The election may not be over yet—but the post-mortems have begun. The Liberals are thanking their stars that, despite Jean Chrétiens performance on the hustings, many voters now appear to think even less highly of Stockwell Day. In the end, Liberal insiders say, the abortion issue will emerge as the one factor that really broke in their favour. The revelation that the Alliance would hold binding referendums on such deeply divisive social issues as abortion— coupled with Days statement of unqualified personal opposition to abortion in the Nov. 9 leaders’ debate—distressed many voters, who concluded that Day did not share their opinions and their values.
Senior Liberals believe they will snare the majority of Quebec’s 7 5 seats. They also think they can retain their two seats in Edmonton—wi th David Kilgour and Justice Minister Anne McLellan squeaking to victory. But former senator Bernard Boudreau will likely lose to the NDP in Nova Scotia—and the Alliance may capture a handful of rural and suburban Ontario seats.
Even if Chrétien maintains his majority, many Liberals will remain unmoved. They assert that Chrétien wont have won the election: the Alliance will have lost it. Day didn’t stick to his message—no matter how much his handlers pleaded with him. His musing about the legitimacy of creationist theories last week seemed only to deepen voter mistrust. No single strategist could impose rigid control on the Alliance campaign from start to finish. And Day himself insisted on being part of many strategy discussions, even vetting ad copy. “It’s I management by committee,” sighed an insider. 1 But Chrétien and his advisers also stumbled, f No one in the PM’s inner circle replied to a I quiet signal from former Winnipeg MP David M Walker that he would be willing to run in the riding vacated by former cabinet minister Lloyd Axworthy. Walker remains popular in Winnipeg—and well-respected. But he had a serious liability: he was once parliamentary secretary to Chrétien rival Paul Martin.
Still, it isn’t Martin supporters who have started the current rumblings about leadership: it is voters themselves, who have sounded off about Liberal arrogance on doorsteps across the nation. That is a sentiment that Joe Clark is trying to tap in the final week, positioning himself as a middle-of-the-road alternative for people who like Liberal policies, but not the leader. The main hope for the Liberals, said one worried insider, is that “maybe they’ll stick with the devil they know.” And that about sums up the mood of this election.
Follow the bouncing Joe
First, the good news for Joe Clark: the bounce he received after his winning performance in the Nov. 8 and 9 leaders’ debates continues, as more people perceive him as the best person for prime minister. Now, the bad news: that perception isn’t doing much for his party’s overall support. Polls conducted by the Toronto-based polling firm of Environics Research Group and made available to Macleans indicate that since early November, the Tory leader has marked a seven-point increase among eligible voters who see him as the best person for prime minister. Clark is now in a duel with Stockwell Day as Canadians’ second choice—after Jean Chrétien. Although Chrétiens personal appeal has slipped four points, 32 per cent of respondents make him their first choice, followed by Day, down one point to 19 per cent, and Clark, now at 17 per cent. Alexa McDonough fell a point to five per cent, while Gilles Duceppe remained stable at five per cent.
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