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Despite their unpopularity, the Harper Conservatives could still win this year's election

Written by Think Forward Staff
Wednesday, 14 January 2015

It's been nine long years since Stephen Harper's Conservative Government was first elected to office in January 2006, and there are now clear signs that Canadians are fed up with the Harper team's ideological, secretive, and autocratic approach to governance.

A December 2014 poll conducted by Nanos Research and the Institute for Research on Public Policy found that 45 per cent of Canadians believe the Conservatives are doing a poor job of governing the country, while 48 per cent think the country is heading in the "wrong direction." According to ThreeHundredEight.com, the Conservatives have also been trailing the Liberals in opinion polls since April 2013.

That the Harperites are deeply unpopular with large swaths of voters is not surprising: from their gutting of valuable public services, to their complete disregard for the democratic process, to their attacks on workers, scientists and environmentalists, the Conseratives have ruthlessly pursued a far-right agenda despite having never secured more than 39 percent of the popular vote.

What IS alarming, and what should gravely concern any Canadian who considers themselves to be progressive, is that the Harper Government 1) is still supported by one-third of the electorate, 2) has convinced 37 percent of Canadians that it is doing a good job of governing the country, and 3) could still win this year's election, thanks to our warped electoral system.

Yes, despite the Conservatives' best efforts to alienate the average Canadian voter – by slashing government services and firing scores of public sector workers; by sabotoging our democracy with the Unfair Elections Act; by introducing a new health care funding formula that will force provinces to cut health care services – Harper and his team could still win another election if forward-thinking citizens don't work together to stop them.

As mentioned above, much of this has to do with our winner-take-all, first-past-the-post electoral system, which enables parties to win a "majority" government with a pluarlity of votes. For example, in the last election, a majority of Canadians voted for parties other than the Conservatives, but their votes split across party lines and Harper's team won 100 percent of the power with just 39 percent of the popular vote.

That is why it will be crucial for progressive-minded Canadians to come together before and during this year's election to stop the Harper Conservatives from winning another mandate. Defeating the Harper Government will require reaching out to friends, family members, and colleagues who previously voted Conservative to talk about the Harper Government's disastrous record in office. It will involve engaging young people who haven't voted before and explaining why this election is so important to our collective future. It will, of course, necessitate getting out the vote on election day. And it may include voting strategically in swing ridings where vote-splitting could benefit the Conservatives.

Federal polling suggests that most Canadians believe the Harper Government doesn't deserve another term in office, but unless citizens who believe in a fairer, greener and more prosperous Canada work together and reach out to others in this election, the Conservatives could win power once again.

 

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