The Back Page

YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST

Just In case you miss it, here's what will happen in the coming election

PAUL WELLS May 24 2004
The Back Page

YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST

Just In case you miss it, here's what will happen in the coming election

PAUL WELLS May 24 2004

YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST

The Back Page

Just In case you miss it, here's what will happen in the coming election

PAUL WELLS

ELECTION TIME. Here are my predictions, most contradictory, some probably wrong: ADS: Parties whose ads feature their own leader will rise in the polls. Parties whose ads feature another party’s leader will fall. It doesn’t always work that way. It will this time. BINGO: British reporters covering Tony Blair’s campaign in 2001 amused themselves by playing “battle-bus bingo”: they wrote down Blair’s favourite cliché phrases on strips of paper, paid a pound each to get into the contest, then each drew three strips of paper at random. The first reporter to hear his picked clichés from Blair’s mouth won the pot.

On Jack Layton’s bus, the strips of paper will include the phrases “corporate interests,” “coal baron” and “Federation of Canadian Municipalities.” The winning hand on Paul Martin’s bus will without doubt include “outside the box” and “transformative change.”

CLARK, JOE: Will inexplicably become newsworthy during the campaign.

CUNNINGHAM, BILL: Paul Martin rewarded this applecheeked British Columbia Liberal’s bootlicking fealty with an appointment as the party’s nominee in BurnabyDouglas. The Liberal riding association executive promptly quit. Cunningham is actually more popular in the Ottawa press gallery than in Burnaby-Douglas: he’s such a disaster that we’re praying he’ll get elected and come entertain us.

GORE, AL: The vice-president disavowed a decade of achievement and ran on a promise of “change.” Worked out well, didn’t it? HARPER, STEPHEN: Easy to underestimate. HEALTH CARE: It’s like sex. Nobody gets enough, everyone lies about it, and you really don’t want to have to pay. KNOCKOUT: Reporters are the only people dumb enough to show up at a debate looking for boxers. Every story after the televised leaders’ debates will begin: “There was no knockout punch last night as ...”

But voters are looking for governments, not boxers. The winner of the leaders’ debates will be the person who looks calm and sounds ready to discuss all the various challenges a government faces. The loser will be the one who spends the night reciting his scripted knockout lines.

LAPIERRE, JEAN: Martin’s star in Quebec. Will certainly embarrass his party before election day.

LAYTON, JACK: Easy to underestimate. LONG SHOT: Once again, Gilles Duceppe will show up for the English-language leaders’ debate. Maybe this will be the year the Bloc Québécois breaks through in Manitoba! MARTIN, PAUL: Harder and harder to underestimate.

MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION EVER? Uh, no.

MULRONEY, BRIAN: Will inexplicably become newsworthy during the campaign. NARCOLEPSY: Will Stephen Harper make it through all of his speeches without actually falling asleep?

PARIZEAU, JACQUES: Will inexplicably become newsworthy during the campaign. SCANDAL: Less and less useful as a political issue. Within days after Auditor General Sheila Fraser’s report in February, Liberal voters had either abandoned the Liberals—or looked elsewhere and returned to the Liberals.

The voters who’ve moved back don’t think the Liberals are more trustworthy than the Conservatives and New Democrats; they think the Liberals are more competent. This is incredible to Conservatives and New Democrats, but there it is. They can’t pick up votes by talking about Liberal wickedness. They will talk about Liberal wickedness anyway.

TEMPER: Paul Martin and Jack Layton are famous for their short tempers. A political campaign is five solid weeks of bad news. Guys: count to 10 ...

TOUR BUS: Last week Peter Mansbridge’s column announced that political leaders’ tours are a waste of time, which is why the CBC will have its own bus travelling the country avoiding politicians. Since I’ll be spending the campaign on the pointless leaders’ tours, Peter’s column kind of scared me.

Tell you what. If Peter leads The National with more stories from the CBC bus than he does from Paul Martin’s, Stephen Harper’s and Jack Layton’s, I’ll buy him dinner. And if this election turns out to be about politicians the way the last 20 elections were, I’m sure Peter will be equally gracious in defeat.

VICTORY: It will go to the Liberals, barely: a few seats short of a majority. Martin will send his emissaries out to blame Jean Chrétien. He will govern after the election precisely as he’s governed since December.

Don’t like these predictions? Complain if you like, or better yet, vote. W

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