Wednesday, March 21, 2007

No Majority In The Budget

It usually takes a couple days before you can pass any judgement on how well a federal budget has been received. I would describe overall reaction to be mixed at best, with a lean to the negative, as people digest the fallout. The general theme, which is hardly attractive, this budget is a vote buying exercise, with a distinct bias towards Quebec. I would argue that the budget, which had the intention of moving the Conservatives toward majority, will be a failure on that score. In fact, when you balance out the winners and losers, it would appear that the Conservatives haven’t helped their electoral chances at all.

The key point, how is the budget being received across the country? Obviously, Quebec is happy and it isn’t unreasonable to conclude it will help Tory fortunes next election. That being said, no one would expect a blue wave to sweep across Quebec. If someone said the Tories could pickup 10 seats, doubling their total in the province, that would be an optimistic scenario.

The trouble for the Conservatives, this budget curries some favor, while simultaneously alienating others. This budget will cost the Conservatives in eastern Canada. I could very well see the Conservatives loss all 3 seats in Newfoundland, now that you have the Premier actively promising to work against the party. I could also see potential erosion in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, where the Tories have 6 seats at stake. All the pre-budget polling showed the Tories fading in eastern Canada, this budget will only continue that slide, as the consensus seems to build. This was a bad budget for the Atlantic provinces, that’s the theme, there should be consequence.

Another potential weakness, Saskatchewan, where the Tories virtually own the playing field. The budget reception has been completely negative, a “big fat zero” as the Premier puts it. Will the hostility translate at the voter booth? I don’t think it crazy to suggest a potential lose of a couple seats.

Having lived in British Columbia, any talk of the budget favoring central Canada, at the expense of the west coast, is an electoral loser. The Campbell government has made rumblings about subsidizing Quebec, while ignoring British Columbia. I doubt this framing does the Conservatives any favors, in a province that is always competitive.

With regard to Ontario, I suppose you could argue that this budget helps the Tories, but the reaction is still mixed, so I don’t see any big momentum here. In addition, Charest’s taxbreak move has completely re-focused the debate over the budget, and only a fool would suggest that it hasn’t left a bad taste with many people. The optics, Ontario received something, but relatively less, as usual.

Alberta is apparently happy, but in terms of seats, it’s irrelevant. The Conservative maintain their seat totals, did anyone expect anything less?

I realize there is quite a lot of speculation in the above, but really the budget was crafted with electoral possibility in mind, based on current assumptions. Given the reaction, some of it vicious, for every potential gain I see, it is met with an equally plausible loss. If the goal was a move toward majority, I would say the Conservatives have failed. This budget gets them no closer to their goal, despite having billions at their disposal.


bigcitylib said...

But Quebec is not happy, or at least Charest is still in deep doo doo according to the latest polls (see CTV). If the Quebec provincial election blows up in Harper's face, then no majority and no Fed election (sez I).

Steve V said...

Harper could still see some benefit if the ADQ does well, I'm not convinced his prospects are completely tied to Charest's survival.

Zorpheous said...

Hey Steve,

off topic here

You're the one who made the CPC Clean Air count down clock, right?

Well I was think you might want to make a second clock that uses Friedman Units as the measurement of time, or F-U's for short, make it with six to eight digits.

37.642105 FU's till,...

Steve V said...

lol. I just wrote the snide post, Wayne and Scott did the actual countdown link.

Zorpheous said...

oopsie, looks like the clock has to stop now. The CPC are getting cold feet on thier CAA, bill c30

Scotian said...

Steve V:

"Obviously, Quebec is happy and it isn’t reasonable to conclude it will help Tory fortunes next election."

This is the second sentence of the second paragraph of your post; and I think by reading it in context you miswrote it. Would I be correct in presuming that this was what you meant? "Obviously, Quebec is happy and it isn’t UNreasonable to conclude it will help Tory fortunes next election." If so, you might want to make the edit, otherwise you could confuse some people and give trolls a hook to hang on to. Just a thought.

As to the body of the post itself, strikes me as a reasonable assessment of the way this budget appears to be going over in the country and the potential impact on votes. The only overarching theme of this budget was “I want to buy your votes for a majority, but I won't tell you what my overall vision for economics as well as social agenda are." and I don't think that is enough for Harper to get his majority. I also agree with you on how this appears to be going down in my neck of the country, as well as it is hurting the CPC's future, and this could be yet another thing to help May dethrone MacKay in his riding. That riding I do not think is as safe for him as some would like to believe it is based on rumblings I've been hearing locally over the last year or so.

We shall see.

Steve V said...

Thanks Scotian!

I was actually going to mention May's chances, because it would seem to give her a powerful argument. Where was Peter MacKay, in standing up for Nova Scotia?

ottlib said...

Acting as Condi Rice's consort.

Steve V said...

Another point about May. That race is bound to be high-profile, which means the lines of attack may resonate beyond the actual riding. If May hammers MacKay, with this budget as a pretext, it could be quite effective.

Miles Lunn said...

I agree this won't be good news for the Tories in Atlantic Canada, especially Newfoundland & Labrador. I don't think they will lose all 9 seats there simply because a few they won by huge margins. Still there chances of gains have greatly diminished. New Brunswick is probably the province that they will experience the least in negative fallout, Nova Scotia somewhere in between, and Newfoundland & Labrador being the most serious. Saskatchewan might result in losing a few seats, but since Lorne Calvert is not very popular it will be less damaging than Atlantic Canada. British Columbia is a complete wild card so who knows and we won't know until about a week before the election. Ontario is also tough to say but I cannot see the Tories falling below 20 seats there, but neither can I see them going over 60 seats, likely not even 50 seats.

Steve V said...


Buckdog had some interesting commentary from Saskatchewan newspapers:

"He broke his promise to Saskatchewan. He ignored the warnings of conservative MPs concerned that breaking that promise would cause "no end of political difficulty during the next election"
Regina Leader Post
Mar. 20, 2007

"Even Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall - who will never be viewed by Conservatives as 'unfriendly' said he was "upset and that the people of the province will be as well"
Murray Mandryk
Regina Leader Post
Mar. 20, 2007

Miles Lunn said...

I am not suggesting it won't hurt them in Saskatchewan, however their margins of victory were a bit larger there. In addition former Saskatchewan finance minister Janice McKinnon came out in support of the equalization changes. Still I think messing with equalization is always risky no matter what one does since you can never create one that benefits every province, it is not possible. And even though few understand the fine details of how it works, if the province is getting a bad deal, it will hurt.

Steve V said...

"however their margins of victory were a bit larger there."

Miles, point taken. You will notice I was tentative in actual seat lose, although it could put a couple up for grabs. The Wheat Board is another angle that could work in concert with the budget.

Miles Lunn said...

Steve V - I am also tentative on seat losses anywhere as we don't know when the election will be and what the driving issue will be. The Canadian Wheat Board certainly could hurt them, although I would say more so in Manitoba than Saskatchewan (but Saskatchewan too) since it is more popular there, never mind it tends to be farmers further North who most supportive of it while farmers near the US border generally support the Tory plan.

The problem with Saskatchewan is there are no purely urban ridings, all ridings include a large chunk of rural areas and that is the main reason Saskatchewan went so heavily conservative. The Tories actually lost most of the polls in Regina and the central parts of Saskatoon last election, but their massive majorities in the rural sections allowed them to take the ridings. Had Ontario cities such as London, Kitchener, and Hamilton been carved into ridings that were half rural and half urban, the Conservatives likely would have won them too. Thankfully we only have a handful of such ridings.