Friday, December 18, 2009

Provincial Uprising?

In October, I mused about the difficulties facing the three Liberal titans - Dalton McGuinty, Jean Charest, and Gordon Campbell. For the last 7 years, they have led Canada's three largest provinces, winning 8 elections between them. But all three now find themselves down in the polls, a fact confirmed by this Angus Reid survey, asking Canadians to rate their Premier:

Danny Williams (Newfoundland) 78% approve, 10% disapprove
Brad Wall (Saskatchewan) 58% approve, 29% disapprove
Darrell Dexter (Nova Scotia) 43% approve. 32% disapprove
Greg Selinger (Manitoba) 29% approve, 22% disapprove
Jean Charest (Quebec) 25% approve, 52% disapprove
Gordon Campbell (B.C.) 21% approve, 66% disapprove
Shawn Graham (New Brunswick) 20% approve, 63% disapprove
Dalton McGuinty (Ontario) 18% approve, 56% disapprove
Ed Stelmach (Alberta) 14% approve, 61% disapprove

Let's start at the top of the list. Danny Williams is Danny Williams. Bulletproof. Unbreakable. Unbeatable. He is this generation's Peter Lougheed. No surprise at his numbers.

Brad Wall and Darrell Dexter are new on the scene so it's not really surprising that they remain popular. As for Greg Selinger, well, it doesn't appear that anyone outside of his family and High School classmates have an idea of who he is. The jury is still very much out on Gary Doer's replacement.

After that, the numbers are ugly. Still, Jean Charest likely isn't sweating - he's been through worse and has three years to turn it around. No one who has followed Quebec politics over the last decade is going to bet against Charest.

I also tend to think Gordon Campbell has decided against a fourth term. In BC politics, 3 majorities is unheard of - plus he'll have the Olympics and a few legacy policies under his belt, so there's no need for him to stick around.

So the three men on the hot seat are Dalton McGuinty, Ed Stelmach, and Shawn Graham - three Premiers who have learned the hard way that a year is a long time in politics. Think about it. One year ago, Stelmach was coming off Kleinian election triumph, McGuinty was slapping around a hapless John Tory, and Shawn Graham was drawing praise for his bold agenda both inside and outside his home province.

The good news for this trio is that a year is a long time in politics. The economy will improve. They can all turn it around.

Graham's numbers are being hurt by the NC Hydro sale so this might just be a temporary blip. And, besides, he only has one term under his belt, and Canadians are usually willing to dish out a second term. Stelmach and McGuinty both have powerful political machines behind them and are facing untested opposition.

But unless you live in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, or Saskatchewan, provincial politics will certainly be worth following in 2010. And for the political junkies living in those three provinces it's probably still worth tuning in...Misters McGuinty, Stelmach, and Graham showed us why in 2009.


  • SK politics will interesting next year. The fact that the Wall government bet the farm on Potash and lost big time has the potential to leave the province in a financial mess of 'Devine' proportions...

    By Anonymous Grant, at 11:32 AM  

  • Only if the rest of Canada treats Sask. as Alberta. Saskatchewan has a new revenue that they can develope, unlike the Maritimes who appera not investing/drilling/building refineries very little, and Sask can be as productive as Alberta.

    Since Ontario and Quebec hates the BAD oil they should not get BAD oil money in transfer payments that Sask wil now contribute as well. That will save billions into revenue.

    By Anonymous Clown Party, at 12:26 PM  

  • Sigh... how many times does it have to be explained to those outside BC that Gordon Campbell is not a real Liberal?
    I remember having this argument with a guy at work who had moved here from Ontario; he thought he'd just voted for regular "harmless" Liberals, with no idea how far right he'd just voted, or the history of BC's provincial fake "Liberals."

    By Blogger Jack Norris, at 1:53 PM  

  • You really crack me up Bart. I thought that Wafergate would have taught you not to trust anything written by the Irving Press. Apparently you haven't learned.

    Here's the low-down on the NB Libs and the Irving press. They are as thick as thieves and have been attached at the hip since young Jamie was given the run of the shop. This, of course, is well known so whenever the Telegraph-Journal, the T&T or the Gleaner run one of their thrice weekly, fawning stories about the Graham government, you can actually hear the sound of New Brunswickers' eyes rolling back in their sockets. Its quite a jarring sound.

