Title - Chris Savard
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Layton, NDP biggest surprise in this Federal Election
Chris Savard

Layton, NDP biggest surprise in this Federal Election
Today, just a few days away from Monday’s vote, it appears that three of the four leaders may face a leadership challenge, with only Jack Layton seemingly secure in his position.
PHOTO CREDIT - TheProvince.com

Cornwall - Apr. 29, 2011 - At the beginning of this campaign, I felt that it was a very real possibility that the four major party leaders, would no longer be leading their respective parties by this time next year.

If Prime Minister Stephen Harper fails to get a majority government this time, the Conservatives could very well change horses for the next election. Liberal leader Michael Ignatief has failed to resonate with Canadians and it is very probable that his results in this election will be worse than those of Stephane Dion. We all know Mr. Dion’s fate. Rumours continue to exist about Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe stepping down as federal leader to enter the provincial foray. Five weeks ago, it appeared as though the NDP result would not differ significantly from previous elections and as such, it might have been time to change the Leader.

Today, just a few days away from Monday’s vote, it appears that three of the four leaders may face a leadership challenge, with only Layton seemingly secure in his position. Most national polls are pointing to a Conservative minority with Layton and the NDP forming the Official Opposition.

At the dissolution of the 40th Parliament, the NDP held 36 seats including only one in the province of Quebec. At least one poll, EKOS, is suggesting that the NDP could win a total of 98 seats nation-wide and an incredible 49 seats in Quebec. It is hard to believe that Layton would have 13 more seats in Quebec alone compared to the full total he held just a few months ago, but that is what the polls are suggesting.

Layton’s NDP are showing gains all across the country, but this large surge of support has primarily come at the expense of the Bloc Quebecois in Quebec. EKOS is projecting the Conservatives to finish at 139 seats, a total of 16 seats short of the majority they have been seeking. The EKOS numbers are interesting because the Bloc’s numbers have dropped significantly and as a result a coalition could possibly be formed that would not need the cooperation of the Quebec-only party.

At the end of March, I felt that the election would change very little - in that Canada would still elect a minority Conservative government. No surprises thus far. Canadian taxpayers have spent $300 million and on Tuesday morning we will wake up to another Conservative minority situation.

Locally in Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry very little will change. Incumbent MP Guy Lauzon will once again win by a large margin. Lauzon will become the first Conservative to win the Federal seat in this area over four consecutive elections. Lauzon beat Bob Kilger by 3,899 votes in 2004, beat Tom Manley by 14,108 votes in 2006 and defeated Denis Sabourin by 17,292 votes in 2008.

I do think that Liberal Bernadette Clement will have a stronger showing than that of Denis Sabourin and her numbers will be closer than the spread between the two parties in 2008. Clement has run a good campaign and has presented her ideas articulately. However, there has been little to no momentum gained on the national level to assist her and going into the race she knew that she faced an uphill battle based on Lauzon’s previous success. The Ottawa Citizen has thrown their endorsement behind Clement but it won’t make a difference. She will be well positioned to fight another battle in a future election.

Of the remaining three candidates, Mario Leclerc of the NDP will finish third, Wyatt Walsh of the Green Party will finish fourth and Libertarian James Neal Donnelly will come in fifth.

Looking back, there was no major surprise that we are heading for a Conservative minority or that Lauzon will hold on to his seat in SDSG. For me, the biggest surprise of the campaign has been the surge of Layton’s New Democratic Party and their growth of support in Quebec. It will be interesting to see the results on Monday and further to see the talk of a coalition plays out in the months to come.

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