Tuesday, September 18, 2007

No Cream, No Sugar

What becomes crystal clear, as you digest last night's results, no matter the angle, the Liberal story has no silver lining. I don't see the benefit in downplaying the results, because that effectively masks the fundamental problems and creates an atmosphere where half-measures will do, when clearly they won't.

The Bloc suffered a huge blow, but that implosion leads to a question of why voters have adopted a "anybody but Liberal" mentality. The fact that Bloc voters went to the Conservatives and NDP suggests the Liberal message isn't even part of the conversation. Plug in a francophone leader and the results are a powerful statement on the state of the Liberal Party. Liberals can make the case that the Bloc were the big losers last night, but that result leads to more questions, rather than convenient diversion.

Dion doesn't deserve all the blame, and you don't want to overstate the implications. Having said that, the Dion "team", the inner circle, made many critical errors in judgement and with leadership comes responsibility. When you hand-pick a candidate, and you know that you face a formidable opponent, there is NO EXCUSE for the gong-show that apparently went on in Outremont. As the storm brewed, people seemed content to rest on historical laurels, the illusion of the "big red machine", nobody acted with any sense of urgency. Whether people like it or not, these by-elections were always framed as a mini-referendum on Dion, so the stakes were well known and the brain trust should have reacted in kind.

The way to rally the troops, is too convey a sense of confidence. Unfortunately, leadership races never seem to end in the Liberal Party, so rather than whine and project a paranoid insecurity, the Dion team is far better served to inspire people, as opposed to the siege mentality. If Dion doesn't enjoy the support of his caucus, then the bottom line is more a question of his failure to lead effectively, than it is a testament to hidden agendas. In other words, actions and words will make people "believe", and the lack thereof will lead to more questioning. How can you hope to lead the country, when you can't seem to lead the rank and file?

Last night was abysmal and disturbing, it wasn't just a few fluke by-elections that have no relationship to a general election. What we witnessed last night was the potential path to a Conservative majority and the realization that the Liberal Party is on the endangered species list. When you consider the NDP, the NDP, outpaced the Liberals in two ridings, it is more than a brief apparition. Unless people are content to accept Dion as "dead man walking", the gravity needs to sink it, because frankly this type of wipeout been coming for a long time. Business as usual, some tinkering here and there, equals total defeat, Harper unchecked.

18 comments:

Torian said...

well said, steve.

you are one of the few libs who have their eyes wide open when looking at the results from last night. Mostly though, people are just burying their head in the sand or covering their ears signing "LALALALA!!!" really loud.

This was a safe seat for the libs, but people are treating it as if it is no big deal. From what I understand, this would be on par with a Conservative losing a seat in Alberta. I'm guessing that Dion is really wishing he had run Trudeau in Outremont now.

Torian said...

should be "singing", obviously :)

Antonio said...

gong show?

Steve V said...

torian

Admitting you have a problem...

antonio

You never heard of the gong show? How about train wreck?

Antonio said...

dude gong show is my expression :P

you can have train wreck lawl.

Torian i think justin may have taken attention off Dion, but people at the doors told Liberal volunteers they wouldnt vote for Dion...

I think Justin would not have fared better.

Steve V said...

I didn't check the patent ;)

Calgary Junkie said...

If you want to know WHY things are unravelling within the LPC, go back to what Preston Manning said ..."the two glues that hold the Liberal Party together are power and patronage".

Obviously when you are out of power, you can't deliver the patronage. And last night's results confirm that Dion is moving the Liberals further away from power. What kind of candidates is Dion going to be able to attract now ? Even Coulon was Dion's third choice (based on what J.D. Belivance said on Question Period a while ago)

So I don't know how Dion overcomes this. He talked last night about improving communications. Lisa Frulla on CTV talked about changing the team around him. Maybe getting a senior advisor, like Mitchell Sharpe was to Chretien.

IMHO, I think you guys should cut your losses with Dion ASAP. Find a way to push him out, let the Liberal caucus vote in Ignatieff as interim leader.

Dion's backers at the convention sold his ability to rebuild in Quebec. But now, there's nothing left that Dion loyalists, or Dion himself, can credibly offer to the Party as a reason for him remaining on.

Steve V said...

cj

Pardon me if I don't take Manning's partisan rhetoric to heart.

Anonymous said...

Dion's backers at the convention sold his ability to rebuild in Quebec.

