Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Liberal Strategy

I was reading Susan Delacourt's article that outlines the Liberal talking points heading into the fall. The Liberals will have five main criticisms of the Tories, as follows:
Those weak spots, according to the Liberals, are:

-Harper's ideological alliance and affinity with U.S. President George W. Bush.

-Ethics — the difference between what the Tories preached in opposition and what they're doing in power.

-Treating the voters as stupid. Telling them, for instance, that the Conservatives are reducing taxes when they're actually increasing them, or changing their story on whether they actually promised to deliver a medical wait-times guarantee.

-The appeal to the Conservatives' base or "narrow-casting," as Goodale calls this government's style.

-The lack of an economic plan. Liberals are now convinced the Tories have no long-term economic agenda after fulfilling their election promises.

One GLARING omission, the environment. Canadians now put concern about the environment on par with more traditional issues. I would argue that this issue has a transparency that makes a counter-argument all the more effective. If I were a Liberal strategist I would make the environment front and center moving forward. The Conservatives score low when it comes to support of their environmental agenda, which provides a real opportunity to distinguish.

I agree that the Liberals should tie Harper to Bush where ever possible. One because it's good politics, two because it's easily articulated. Harper has made a serious blunder in cozying up to a very unpopular administration, the Liberals would be wise to exploit that. This issue will be key in the next election, which makes the leadership selection all the more important.

I don't think the Liberals should go near the ethics file. While acknowledging the Tory hypocrisy, this line of argument effectively provides the Tories with forceful counter. On every occassion that a Liberal has taken the Tories to task on ethics, it has been met with sharp rebuke that puts Liberals on the defensive. Why remind people about the past, and voluntarily give Harper a forum to re-hash? I would put ethics on the backburner.

There is a great deal of play in the "treating voters like they are stupid" line. I think you can make a powerful argument that this government offers policy in a manipulative way to maximize potential votes. All the internal polling that shapes policy, the "marketing strategy" approach to public policy, reveal a government consumed with attaining more power. I think Canadians will respond to this cynical use of government and the Liberals could well make the case that the Tories aren't genuine in their motivations. The pattern is well established, and Liberals could challenge voters to resist manipulation. Is this a government of fundamental principle, or one that uses policy to attain the elusive majority?

On the economy, while the Liberals may have a point in the longterm, the Conservatives have evidence to suggest the contrary. Lowering the GST, and I expect another cut before the election, a healthy surplus, a generally solid economy, all detract from a effective attack on the economy. The Liberals best angle is to remind voters what Harper inherited, which no one can dispute.

I would hammer on the environment, foreign affairs and try to paint the government as a shrewd salesman, consumed with the pursuit of power and winning votes. Position the Party as the mainstream view, while concurrently convincing Canadians that this "new" Liberal Party is far removed from the old- that means avoid issues which allow for a historical re-read.


Karen said...

I just heard that there is to be a 'big' environment announcement in Vancouver today, (this afternoon). Harper will be in attendance.

I don't know if they are unveiling their entire plan, but to announce even part of it, while the House is on Thanksgiving break, seems a little suspicious.

Steve V said...

Looks like these initial series of announcements lifts from the Liberal plan and does some minor tinkering.

Karen said...

Call me surprised, lol.

On a serious note, I do hope someone does do something soon on the environment. I think it was Dion who predicted that the con's would simply lift from the plan he wanted to implement before losing the election. If in fact that proves true, they have just provided the Lib's with more ammunition.

I tend to agree with your comments on Delacourt's article. I am hopeful that our media are shaking off the summer doldrums.