Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Elevating The Greens

The drop in Conservative support, which apparently has moved to the Green Party according to SES, has re-started the debate of what all this might mean electorally. Many Liberals were uncomfortable with the May/Dion agreement, fearing it would ultimately hurt the Liberals. In the last thread, Peter argues that polls such as these further the view that the deal is a net negative for the Liberals. I respect that opinion, but disagree, because:
The higher May is in the polls, the more her profile in an election, the more she can make the case for the environment, the more she can tell Canadians who should lead, the more she can carve the Conservatives.

Today, I heard an excerpt of John Baird, during Question Period, laying into Elizabeth May, and by extension Dion. Sun Media's Greg Weston responded to the Conservatives apparent pre-occupation with Elizabeth May, with the following, which I think important:
"The Conservatives are trying to kill two birds with one stone. The scenario that is playing out here, as Nik Nanos says, the closer you get to an election campaign the Green numbers start to go down. The question is, if they go to the Liberals, it could be deadly for the Conservatives. You add the Green numbers to the Liberals numbers and the Conservatives are in real trouble, so they are going to go after the Liberals and the Greens in the same breath.

When you look at the Dion/May agreement, the key premise for the Liberals, if there is to be benefit- Green support is soft, beyond the base. There is a historical precedent, that shows Green support falling when we go to the polls. You could argue that the Greens are now in unchartered terrority, but I would counter that there still remains a "credibility" gap. What I mean by that, when push comes to shove, will voters have the confidence that their Green vote will realistically lead to a riding victory? If there is still a protest element to voting Green, then the critical moment might lead some, otherwise sympathetic voters, to move in another direction. This pact, as Weston points out, and Tory reaction reveals, makes the Liberals the preferred second choice for many Green voters. If the Green leader endorses Dion, while simultaneously bashing Harper, it seems reasonable that the Liberals stands to benefit, if there is erosion.

The way in which the Tories are going after May reveals a great deal in my mind. Clearly, they see the Greens as a legitimate threat, otherwise why bother? A party that has no seats in Parliament, yet they are the preferred point of reference for people like the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Environment. Attempting to embarrass Dion for sure, but I subscribe to the "two birds with one stone" argument. As the fixation continues, there is no doubt that Tory strategists don't see the "deal" as a negative, they view it as threat.

I think the government has erred. In attacking May, they effectively give her more exposure and allow her to make subsequent appearances for clarification. Elizabeth May is a like able person, who comes across as ordinary, in a good way. The more face time May receives, the more it benefits the Greens. It is hard enough for the opposition to make news, let alone a party that has never elected an MP. John Baird's ridiculous diversions in Question Period make a May debate appearance all the more likely, apparently she is a very important political figure in Canada. In attacking, the Tories actually elevate the threat.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

There is another factor to consider. All those old Progressive Conservatives who were uncomfortable with the Reform Party takeover of their party might see the Greens as a place to park their vote, once again splitting that vote and handing the Liberals a minority, or even a majority. Will the next election be 1993 all over again? Certainly some of the attacks being aimed at Dion sound familiar to Liberals who were around in 91/92...

Peter Wrightwater said...

Steve,

You've made a strong argument and I suppose we'll have to wait and see how it plays out.

But here's a question: Putting aside May-Dion agreement, why do the Liberals seem to be losing support to Greens (and the NDP) in Ontario and the West? This is what I find so perplexing about this poll.

Even if we go with the "parking their support" idea, why would Liberal supporters feel the need to park their vote with the Greens? Or the NDP for that matter?

knb said...

Well, I hardly have a thing to say, because you've said it, ;).

The way in which the Tories are going after May reveals a great deal in my mind. Clearly, they see the Greens as a legitimate threat, otherwise why bother?

I'd say they see the alliance as a threat, or else why bother.

The other point that I think is important, the Lib's have not been out there telling the country what they stand for, what they would change, what is wrong with what the government is doing. We know. That's what we do is follow this stuff. Most people don't and most people have not got a clue in hell of who Stephane Dion is. He's working circuits that are important, but they aren't main stream, everyman yet. That's the right way to do it in my mind, and it requires patience.

May can only diffuse her support to us. She's pragmatic and know's that it's the con's or Lib's..that's it. Guess where she's going?

Steve V said...

"Even if we go with the "parking their support" idea, why would Liberal supporters feel the need to park their vote with the Greens? Or the NDP for that matter?"

As much as Liberals might disagree, the record on the environment isn't stellar. People who are frustrated with the Green Plan don't automatically move to the Liberals, that might explain the Green angle. As for the NDP, nobody is moving, which means the have lost the environmental mantle to some extent.