Dude, no they didn't. Were you there? No one made that argument. It was known Dion wasn't the most popular choice in Quebec: that was Ignatieff. Dion was not elected because of his popularity in Quebec. He was elected in spite of his lack of popularity in Quebec.

Anonymous said...

Comments from Paul Wells:

It is now clear, and will become more so over the next 48 hours, that the two most powerful forces in Canadian politics are Liberal neurosis and the willingness of the Globe and Mail to hang stories off of anonymous quotes. Together they may end Stéphane Dion's political career, although as we've seen, beating Dion is less of a challenge than it used to be when Jean Chrétien had his back.

One hesitates to try to talk sense to Liberals these days, but let us indulge the mad fantasy a few of them seem to entertain -- eliminating Dion -- and see where it gets them.

He is said to have a stubborn streak. Since there is no mechanism for bringing a leader down after a by-election defeat -- if there were, Trudeau's career would have been a little shorter -- the only way to get Dion out is to hound him out. Assume, charitably, that this takes a month, while the Liberal party does to itself what the Canadian Alliance did under Stockwell Day. Coderre, McTeague and Dhalla grim-faced in the Charlie Lynch Press Theatre, announcing they have to sit as independents. Jane Taber's voicemail full for weeks on end.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

On Dion's share of the blame though, beyond the NDP having a well-known, well-liked star local candidate (and former Liberal cabinet minister) one needs to keep in mind the trend in Outrement, not since Dion took over the party, but for the LAST 10 YEARS.

Liberal vote in Outrement:

1997: 50.3%
2000: 47.7%
2004: 40.9%
2006: 35.1%
2007: 29.0%

So, a 5-7% loss every year for the past ten, plus, the last 6% loss happened in a by-election, not a general election (people are more willing to go out on a limb in a by election than a general, as a by-election has less broad implications on the governance of the nation) PLUS only about 38% of registered voters (23,938 of 63,728) bothered to vote (lowest of all three by-elections). The people to "blame" for this are Mulcair, and (possibly) Paul Martin and Jean Lapierre.

The REAL story from last night is the Bloc collapse, but all anyone wants to talk about today is the Liberals losing 6 points in Outrement in a low turnout by-election against a former cabinet minister, and what a disaster it is. Meanwhile the Bloc lose 18% in one riding, 14% in another, and in the riding they WON the lose 36% and go from having a 31% lead, to a 5% lead.

Yet the 6% Liberal loss in Outrement is the big story.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Above loss for the Bloc in Saint-Hyacinthe--Bagot should read 26% not 36%.

They had a 31% lead over the Tories in the 2006 election, and now have a 5% lead.

Steve V said...

LK

Your posts of the Liberal % is exactly why there is no excuse for the slow start and the lack of urgency. I would add also, the more people trumpet the Bloc collapse, the more it points to the notion that Quebecers have an "anybody but the Liberals" mentality. The Liberals lost 6%, despite the fact the Bloc imploded is another bad storyline.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Steve,

I should add that I don't AT ALL disagree that the Liberals have big problems in Quebec. I'm just much less convinced that a 6% drop in Outrement (consistent with the 10 year trend) in a by-election (which are always weird) with low turnout (which always makes things MORE weird) against a former Liberal cabinet minister (who's very popular in the riding) is much of an indictment against Dion's leadership.

And CERTAINLY not the kind of thing you get rid of a party leader over, before he's even had a chance to fight a general election (which isn't going to happen, but is what everyone's talking about). The Liberals have big problems in Quebec though, it's just that blaming Dion doesn't make too much sense, nor is it productive, imho.

Steve V said...

LK

Lots of blame to go around, Dion is surely not excluded.

rabbit said...

I think this election does have a silver lining for the Liberals. And it's this:

They made their mistakes in a by-election.

By-elections are like pre-season games. Their main use is to uncover weaknesses.

And the Liberal's biggest weaknesses right now? Organization and discipline! They may not be sexy, but they are at least half the political battle.

If these results drive the Liberals into improving their organization and discipline for the next election, then they will be the best thing that could have happened.

Mushroom said...

1997: 50.3%
2000: 47.7%
2004: 40.9%
2006: 35.1%
2007: 29.0%

Declining support for the Grits among the French intelligentsia since 1997. If there is a place where the Clarity Act has no traction, it is Outremont.

The 2000 election was one in which Chretien made the most gains in Quebec there. Should have been a red flag, coupled with the increasing support for the Dippers in recent years. We should have known better.

Susan said...

Well thanks to Lord Kitchener for the first balanced comments I've read anywhere.