Election campaign just like chase for Cup

As the federal election heads into its final week we’re sure to hear the candidates roll out all the best sports clichés.

“It’s the bottom of the ninth.” “Our backs are to the wall.” “This is three-down territory.” “We have to pull out all the stops.”

Overused as these clichés are in any realm, surely when tied to the political arena it can only create even more eye rolling than there has been over the last few weeks.

That said comparing this year’s election to sports might be right up my alley. Now I won’t go as far as comparing it to the hockey playoffs. After all even the politicians realize they don’t hold a candle to the Stanley Cup playoffs. Why else would you move an important discussion between aspiring leaders of our country to another night unless you knew Canadians would rather watch a hockey game than listen to their sales pitch.

This year’s election campaign has fallen well below hockey on the sports scale and probably just above wrestling. People are curious about the outcome but know most of what they’re watching is staged and predictable.

Perhaps that explains the lopsided response to our weekly website poll question. This week’s query asks readers if they had made up their minds as to whom they’re voting for in the federal election. Over 80 per cent of our respondents said they had.

Which makes the last week of political mudslinging and photo ops a waste of money and time when most Canadians would rather be watching the playoffs.

So with that in mind, maybe giving readers a “sports take” on the campaign might be the best analogy for this hockey-mad city, province and nation.

The Conservatives are playing the role of the team in front – don’t make any mistakes, don’t take any chances, and above all else remind people what’s wrong with their opponents.

It’s the classic case of playing with the lead. Keep chipping away, don’t tip your hand, avoid taking dumb penalties and keep your mouth shut.

Harper even has his loyal followers blocking shots as witnessed over the weekend. A question from a reporter that might have put Harper on the hot seat was drowned out when supporters rose with applause following the question and gave Harper the perfect exit strategy.

He has taken the U.S. political strategy and brought it to Canada, probably without paying duty. It’s an easy style to follow – negativity and patriotism are the two main ingredients. Spend lavishly on ads that deride your opponent, preach on how you can single-handedly stop crime and boast that you alone care about the country and its soldiers.

Meanwhile, the Liberals are the player on a breakaway that doesn’t notice the defenceman is right behind them.

The Liberals once thought they were just fighting the Conservatives. As is often the case in sports, it’s the team you’re overlooking that can often give you the most trouble.

The Liberals were comfortable in their own knowledge that they were one of two choices for Canadians. But alas they made the classic mistake of taking things for granted. Now they’ve slipped in the standings, according to the polls, and find themselves battling the NDP simply to maintain its ranking on the national scene.

What once was a party that preached principles has now become a team with the strategy of “if you can’t beat them join them.” They too have whipped out their share of phony photo ops, nasty ads and over-moon promises that they know voters will soon forget.

The problem with both parties is they have baggage from former prime ministers always lurking in the closets.

The NDP doesn’t have that to worry about that.

It has always been the third wheel in this triumvirate but that may change. The biggest in road has come in Quebec were young people are realizing that the Bloc Quebecois one-track agenda has never served the greater good but rather the loudest minority.

However, the NDP will have to avoid a run-and-gun approach that consumes the Grits and Tories of foregoing everything else it has worked for across Canada just to cater to the Quebec vote. They have an opportunity to build on a message of social change, which has been brought to life in other parts of the world.

However, the lust for power is a deadly poison and the party is in no position to start celebrating when it hasn’t scored the winning goal yet. It’s one thing to have a good season; it’s a whole other thing to maintain that support when the votes are counted.

The Green Party is still the expansion franchise eager to simply score its first playoff victory and a seat in the House. With that would come credibility, airtime on the CBC and even some perks from joining the exclusive realm of national parties.

Although the party was snubbed in its bid to join the televised debate, considering the hot air and noxious gas that emanated from that show, perhaps the Green Party should get some type of carbon credit for not adding to those emissions.

Many people are saying the rise of the NDP will come at the cost of the Green Party. Perhaps, but the Greens need to remember their “raison d’etre.”

If they can get a foot in the House of Commons, maybe two, they can play a role. The key is to stick with what gets you there. Too many teams make the playoffs and forget what they did all along to reach that goal then suddenly the joyride ends.

Meanwhile, the Bloc Quebecois has tried the same system and approach for so long that suddenly it’s going backwards. When that happens in sports, coaches are fired, fans disappear and the team flounders. The Bloc has to realize its method of achieving change doesn’t occur from arguing every point and twisting it to your advantage. See the NDP’s willingness to work with other parties, which may be a reason for its rise in popularity in La Belle Province.

So which party will be parading around next week and heading to 24 Sussex Drive? Who knows.

But I do think, for a change, the newly minted prime minister should get a congratulatory call from the captain of the Stanley Cup champions.

That would put it all into perspective for Canadians.