Monday, August 27, 2007

Liberals Talking Tough

Stephane Dion is clearly ramping up the rhetoric, sounding combative and willing to force an election. In making clear statements on contentious issues, Dion is effectively drawing a line in the sand. I'm starting to think the Liberal braintrust has concluded a fall election isn't necessarily the bad option first blush would suggest:
Dion said it will not matter if the polls suggest, as they did last spring when a bout of election fever evaporated, that neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals had enough support to secure a majority in a federal election.

"Never, as leader of this party, will I recommend to my caucus to support a bad throne speech or a bad budget bill," Dion said. "So even though we are tied or somewhere like this in the polls with the Conservatives, we are not obligated to vote for something wrong. There is no way."

He said if the Conservatives, in a throne speech, insist on proceeding with their green plan and kill the opposition legislation requiring a faster reduction of greenhouse gas emissions "we will not be able to support it and look Canadians in the eye."

"It's not that I want to go in an election but everybody will understand that as a man of honour, I cannot stand for something that I think is wrong."

There is absolutely no chance whatsoever that the Conservatives will accomodate the opposition on the environment file. As a matter of fact, a high profile battle is guaranteed, with no room for compromise. That fact makes Dion's statements all the more telling, because there is no wiggle room in his stance, he and his advisors know the landscape.

If you assume the NDP and Bloc will vote against the government, and all the recent rhetoric suggests they are ready, then Dion knows that his "demands" are anything but hollow. On the political calculation front, the announcement last week of the obscene first-quarter surplus, the revised growth figures for the fiscal year, translate into a government that will be awash in money come the next budget. Facing the prospects of a massive taxcuts, a goodie filled budget that will supercede this year's, the Liberals might see benefit in moving quickly.

Conventional wisdom assumes the party needs more time to fundraise, more time for Dion to get his bearings, but those shortcomings might fade in the thinking if you balance the advantages. The Liberals are very well placed on Afghanistan, wedged within the mainstream. Dion's primary issue is guaranteed to be on the frontburner if the government falls on the environment file. Couple this fact with a government trying to find their second wind, and you have a scenario which isn't that unattractive.

I take Dion at his word, as it relates to honor, integrity and the lack of concern over polls. Having said that, everyone is well aware that others in the inner circle are consumed with strategy and Dion's words are vetted to some extent. The odds of a fall election look more realistic, as the preamble to the return of Parliament unfolds.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Liberal braintrust - ain't that an oxymoron?

Seriously, though, Dion or the other oppo chiefs don't want a throne speech or a fall budget.

They want Parliament back ASAP so that they can start heckling Harper.

You are right in your analysis about this point - the fear that the oppo had back in Spring 2006 about an early election is gone.

In_The_Centre said...

Kyoto has been vastly discredited by the chattering class and most in the media in this country.
(ie. read today's Globe and Mail editorial). This would be an advantage for Harper in any election campaign

While this is no excuse for weak action on the part of the CPC, the people that do see Kyoto and the environment as their primary issues are very split between the Greens, the NDP and the Liberals.

In fact, I would vote Green in a heartbeat if the environment were my main issue.

I would also be worried that a deep disconnect exists between what Canadians say in polls about the environment and what their actions say.

To close this disconnect requires a visionary salesman that can level with the Canadian people.

No one in the current crop of leaders comes even close. (Except maybe May)

Calgary Junkie said...

There's no way Harper will budge on the environment. Witness how he kept Bill C30 in limbo (and it will die on the order paper when he prorogues Parliament). And Baird's "filing all the necessary papers" for Rodriguez's Bill C288.
Baird is basically kicking sand in the faces of the Kyoto advocates.

But a big question mark is how each Party will fare in the upcoming three by-elections. A loss by the Liberals in Outremont, for example, changes any calculations Dion might be making wrt a fall election.

So Dion is better off to remain neutral, and just repeat the line that he has to see the throne speech first, discuss it with his caucus, then go from there. That may not satisfy the pundits, who are now eating up all the observations Dion is making.

But it would be better political strategy than what Dion is doing now. Dion is talking too much like an analyst, with all his hypothetical ifs ands or buts.

Anonymous said...

Is Dion is going to tell Canadians to see the Vet for basic health care?

Joseph said...

Regarding the insightful anonymous question above.

Um, No, I doubt it. Now up to bed with you, young anonymous, no more horsing around on the computer.

Anonymous said...

"so they can start heckling Harper" - this is one of the joys of being in opposition - Harper did it for many years, now the other get a turn.

Gayle said...

At some point Dion is going to have to put his money where his mouth is in order to have any credibility. I think he was right to take this stance - he must be prepared to go to the polls on the issues he claims are of great import to the future of Canada.

The poster complaining about Harper being heckled is very funny - and a hypocrite.

Anonymous said...

Steve:

You might find this interview of Jocelyn Coulon in La Presse interesting.

http://www.cyberpresse.ca/article/20070828/CPACTUALITES/708280524/1025/FRONTPAGE

Steve V said...

anon

I can't get that link to work.

in t cent

You can conclude that about Kyoto, but poll after poll shows the Conservatives are hurt by their anti-Kyoto stance. Kyoto isn't a protocol, it's a mindset, an indicator of support for the environment. The Conservatives can argue details, but the simple impression is hard to overcome with a superficial electorate.

gayle

Completely agree on Dion, he must be prepared to go to the polls, if he wants to put integrity and honor as key selling points.