All eyes fixed on the finish line

I’ll admit I’m both a news junkie and a political junkie. Give me an election contest and I will follow every blog and political columnist in the area where the election is taking place.
For me, watching the start as the candidates break out of the gate—until they gallop across the finish line—is like watching a horse race.
We have our favourites just like in horse racing. We have our sentimental favourites that we cheer on because they are in the race with no hope of winning. And we have our put-downs for the candidates or parties we don’t want to win.
Every once in a while, our sentimental favourite party surprises us and wins. In Ontario, it happened when Bob Rae and the New Democrats ousted David Peterson and the Liberals in an early election call.
I still believe Mr. Rae was the most surprised winner in that election.
Last week in Alberta, Rachel Notley—in what pollsters thought might be a close race—removed the Conservatives, the government of Alberta for four decades, and replaced it with a NDP one.
It was an “orange” landslide in conservative Alberta, where 50 new faces that had never sat in the house will form the government. It may be one of the most diverse groups of elected persons ever to form a government as many were fill-in candidates.
In the last federal election, under the leadership of Jack Layton, the New Democrats elected 59 out of a possible 75 seats in Quebec. And with their total, they became Canada’s Official Opposition, displacing the Liberal Party of Canada.
That, too, was unexpected.
In England David Cameron managed to eke out another majority government. In the last election, he had to create a coalition with the Liberal Democrats to create a government.
Pollsters had not predicted that outcome.
The surprise there was that the Scottish National Party managed to gain all of the seats in Scotland, with a focus on having a referendum to make Scotland a separate country.
It bears similarities to the Bloc Quebecois winning 54 seats in Quebec in the 1993 federal election and becoming the Official Opposition in Canada. The United Kingdom will be facing trying times to hold the country together just as Canada did following the 1993 vote.
In Canada, we don’t necessarily elect governments but rather toss them out with the knowledge that the party we know the least about is the best alternative to the two parties we know the most about.
Often pollsters get the results correct. They missed the mark in England and they missed the mark in the last provincial election.
John Diefenbaker was quoted as saying, “I would never have been prime minister if the Gallup polls were right.”
He also noted the only polls that counted were on Election Day.
So we all end up watching the finish line.

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