    Now, ordinarily having a media baron in your back pocket would be a good thing for a political party. Not in NB. The Irvings endorsed Camille Theriault in 1999. Bernard Lord in 2003 (he almost lost). Shawn Graham in 2006 (he lost the popular vote).

    You say Graham can pull it out before he goes to polls in the fall. Its possible, but not likely. Aside from the NB Power deal, the Graham Grits don't have anything to hang in the window in the next election. In three years they have retreated on every major poicy intitiative they unveiled save one (they went through with their plan to segregate medical services along linguistic lines - they are in court as a consequence). They did, however, manage to drive the provincial debt up by 50%.

    If NBers fall in love with the NB Power sale, he has a chance. If not, Shawn Graham goes down as the only one term premier in provincial history. Unfortunately for Shawny, the sale seems just as unpopular with most NB Grits as it is with the population at large.

    Now the thing about NB is Liberal and Tory voters rarely vote for the other side, unless they want to send a message (lots of Tories voted for McKenna in 1987 to be done with Hatfield). Instead, when they are unhappy with their side, they just don't vote. Last October, in the federal election, the Liberal vote dropped by 40K from 2006. The Tory vote stayed the same. The result - three more Tory MPs from NB. If the Liberal vote falls by 40K in the next provincial campaign (remember, the Grits lost the popular vote the last time out) the party's seat count will fall into the single digits (that is, fewer seats than Camille Theriault). That's the most likely outcome.

    Don't say you weren't warned.

    By Anonymous herringchoker, at 8:42 PM  

  • NB is a low profile province so people don't tend to follow what's happening there much - despite the Liberal name - Shawn Graham is arguably the most rightwing provincial premier in Canada. He is the kind of regressive flat taxes, privatization and P3 schemes and social conservatism. NB is one province where there is actually quite a history of the PCs being slightly to the left of the Liberals. Remember Richard Hatfield the consummate "red Tory" followed by rightwing neo-con Frank McKenna who did whatever he was told by the Irvings, then came Bernard Lord who just smiled a lot and did nothing - and now the rightwing ideologue Shawn Graham. People debate whether or not the BC Liberals under Campbell should ever be considered Liberals at all - I think Shawn Graham makes Gordon Campbell look like a leftwing radical. Andrew Coyne says that Graham is the best premier in Canada - need i say more??

    The one saving grace for Graham is that the NB PCs are moribund and have a new leader who is widely regarded as a very weak "place holder" (mind you the same was said about Bernard Lord once upon a time). Don't be surprised if the NDP becomes a bit of a factor in NB next time. Last election they had zero seats and 5% of the vote. Their new leader is a vast improvement and the win in neighbouring NS is a big help too. The NDP could easily rise to 15% and get 2 or 3 seats.

    By Blogger DL, at 12:25 PM  

  • David Alward is certainly of "place-holder" caliber, but then again, so is Shawn Graham - and NB voters had no problem electing him over the infinitely-more personally popular Bernard Lord. Frankly, as long as Alward avoids making any major gaffes between now and September, and still has a pulse on election day, he'll most likely be the next premier.

    On another point, I'm not sure that I could call Graham's 63% disapproval rating a mere "blip" in the context of New Brunswick politics. Such a violent turn in popular opinion against an incumbent premier is almost unheard of in NB, and completely unprecedented for a first-term premier. Heck, even after being defeated in his third election campaign, Lord still had favourable personal numbers.

    All it took to nearly derail his *second* campaign, though, was fervent populist ire over a single issue (rising insurance prices) - a pale shadow of the current outrage over Graham's selling of NB Power. If such outrage could nearly sink Lord, a popular premier in command of a massive majority, then it can certainly sink Graham, a loathed premier in command of a much smaller majority.

    By Blogger daniel, at 1:26 PM  

  • Record setting deficit in Saskatchewan certainly is going to be a major issues. Major cuts to projects in rural Saskatchewan will not help.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:33 PM  

  • They didn't see fit to include Prince Edward Island, which is rather insulting, but to speculate, I think Ghiz would be doing okay. The last polling done on his popularity had the government in the low-sixties for approvals (that was late summer). They've had a persistent low-level scandal that has been dragging out for the better part of a year but hasn't really gone anywhere huge, but otherwise it's pretty business as usual.

    By Blogger IslandLiberal, at 4:08 PM  

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