The other aspect of my "strong statement", this scenario can only play itself out if the Liberals run a great campaign, with bold ideas and Dion demonstrates he is ready.

knb

I agree, the Liberals don't really have a platform to draw voters, and Dion remains largely unknown. If an election looks unlikely, I think it essential that the party braintrust start fleshing out pointed policy to give Canadians some contrast in the near term. Before, people argued that the Liberals should wait for the election, to get relative bang for the policy buck, but conditions have changed and it's important to lay the foundation now, in my mind anyways. I suppose the other argument right now, stay out of the way and let the Tories continually embarrass themselves.

I admit some concern, as Peter pointed out, with regard to the increasing undecided vote. I think there is some hesitation that we might want to acknowledge.

ottlib said...

Interesting analysis Steve. Mr. Baird does seem to be paying a little too much attention to Ms. May.

Just to play devil's advocate for a minute may I offer an alternative analysis?

Perhaps Mr. Baird is paying so much attention to her because he wants any run-off of Conservative support that may result from their mishandling of the environment file to go to a party that does not have a chance of forming a government and has only a slightly better chance of taking any seats.

Mr. Baird's function is to eliminate the environment as a threat to Conservative election fortunes. Ideally, he would have done that with the recent environment plan. Unfortunately for him, that went over like a dirty diaper.

Since tweaking the plan would be interpreted as a sign of weakness perhaps he is trying to direct those who would make the environment their ballot question to a party that is really not a threat to them.

After all, the Conservatives desparately want to prevent those people from voting Liberal. That is why the Conservatives have attacked the Liberal environmental credentials since Mr. Dion's election.

Focusing on Ms. May could be part of that strategy. Point out to the environmental crowd that there is an alternative to the Liberals. In addition, as you say by focusing on the Greens they could give them some credibility perhaps mitigating some of the loss the Greens would suffer during an election when alot of those now supporting the Greens decide to go elsewhere.

I cannot imagine the Conservatives would be too upset with a robust Green Party in the next election. Certainly, they would siphon off some Conservative support but they would do the same to the Liberals and the NDP. The Conservatives could live with that.

Peter Wrightwater said...

Except the NDP is up 5 points in Ontario, some of that could be coming from the Liberals.

The Liberals defintely need to get their act together in the manner you've suggested.

Steve V said...

"I cannot imagine the Conservatives would be too upset with a robust Green Party in the next election. Certainly, they would siphon off some Conservative support but they would do the same to the Liberals and the NDP. The Conservatives could live with that."

That's a fair point, if you endorse the vote-splitting argument. If you believe the SES take, he concludes that the Tory vote is moving to the Greens, which doesn't jive with a crowded left, the Tories all alone, reaping the benefits. Having said that, there is real danger that more Green prominence could mean the traditional 40% majority number might be lower to say 37%.

peter

Down 5 in Ontario, but back in the game in Quebec. The MOE for other regions starts to get dicey, so I don't know what you conclude. We agree, these polls aren't all positive for the Liberals, it's just nice to see the Tories come back.

ottlib said...

I take all polls with a grain of salt.

I take the regional breakdowns with a truckload of salt.

The Conservatives appear to have lost substantial support in the last few weeks. The Liberals have held steady and have been holding steady for some time.

That means their support is solid while Conservative support is fluid.

On balance that is good news for the Liberals but I would not suggest popping any champaign corks just yet.

The Liberals still have alot of work ahead of them.

Steve V said...

"I take the regional breakdowns with a truckload of salt"

Health aside, other than Ontario and Quebec, the numbers aren't enough to be truly accurate.

Gayle said...

"Even if we go with the "parking their support" idea, why would Liberal supporters feel the need to park their vote with the Greens? Or the NDP for that matter?"

Here in Alberta there are actually people who do not like Harper. What I have found is that those people also are not comfortable voting for the liberals (kind of wired into Albertans' DNA), and would also never vote NDP. These people park their votes with the Greens.

Another category are the people who support the liberals, but know their liberal candidate does not stand a chance against the conservative candidate. These people vote Green in order to give them their 1.75 (or whatever the amount per vote is). Most of these people would happily vote liberal if they thought their vote would actually count for something, but they know the conservative candidate is a shoe in so they use their vote as a donation to the Greens.

In terms of why the liberals are not gaining ground when the conservatives are dropping, I think a lot of people still have issues with the liberals. It is not as simple as pointing to Adscam - it is about having one party in power pretty much unopposed for 13 years. Since I live in Alberta I know how dangerous it is to allow one party to govern indefinately.

I have said many times I am not a liberal and am supporting them right now because I see Harper is dangerous. Truth be told if we had a conservative government with a more sane leader (like Joe Clark), I would probably want it to stick around a lot longer than 15 months.

Maybe people are balancing the evil Harper against the evils of having one party govern for an extended period of time. People are comfortable with Harper in a minority - and they may be willing to allow him to keep that minority for a few years yet. It may not matter WHAT the liberals have in terms of policy.