Monday, September 27, 2010

The Final Countdown

All pundits and bloggers should diarize this formula: E-365 = 4.10.11

Translation: one week from today marks a significant day in Manitoba’s political history.

Next week, Manitobans will be exactly one year away from the next provincial election at which point Manitoba’s political machinery will officially begin operating at E-365.

In politics, time is measured in the number of days remaining before an election. Hence the somewhat militarized way of measuring time by saying, “E minus 365”. Pundits beware! Don’t be caught looking silly by referring to the election as “one year away”. It will ruin you at the bar, cocktail parties, and make dinner conversation incredibly awkward.

Events are already planned for next week to highlight the day’s significance. For example, Hugh McFadyen plans to host a little Leader’s Breakfast on October 5 to mark his party’s countdown to election day on October 4, 2011.

So what, exactly, is so significant about E-365?

Quite simply, it means there’s just one year left. That’s it. Only one year remains for McFadyen to win eleven (that’s 11) seats. It’s the final countdown, people!

But a week (even a day) in politics, they say, is a lot of time. So a year in politics must be, well, an eternity, right?

Not really.

It took Gary Doer and the NDP about eleven years of slow and steady growth to win enough seats to form government. And in every single election since 1988, Doer and the NDP managed to successively increase their seat count.

McFadyen and the Tories, on the other hand, have been dismal in their eleven years as Opposition. And in every single election since 1999, including the one led by McFadyen in 2007, the Tory presence in the Legislature steadily declined - from 24 to 20 to 19. Whoa, honey, I shrunk my Caucus!
This brings us back to the significance of E-365. Is it reasonable to assume McFadyen can do in one year what it took Doer and the NDP to do over the course of eleven?

Not impossible, but certainly not likely.

The power of plurality and incumbency is difficult to overcome in just one year alone. It often takes many, many years to weaken the grip of an incumbent government and its Caucus, and this grip has only been tightening, not loosening, and according to most Manitobans good government continues to prevail.

Unfortunately, for the Tories, the situation in which they find themselves today is a product of their own strategic incompetence over the years. In every election following the Tory loss in 1999, they mistakenly ran campaigns aimed at forming government instead of running campaigns towards becoming government.

This strategy, which was clearly the wrong one, has left them with a shrunken Caucus, fewer incumbents, and just one year (out of twelve) to do all the work that should have already been done.

So, as we embark on the final countdown, we wait with bated breath to see what, if anything, McFadyen will do or say to win eleven seats. Or, at a minimum, not lose any for a change.