Don Martin: The frontrunners who threw dirt lost ground
After 40 days filled with promise demonizations, character assassinations and plenty of dashed expectations, the federal election campaign rests on Sunday.
If there's common agreement across a polarized electorate, it's that the noisy vitriol spewing into the electoral wind was irritatingly amplified in the void of substantive campaign content.
It wasn't a total Seinfeldian campaign about nothing, but the only something was to win at any cost.
And because the top two party platforms didn't build voter appeal for those leaders to stand on, their only sales pitch was to unleash lies to define all rivals as severely unworthy.
So it comes down to this: a minority government of some stripe is almost inevitable with a brutal fight for prime ministerial power probable and a Quebec separatist force likely holding the third-largest block of seats.
Nothing is now as it was supposed to be when this started on September 11.
The NDP was supposed to disintegrate. The Bloc Quebecois was supposed to remain a rump party. And the Greens were supposed to grow into an electoral force beyond a one-person personality named Elizabeth May.
The only suspense was supposed to be: Liberal majority or minority?
All that has obviously changed, which underlines how much campaigns and leader debates matter, especially in an age where political attention spans are short to non-existent.
But the lead parties must take responsibility for their fates.
Big ideas were replaced by ineffective tax credits or, in the case of a nation-defining pharmacare program, left mostly unfunded even as Justin Trudeau antagonized premiers he'll need as partners to make it happen.
Still, there are positives in the voters' refusal to be swayed by snake oil sold by the frontrunners.
Trudeau sounding false alarms about Scheer being controlled by premiers and former prime ministers didn't register. His major deficit-financed vote-buying binge didn't sell.
Scheer's mostly-missing climate change policy likely cost him seats. Cutting foreign aid to finance domestic tax cuts didn't impress.
And by throwing so much dirt, both Trudeau and Scheer lost ground as leaders built with prime ministerial material.
The polling and spinoff analysis suggests voters believe Justin Trudeau's record doesn't rate a second majority and that Andrew Scheer's left too many queasy questions unanswered to be handed the absolute power of solo Parliamentary control.
And that leads to the bottom line: No matter which minority way Monday night goes, the voters are always right.
That's the Last Word on this campaign