I've been thinking aloud recently about whether or not the Liberal Party would have been put into a better position post-election if said election was held during the fall of 2009, rather than the spring of 2011.
You of course remember what that was, right? The election-that-never-was, when Iggy was all pumped up following a summer meet-and-greet of Liberals that we looked like we were going into an election, just for those plans to be scuttled by our own feebleness and the New Democrats. In Burlington, that's when we had our first candidate, who then decided to bail in 2010. Ah, those heady days of September when we still had Official Opposition status - nice to think about, no?
Now that we actually had an election, and we've seen what happened, there's a thought that we had a lost opportunity in 2009 for a better outcome than where we are currently sitting. Sure, the likelihood is that we would have been knocked down still and the probability of a Conservative majority great, but one has to wonder whether in that time period the NDP would have had the same traction they did in Quebec. Understand that Quebeckers have probably never been too happy with the Bloc since the '06 election, but would they have abandoned Duceppe in such droves, not to mention the Liberals and Conservatives, in 2009?
For a couple reasons, I don't think so. They're subjective, so bear with me on them.
The first reason is that 2009 was only a year after the 2008 election, which saw a drop but more or less status quo results for the Bloc Quebecois. Versus 2011, Quebeckers wouldn't have had enough time to stew over their political choices and then en masse move towards the NDP. It's entirely possible they could have, given that no one expected it in May 2011 either until something suddenly clicked mid-campaign. But I figure that the longer period between 2008 and 2011 probably allowed for the NDP to organize itself and for Jack to settle in the minds of voters more than they would have between 2008 and 2009.
The second reason is simple insofar that the Conservatives had tonnes of time to eulogize Ignatieff in just under three years, versus the time they had to in 2009. Granted, those ads were in full swing in 2009, but how much had they filtered through to Canadians by then? Probably not as much as had by May 2011. Plus, by 2009, we'd be forced to run ads to defend our leader from attacks, with some sort-of effective counter that could have prevented some degradation of our support. Part of our issue between '08 and '11 was that we didn't counter the narrative in any effective manner; we didn't treat the interim period like an election period, which is what the Conservatives did with their ads. If we went to the voters in 2009, we could haven slowed Iggy's drop, and our downfall.
This could have saved our hides in Quebec, where we were sitting stronger at the time. It also could have prevented the wave of support the NDP got in other parts of the country once Quebec latched on to the Dippermobile. If we kept the Orange Crush away from Ontario and so on because at least those voters didn't see our leader as a total non-starter, we could have kept a lot more seats than we did.
But this is all speculation. Any number of things could have happened, including the same result we saw in May. But I also think that maybe 2009 was a possible lost opportunity that, with the benefit of hindsight, looks a lot better than where we are now.