Thursday, June 21, 2007

Storm Warning?

Much of the talk in Liberal circles has been about the looming by-elections that could see Bob Rae and Martha Hall Findley elected to Parliament. For my money, the really intriguing, and possibly devastating, by-election will be the Outremont riding in Quebec. The NDP are positioning themselves for an upset, in one of the last remaining Liberal strongholds in the province. A high-profile candidate, with environmental credentials, Layton's Quebec lieutenant Thomas Mulcair will be a force to be reckoned with:
Muclair said he believes the NDP is on the right track to win Outrement, which has been a Liberal stronghold most recently held by former transport minister Jean Lapierre.

"One of the messages that is being sent to us is that a lot of dissatisfied federalists are taking a good hard look at Stephane Dion and there's a reason why he's at 10 per cent in the polls personally and we're doing better than the Liberals right now."

Mulcair said the NDP, which now has no Quebec seats, is heading into a real race in Outremont, one that be won by "the ones who work the hardest and we intend to be that party."

He represented Chomedy riding in nearby Laval in the Quebec legislature from 1994 until he quit the provincial Liberals earlier this year. Mulcair, who had been a cabinet minister since 2003, left cabinet in late 2006 because he rejected a switch from his environment portfolio to be minister of government services. He joined the NDP in April.

In the last election, the NDP ran third, ahead of the Conservatives, with a very respectable 20% of the vote. The Bloc, which ran second, had a high-profile candidate, which won't be the case in this by-election. The fact that Mulcair is a former Liberal cabinet minister, who left politics over the highly contentious Mont Orford Park privatization scheme, means that the NDP has a formidable candidate, with impeccable credibility.

I've seen Muclair in a couple of interviews, and he is very aggressive, quite critical in his critiques and generally impressive. I have no doubt the NDP will make a major push in this by-election, and if they were to succeed it could serve as watershed moment for the Liberals in Quebec. The last thing the party needs is another relevant federal player on the scene, particularly one that has a more natural fit on many of the issues. This by-election has the potential to be a watershed moment.

Another example of the Liberals problems in Quebec:
Next, we’d like to ask you some questions about the federal Liberal Party. In the next federal election, would you consider voting for the Liberal candidate in your riding?

Would consider- 34%
Wouldn't consider- 52%

If you had to guess, which province would have the worst numbers from a Liberal perspective. Intuitively, you would think Alberta, but nope it's Quebec:
Alberta:

Would consider- 35%
Wouldn't consider -52%

Quebec:

Would consider- 20%
Wouldn't consider- 67%

Now, mind you, that is province wide response for an online poll(hey Scott), but I see this finding as another ingredient in the potential poison stew brewing.

I suspect Liberal strategists appreciate the danger in Outremont and we will see a concerted effort to ensure the party holds on to one of the last bastions. Otherwise, and we can't underestimate Muclair who looks the right person at an intriguing time, this little by-election could have serious ramifications moving forward.

15 comments:

Freddie Sirmans said...

Just browsing the internet, you have a beautiful and very interesting blog.

Steve V said...

Thanks for dropping in Freddie :)

JimBobby said...

Whooee! I seen Mulcair fer the first time I think it was yesterday on Duffy. Yer right. He looks dang sharp. I ain't sure about the Garth Turner facial hair thing.

"...beautiful and very interesting..."

uh huh

JB

Scott Tribe said...

I'm glad you at least conceded the point of it being an online poll.

ottlib said...

The Liberals handily held on to that riding running a prominent reformed seperatist in the middle of an election campaign that was dominated by the Quebec Sponsorship Scandal and the Income Trust Leak affair.

The NDP is running a distant fourth in Quebec so much of that support would have to congeal in that riding to make a difference.

Mr. Mulcair left the provincial Liberals just this year and for reasons that were not associated with principle. He decided he did not want to be moved from the environment portfolio so he quit and joined the federal NDP.

I do not think that the Liberals have a whole lot of reasons to be overly concerned. Certainly, they cannot take it for granted but that would true in any case.

