“Don’t rule out Harper, Mulcair or Trudeau from winning election: Hébert” (The Toronto Star)

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, shown here at Lester B. Pearson International Airport on Sept. 7, 2015, has a shot at winning Ontario in the coming election, writes Chantal Hébert. (Victor Biro / Victor Biro)

Chantal Hébert (The Toronto Star):

As the election campaign moves into high gear, neither Stephen Harper, nor Thomas Mulcair or Justin Trudeau is out of the game yet.

With six weeks to go to the Oct. 19 vote, it is still possible to chart a path to victory for the Conservatives, the New Democrats or the Liberals.

But after the equivalent of a typical 37-day campaign on the hustings, each party still has a tall order to fill to secure the bare minimum of a workable minority mandate next month.

  • In a vote this week, Harper would have lost his bid for another majority and, possibly, the election itself. Only in the Prairies are the Conservatives decisively in the lead, and it is that region that offers them the least room for growth. In 2011, they won all but five of the seats in the three Prairie provinces.

The Conservatives lag well behind the Liberals in Atlantic Canada; the party is in fourth place in NDP-dominated Quebec and 15 to 20 points off its last election finish in British Columbia and Ontario.

Since the vote was called Conservative support has hovered around or below the 30-per-cent mark. For the sake of comparisons, Harper lost his first election as leader in 2004 with a score like that. […]

  • This has been a good Labour Day for the New Democrats, with organized labour promising to round up votes on their behalf across the country. That active support might not have been as forthcoming if Mulcair’s party had not held the lead in voting intentions.

 

But what if the NDP should lose that card? For Canada’s unions, as for a critical mass of non-Conservative voters, achieving regime change is job number 1 in this election.

So far the NDP’s edge in voting intentions has been more a ceiling than a floor, with the race tightening over the past five week. A second orange wave in the making in Quebec has yet to translate into a flood of NDP support in Ontario.

At this critical juncture, Mulcair’s campaign outside Quebec could use a second wind.

  • On the scale of expectations, the Liberals have had the better month. The party has registered a modest but real growth in support, and some polls suggest Ontario could become Trudeau’s to lose.

But the Liberal campaign is all but competitive in francophone Quebec, and without more support from Trudeau’s fellow Quebecers the party has faint hopes of winning enough seats to form a government.

In federal elections, Quebec tends to walk to the beat of its own drummer. It will take more than encouraging Liberal poll numbers in Ontario to move the province over to Trudeau. That may require a remarkable performance in the Sept. 24 and Oct. 2 French-language leaders debates.

Full column here