Taking a page from one of my favourite sites, UK Polling Report, I thought I would do a quick round-up of the positions the three major parties find themselves in the polls and life this year in Canada. The best to start off with is the Conservatives, Canada's "new natural governing party," which has only been in power 5 years.
2010 has been an OK year for the Harper Conservatives, but it isn't fantastic, either. The entire year should be contrasted with their results back the year before; while for most of 2009 they were tied with the Liberals, after the September debacle, the Conservatives rose exponentially to a 12-point lead in polling averages, according to 308.com. That lead was erased after prorogation, and for the rest of 2010 they've been locked into a stagnant position in the polls, sitting between 33-35%. Their largest lead over the Liberals comes this past December, when they managed an average 7-point lead over the Liberals, but all of 2010 featured a short rise for the Conservatives, then a fall next month. Another issue is their lack of support in Quebec, and the on-again, off-again relationship they seem to have with Ontarians. The rise of Liberal fortunes in Alberta and the Prairies must also be a concern for them, while their own rise in Atlantic Canada may prove fruitful.
But, despite their stagnant position, the Conservatives have some stuff to cheer about. They stole Vaughan from the Liberals thanks to Julian Fantino, and managed to keep Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette handily despite a rise for the NDP in that riding. Harper's own numbers as leader, while not spectacular, are stronger much stronger than Ignatieff's and Layton's. But Harper has been shown to be vulnerable to some attacks against his style of governance according to Angus-Reid, which shows that many Canadians consider him secretive, uncaring, and arrogant. This leaves Harper open to exactly the same kinds of attacks that forced him off the path to victory in 2004 - "scary hidden-agenda Harper."
Legislatively, the Conservatives haven't done too well. While they did take over the Senate, one of their key goals this session - scrapping the long-gun registry - blew up in their faces, helping unite the Opposition and forcing the hand of the Liberal leadership, which managed to unite the caucus despite some deep differences of opinion. Instead of pressing down on that wedge in order to create havoc among the Liberals' caucus, they instead strengthened their hand, and by extension Ignatieff's. The only real "victory" to be had for the Conservatives would be the complicit support of the Liberals on the Afghanistan extension, which made a potentially explosive issue into nothing much. There's not much else to be said; nothing else major has happened, despite many expectations that this year would see Flaherty bring out tight budgets.
The end-of-the-year showed that, while Ignatieff and Layton might be willing to go to the polls, the Conservatives may be a little more cautious. The main reason is most likely that the Conservatives, and the rest of Canada's political scene, is stagnant, with a slight uptick in support for the Liberals. The Conservatives can't mire themselves in a minority forever, because as was seen with the LGR vote, the potential for the Opposition to embarrass the government is high. The budget, while I still expect it to contain a poison pill to force an election, has a greater chance of trying to placate the Liberals. But the Conservatives have two worries: one is if the Liberals and the other parties decide to try an election; and the other is whether or not allowing the Liberals more time to settle themselves is a good idea. Depending on which risk they want to take, depends on their outlook for next year. Also, expect the Conservatives to easily win 2 of the 3 by-elections next year, and try very hard to stop the Liberals from winning Haute-Gaspesie.