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The Insiders: Election predictions

On Friday, along with the world, we watched a fairy tale unfold in front of our eyes.  But what can we expect Monday night as the polls close?

A political fairy tale for the let's-just-pinch-ourselves left?  Or a nightmare scenario for the business-minded right?
With just hours to go until Canadians head to the polls, here's my take:  

Stephen Harper is on his way to a third straight minority government. The Conservative seat total will be determined by the strength of the Tory machine in Ontario and what happens in Quebec - whether voters there will follow through in their quest for real change.

There is an off chance of a surprise majority win, but it is extremely slim, as it hinges on a flood of Liberals coming Harper's way fearing the Layton "bogeyman".  I just don't see it, because it isn't a credible characterization.

Jack Layton is poised to win more seats for the NDP than ever before. And I believe he will. As it has for the Liberals for decades and for Brian Mulroney in the 80's, Quebec will decide the fate of the nation. If voters there go with "la vague orange", the NDP could win as many as 80 seats nationally.

I have been struggling to grasp that surge, and until there is a chance to put the question directly to voters - something my colleagues and I at Ensight Canada will be doing in the coming days - I just don't know what ignited the brush fire.

In truth, Jack had help.  Michael Ignatieff's exhortations for voters to "rise up" have fallen flat. Despite prodigious intelligence and a genuinely worldly cv, Ignatieff will accomplish a feat that no Liberal leader in history can claim - relegating Canada's ostensible natural governing party to third-party status.

This election has been nothing short of a disaster for the Liberals, and despite Ignatieff's statements to the contrary lately, I fully expect to see him resign within days of the vote.

The news isn't all bad for Ignatieff.  As I see it, he'll at least have some company.  With Bloc voters far less committed than in previous campaigns, and Quebecers rejecting a desperate attempt to inject sovereignty into the issue mix, Gilles Duceppe is finished - not only as leader of the BQ, but also as an MP.  I am predicting he won't even hold on to his seat.

So a calamity for the Liberals and a catastrophe for the Bloc.  Come tonight, I'm betting on a brave new world politically.  And to quote the Grateful Dead - something I rarely do but which seems appropriate, considering the emergence of the NDP - what a long strange trip it's been!