Steve V said...

ottlib

I'm not suggesting an NDP victory is anything but a decided longshot, but this is their star candidate and they will make a strong push.

Koby said...

Whatever the outcome of the by-election, the Liberals need to rebrand themselves. Dion has tried to paint the Liberals Green and has failed miserably. What the other parties say about the Liberal environmental record, a good portion of it true, has been accepted as gospel truth by the pundits and public alike. The NDP and the Green party have far more credibility than the Liberals on this file. In order to rebrand themselves successfully the Liberals will need to develop a set of policies that flow from a set of core principles. Right now they are all of the map.

Steve V said...

The green tag hasn't given Dion much mileage. The trick now is too distinguish himself beyond the three pillars.

The Pontificator said...

Good post, as usual. Ottlib forgets the incumbency/profile rule...vacancies level the playing field somewhat. So one assumes then that in a riding like Outremont, given its voting history tradition, coupled with overall changes to same in general in Canada and particularly in Quebec, and with other factors (like the Quebec election) can be won by a Liberal with the right "profile" for the riding.

What would that profile be? Shouldn't that be what the Party is doing is virtually every instance where the prevailing wisdom will no longer prevail? Defining the profile of the ideal (Liberal) candidate and recruiting them?

This seems to me to be what we have lost in all of this discourse...matching candidates with party principles and needs/desires of ridings (all as an overlay to the "Party Vote".

Mark Dowling said...

Presumably Harper will call all the by-elections together in late July (Outremont is due by then), since the CPC are only likely to be competitive in Willowdale and Roberval and an outside shot at Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot if the Bloc stuff it up so will likely and leave the NDP a free run at Rae in Centre to try and create a Dipper Waterfront along with Mulcair in Outremont. I note Harper will be in Roberval for St Jean Baptiste and the mayor is his candidate for the seat.

Letting the NDP expand a bit isn't likely to harm CPC much since (a) Jack can be bought off as he has proven with both Martin and Harper and (b) most Dipper expansion is likely to threaten Liberal ridings in BC and a possible reclaim of Churchill.

Mushroom said...

I have said in other blogs that the Outremont by-election is a mini-referendum for Dion.

Dion will appoint his chosen candidate there, a woman. Don't know who she is but Antonio from Fuddle Duddle may offer a few hints. Thus, a novice woman will be going against an experienced candidate in Mulcair. Note that a lot of Jean Lapierre's people may decide to sit this by-election out.

A loss in Outremont will not hurt Dion's leadership in the short term. The Liberals have suffered by-election defeats there to the NDP and Bloc during the Mulroney era. But it will send a message that the Liberal renewal process cannot be pursued by tinkering, and that a major overhaul will be necessary in Quebec.

Steve V said...

"A loss in Outremont will not hurt Dion's leadership in the short term."

I have to disagree Mushroom. If the Liberals were to lose that riding, in their remaining stronghold, Dion will be completely undermined. I'm not claiming to have intimate knowledge, but you do get the sense that Quebec Liberals are somewhat hesitant with Dion, I don't sense any genuine enthusiam.

The media, which already buys into the leadership conspiracies would have an absolute field day with that defeat. Dion's biggest challenge is to be taken seriously, that by-election loss would just feed the criticisms. I think it would be a disaster that would have ramifications. As a matter of fact, and this ties into ottlib's comment on the Kyoto bill, the government might see an opportunity and move towards a general in the late fall. Just a thought.

Mushroom said...

Steve,

Note that the fixed election dates bill went through the Senate. For a new election to be called, Harper needs to generate his own defeat. This requires a mass abstention in the Throne Speech vote by the Cons or for the Grits, Dippers, and the Bloc to defeat the government together.

An Outremont defeat will force the Grits to swallow their pride and to at least wait for the budget vote.

Steve V said...

I think there is a way to orchestrate the Kyoto bill as a confidence motion, or I've heard it posed as such.

Sean Shaw said...

kind of curious of when Layton and the NDP have been "bought" by Harper?

as for being "bought" by Martin, I'll take that kind of sell out any day....