Today is election day in Canada, typically presenting members of the pundit class with a practical problem.
This is the day on which interest in election news peaks. It’s also a day when nothing much usually happens through the day except citizens voting. A journo can only collect so much B-roll and file so many stories about people wandering into a polling place and then wandering out again.
And, this year, you can’t even see the expression on their faces as they come out the door!
Having very little of significance to report on, except perhaps the size of the turnout, the temptation to talk for the sake of talking is powerful, especially among broadcast media, where silence is held to be anathema.
This is a formula for drivel, so expect to hear a lot of drivel throughout the day today.
Last night, media for the most part was megaphoning it in — that is to say, their reports were loud and forceful, but not particularly complicated or insightful.
The big political story, in media’s estimation? It’s a horserace. (We already knew that.)
The collective wisdom of pundits and pollsters? Justin Trudeau and the Liberals will win, but probably not a majority. (Could be. But never underestimate the ability of conservatives to get out the vote.)
This might explain why there is relatively little interest in the remarkably good campaign by Jagmeet Singh, the New Democratic Party leader, and whether it will be enough to push the NDP back above 40 seats.
It may not be fair but it’s to be expected that, having seen the NDP win 103 seats under Jack Layton in 2011, the national press is never going to get all that excited about the party’s progress until it’s back in 100+ territory again, which everyone agrees won’t happen this time.
The most significant 11th-hour story? Probably that Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is pleading with his supporters not to stray to the People’s Party of Canada, Maxime Bernier’s revenge vehicle for being edged out of the Conservative Party of Canada leadership by Andrew Scheer in 2017.
Indeed, this has become the Big Question of Election 44. Will the PPC, which has polled more strongly than pundits expected for a new party with an extremist platform, hang onto its support today? Or will its supporters hold their noses and head back to the Conservatives now that it looks as if the Liberals could win if too many of them park their votes with Bernier?
Remember, polls, no matter how professionally they are done, have a history of underestimating the conservative vote.
So, have the zealots who could always be counted on to get out and vote for the Conservatives abandoned O’Toole and the CPC for the PPC? Or not?
This could be the question on which the outcome of today’s election hinges.
In Alberta, of course, there is intense interest in whether the deadly incompetence of Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party since its ill-advised Best Summer Ever reopening in the midst of the fourth wave of COVID-19 will result in New Democrats and Liberals capturing a few seats in the province from the ever-dominant Conservatives.
And, for that matter, will Kenney’s instinct to do the opposite of what was needed to control the pandemic have a significant impact on O’Toole’s fortunes in the rest of Canada?
The premier is, like O’Toole, a former federal Conservative cabinet minister and, also like the federal leader, seen as former prime minister Stephen Harper’s creature.
Meanwhile, here in Alberta, Kenney, true to form, is already backsliding on his promise last week that everyone will have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to get full services at non-essential businesses.
Last night there was also talk on social media that UCP caucus rebels and constituency association presidents are plotting a bid to topple Kenney.
It’s too late for either of these things to have much impact on voting today, but they should give us something to talk about soon.
David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald.
Image: Maxime Bernier/Facebook