Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Trudeau and Abortion

I first published this in the comment section at Blunt Objects.  Kyle had written had post on the subject.

Politics of same sex marriage are not at all akin to the politics of abortion. Anyone with even a fleeting understanding of the SSM issue years ago could have seen the issues potential. (Incidentally, the same is true for marijuana legalization.) It was one of those rare issues that the public had the ability and willingness to delve into. More importantly, the arguments against SSM are idiotic and little bit by little bit the defenders of “traditional marriage” were always going to pay a price for making those arguments. By contrast, public opinion on abortion has remained remarkably stable with no hint of either side making a breakthrough. There is a good reason for this. Leaving aside the idiotic notion that personhood begins at conception, the abortion debate is a philosophical and scientific labyrinth.

In this sense, Trudeau abortion stance could be said to be a mistake. Best to leave sleeping dogs alone. That said, electoral success for the Liberals in the next election depends on Liberals making a breakthrough in area of the country with a population large enough to affect the national numbers. With the hope that such a surge will get supporters of other parties to think about voting Liberal. An explanation is in order. Voters do not often vote strategically, but they did in both 1993 and 2011. As the PC voters in Quebec began to move on mass over the Bloc in 1993, many traditional PC voters elsewhere in the country went in search of a new home and no doubt strategic considerations, certainly region ones, played a role for many. In Western Canada most followed the lead of the NDP voters, who had already migrated over to the Reform party prior to the writ being dropped. (The NDP vote collapsed before the PC vote did in 1993. The PCs were tied with Libs going into the 1993 election. That was in marked contrast to the NDP. Going into the 1993 election the NDP were at 8% in the polls. They finished with 7% of the vote. In other words, the notion that NDP voters moved over to the Libs to block the Reform party is not there in 1993. As for 1997 and 2000, the regional makeup of Canadian politics, the unpopularity of NDP governments in Ontario and BC and NDP support for the Charlottetown accord explain why the NDP vote did not return to normal until 2004. Strategic voting had nothing to do with it.) However, a sizable chunk of PC voters in Western Canada moved over to the Liberals. Most PC voters migrated to the Reform party in Ontario and in the Maritimes the PC vote moved over to the Liberals in NFLD and PEI and to the Reform party to lesser extent in NS and NB. Finally, in Quebec a chunk of what was left of the PC vote moved over in equal portions to the Bloc and Liberals.

Something similar happened in Ontario in 2011. As the NDP began to surge in Quebec and Ignatieff turned in one of the worst debate performances ever, the Liberal vote in and around Toronto collapsed. Suburban Liberal voters moved in droves to the Conservatives and urban Liberal voters moved in droves to the NDP. The party was ripped in two.

If the Liberals are to reverse the 2011 tide, the most likely place for a breakthrough is urban Toronto. The NDP appear too strong in Quebec for a frontal assault, but the NDP appear especially vulnerable in urban Toronto. Layton and Chow are out of the picture, Toronto has been a bastion of Liberal support and the polls both provincially and federally are pointing in the right direction. All of this brings me back to the topic of abortion. While taking a more robust pro choice position gives little hope of gaining the Liberals new converts on a national level, inside pro choice urban Toronto the policy could very well bare fruit and could help establish a needed Liberal bridge head there.