On the day of the debate, I thought I'd write down exactly what it was that I'd expect to come on May 2nd, also known as E-day 2011, at least based so far on what we've all seen from the leaders tours, polls, and organization.
Come May 2nd, here's what I expect Canada's parliament to look like:
Conservatives - 145-160 seats
Liberals - 70-90 seats
Bloc Quebecois - 40-50 seats
New Democrats - 25-35 seats
I base this off several things, some of them more clear than others. But it's clear that even though the Liberals are up on their 2008 results, they are not doing so by biting into Conservative Party support - instead, they're drawing it from NDP, Bloc, and Green support, which have all fallen in the first two weeks of campaigning.
And this, so far, remains the strategy. The fact is, roughly 40% of Canadians are, at this point, ready to vote Conservative. I don't know their reasons, but I suspect much of it has to do simply with voter fatigue; get the majority, let him run his course, and we'll settle this in four years time. I can even agree, if I wasn't so hooked on elections to begin with.
Meanwhile, those opposed to Harper are crystallizing around the Liberals because all polls since 2006 have shown us to be the only real opposition, or at least the largest opposition. But there's simply not enough of them moving to counteract the Conservatives - and Quebec remains a quagmire that has yet to be solved, with the three Opposition parties beating themselves to death while the Conservatives sit at a comfortable 20% of the vote.
So even while Ignatieff is siphoning off votes, the third parties are holding enough of their own to remain an obstacle in this election. What Ignatieff really needs to do is start taking away Conservative support, but that is yet to be seen, despite scandal, after scandal, after scandal.
The debate may change that yet. If Ignatieff performs well tonight, then the Liberals may have a shot at actually taking away Conservative support, instead of simply gaining more Opposition votes, which won't put us over the top.