Although most Canadians might agree that the 2011 federal election campaign is both unwanted and a huge waste of public money, the campaign could actually prove to be important for Canada and West Central Alberta.
Canadians will go to the polls on May 2 in the fourth federal election in seven years, with the price tag this time estimated to be close to $300 million. Whether the political parties will be able to put aside petty bickering long enough to make the massive expense worthwhile remains anyone's guess.
What is already known from the first week of the campaign is that the race will be hard fought in every province and territory. And for the Conservatives, Liberals, NDP and Bloc the stakes couldn't be higher.
Tory leader Stephen Harper probably has both the most to gain and the most to loose in this campaign.
If he is able to finally lead his party to a majority, Harper will be in the clear for the next four years – without the need to consider those meddlesome opposition parties, as he has had to do during the past two terms.
If, on the other hand, Harper leads his party to another minority, his options will remain very limited, forcing him to once again govern with the ever-present possibility of his government being thrown out of office at short notice. And that, in turn, could quickly lead to a revolt in his own party, forcing him to give up the leadership altogether.
The bottom line for Stephen Harper is that he needs to win a majority or face trouble and lots of it.
For the Liberals the campaign is yet another chance to turn their fortunes around, maybe even getting back to the seat of power after years in the wilderness. On the other hand, another term as official opposition will probably mean the end of Michael Ignatieff’s leadership.
For the NDP and the Bloc the best-case scenario would be another minority government for either the Liberals or the Conservatives; a Grit or Tory majority would be bad news.
Whether the 2011 election campaign turns out to be another down and dirty scrap based on personalities, attack ads and recriminations will depend on whether the party leaders are prepared to make the race instead about taxation, the environment, health care, seniors, education, federal-provincial-municipal relations and other key issues.
Hopefully the candidates in West Central Alberta will make time to discuss and debate those real issues facing area residents.
So what about a prediction of the outcome on May 2? The Tories will win another minority government – and Canadians will be back at the polls in 2013.