Desperate Times, Desperate Measures in Campaign 2011
It's that time in a campaign.
The last week: when the public should be very careful about what they hear the political leaders saying.
For the last week is when parties get desperate and resort to whatever desperate measures they can think of in order to squeeze those last few votes out of the public.
And things appear even more desperate this time, with the Liberals and Tories neck and neck, and the NDP not very far behind.
The latest Nanos/CTV poll, released Sunday evening, puts the Liberals at 36.5 per cent support, compared with 34 per cent for the Tories, 26.8 per cent for the NDP and 1.9 per cent for the Green Party.
Nearly 11 per cent of those surveyed from Sept. 29-Oct. 1 are still undecided.
Nanos surveyed 900 people. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Taking that margin of error into account, it's virtually impossible to know which party is in first, second or even third place.
Many pundits and pollsters have been musing that Andrea Horwath is getting a bump because of her positive performance in the leaders' debate last Tuesday.
Whatever the motivation, Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak said Saturday there may be back door conversations going on now about whether she'd form a coalition with the Liberals come Oct. 7th.
The NDP, by the way, has vehemently denied such talks are taking place.
The "proof of this", however, for Mr. Hudak and some media, seems to be Ms. Horwath's refusal to say whether she'd rule out a coalition with the Liberals or Tories.
For the record, this what Ms. Horwath actually said to reporters Saturday in Essex riding:
We have four polls in the last 24 hours, they all tell us the same thing: it's going to be a minority government with the NDP holding the balance of power... What happens in that scenario? What do you do? Do you go to the Conservatives or do you go to the Liberals?
Well I think we're still going to work for the next five days to try to encourage Ontarians to make a choice that is a positive choice that puts them first. I'm again still running to be the Premier of this province, and regardless of the decision they make, it is a decision that I will honour and I will work very very hard to make life affordable for them.
Is corporate tax hikes (sic) a necessary thing for you to support a government?
Well again we have been pretty clear that we're going to fight for the things that people have told us they think are most important. Within the next little while we'll be making very clear what we would accomplish if we were to be in the position to be in the seat of government...
Don't (people) have a right to know what it is that you're going to be pushing for when you have a position of such influence?
Well again I'm not so sure that I'm prepared to say that I'll be choosing their next premier for them. I'm still running to be a Premier and I'm going to wait until they make their decision... In the next little while we'll be laying out what we would do if we were given the opportunity to govern this province.
What concessions would you make for their support ... if you're on top (with a minority)?
Well again we're going to be a little more specific in the next day or so about what we want to see as priorities if we were to form a government in this province...
In the next couple of days you say you're going to be more specific. Are you talking about a price for support?
No, specifically about if we were to form a government, what our priorities would be in the shorter term.
Let's check Horwath's answers closely:
"I'm again still running to be the Premier."
"Within the next little while we'll be making very clear what we would accomplish if we were to be in the position to be in the seat of government."
"I'm still running to be a Premier."
"We'll be laying out what we would do if we were given the opportunity to govern this province."
"we're going to be a little more specific in the next day or so about what we want to see as priorities if we were to form a government in this province..."
"if we were to form a government, what our priorities would be in the shorter term."
Nowhere in this exchange does Horwath even hint she's considering a coalition government, let alone talking to the Liberals behind the scenes about it.
There is nothing new under the sun about Horwath's position going into the last week.
It is exactly what every party leader says in the last week of a campaign. It is especially logical that she would say it in this tight situation.
What leader at this point would concede defeat, effectively telling people not to bother voting for her party, or assume majority support, thereby sounding arrogant and driving voters away?
(Actually Prime Minister Stephen Harper did that the campaign before last, and it was seen as a mistake that may have cost him a majority.)
There's nothing new under the sun about both how both the Liberal and PC leaders reacted either.
They began the traditional Ontario election last-week-of-the-campaign-scare-mongering in full force.
Mr. Hudak's musings that backroom talks may be taking place lets him paint the Liberals as being in bed with the "scary New Democrats."
McGuinty snatched the opportunity to send a quick letter to Tim Hudak (and given to all media) adamantly declaring the Liberals would have no truck nor trade with a Liberal-NDP coalition.
Mr. McGuinty later said he would not take part in any written accord, either, like the one between the Liberals and the NDP in 1985. (Contrary to some reports, there was no coalition in 1985. In a parliamentary democracy, a coalition involves sharing cabinet seats, which Mr. Peterson
refused to do.)
"No accord, no coalition, no entente, no agreement - formal or informal - or any other linkage of any kind," Mr. McGuinty is reported to have said. With this, he has boxed himself in, closing off most options.
With the very public refusal to take part in any coalition with Ms. Horwath, he signals to left-wing swing voters that they must vote for him if they want an alternative to the Tories.
At the same time, he signals to soft Tories that he will have nothing to do with the scary NDP.
Mr. McGuinty has not ruled out working with the NDP issue by issue, as minority governments usually do.
Assuming which party will come first, second or third at this point is a fool's game.
Such close polling numbers indicate only that it will depend on how the votes split in many ridings.
There is no way to tell whether some of the percentages each party has are a result of so-called "vote-piling" in certain ridings. That's when many of a party's votes are concentrated in a number of ridings. Vote-piling makes it more difficult to win a majority.
The biggest battleground right now, it appears, is the vote-rich "905" region around Toronto. The individual "trench warfare" in these ridings, as one pundit calls it, has nearly given way to hand to hand combat.
Hence the semi-hysteria that is prompting the many games being played in the last week - none of them particularly new.
You can find Susanna here: @susannakelley