Wednesday, October 17, 2007

If Not Now, Then When And Why?



Surprises aside, all indications point to the Liberals cowering to avoid an election. The reasoning is obvious, hardly optimal conditions for an election fight, the notion of "suicide" a common reference. However, if the Liberals pass now, then when and why?

The assumption, things can and will improve, a leap of faith, that is purely theoretical. Things may well improve, but even if you buy into this proposition, you must acknowledge that inaction now also brings negative consequence. No sane person could argue that Dion and the Liberal brand doesn't take a hit by allowing the government to stand, that is just a self-evident truth. Therefore, those that argue we wait must accept the short term damage to a party already reeling. The now is sacrificed for the potential tomorrow.

I posted the above picture because it speaks to the essence of Dion and his mandate, following the leadership convention. The color is key, and the issues at hand challenge Dion at the core. All the talk of "poison pills", or lack thereof, are fine and dandy, but there is no question that the Conservatives have completely rejected the Liberal vision on the environment. Last time I checked, the environment was the number one issue with Canadians. Last time I checked, the environment was the centerpiece for all things Dion. Last time I checked, everyone agreed that the environment was a Conservative weakspot, that would be a key issue in any campaign. With all these realities well established, it is hard to see another opportunity on the horizon, wherein Dion can exploit the issue, should he decide to sit on his hands in the present. By all accounts, Dion seems to agree, which is why he remains one of the few election "hawks" within the caucus.

Moving forward, the questions are as follows. Will Liberal prospects improve in Quebec? Answer, a resounding NO, not anytime soon, to think so fails to acknowledge the circumstance. Will Liberal fundraising improve? I just read a piece today which says the latest fundraising will show a growing gap with the Conservatives and I seriously doubt avoiding confidence motions will be a big draw with the faithful in the future. Will Harper flounder? With a gigantic surplus, the promise of the "largest tax decrease in Canadian history" looming, don't expect the government to do the Liberals any favors. If the Conservatives are able to put serious coin into the pockets of Canadians, as opposed to the spending spree of the previous budget, common sense tells us it is a plus for their fortunes. If "suicide" is your word, trying fighting an election campaign against a cutting taxes theme. Will Dion improve? I suspect Dion might, and grow into the job, much like his predecessors. The only problem, this will occur as Dion is simulateneously bombarded with cries of weak leadership and irrelevance, as he constantly navigates and compromises, desperately trying to avoid an election.

I understand the situation is dire, but I'm of the mindset that this is reality for the time being. When you factor in the further damage done in compromising, it is hard to see any net benefits, on balance. Do we wait until 2009, two years of ineffective opposition, two years of quasi majority rule? When will the "winning conditions" materalize? I don't see it, and all the while principles and credibility are tarnished.

29 comments:

Susan said...

Now because I think he can win. His speech at the Toronto Economic group was great - clear, innovative, incisive!

rob said...

Great post.

burlivespipe said...

You make a convincing argument. However, there are so many unknowns about the future, and so many knowns now -- hey where'd my buddy Rumsfeld go when I need him?
The perceived image of the Liberal party, just as the perceived image of the CON party when they stepped back and let the Liberal budget pass a couple of years ago, can change over time.
But I agree that getting to the next budget would probably make the road even tougher. So, could things change in a month, six weeks, where the backroom dynamics become at least under control as opposed to underseiged? Would the party and the leader have enough time to correct the mugged image he's been tatooed with?
Go to the polls now, and hope that there isn't another 'Scott Reid moment' and no more rats screaming 'Fire!' as they abandon the ship.
The frustrating part is how much of our interior troubles come from Quebec. We pick a anglo leader from Quebec, they (being the boys in the backroom) aren't happy. We pick a francophone leader from Quebec, they aren't happy. What other kinds of leader material can they supply for us to supplicate them?

Steve V said...

burl

One other point, how does avoiding an election play on the leadership front? Will the internal rumblings die down, or will it continue to fester? I subscribe to the latter, particularly if we look weak. What is the best way to unite the party? An election forces everyone to row together, against a common foe.

Gayle said...

"Will the internal rumblings die down, or will it continue to fester?"

Two things - David Aiken today said that it is Dion who wants to go, and other people in the party are trying to "talk sense into him". If caucus does not want an election, could Dion calling one make things worse?

Also, I want to remind you of all the policy leaks during the last election. There was a concerted effort to undermine Martin and that hurt him far more than the Scott Reid moment. Will that get better??? I do not know, but that combined with the fact the caucus does not want to go makes me think now is not the time.

As for concerns about how it makes him look - from what I have read and seen from the media, most think this is a safe throne speech and it would be foolish to go to an election over it. They are giving him an out.

The guy on CBC last night (I forget his name) said Dion should get up today, indicate he thinks the conservatives are taking the country in the wrong direction, talk about what the liberals would do instead, and then say the liberals will support the throne speech because it is vague, however if the conservatives continue down the wrong path the liberals will take them out.

Steve V said...

"If caucus does not want an election, could Dion calling one make things worse?"

That's a fair point, which I actually considered. Just to add, I also heard of a possible revolt in the form of no shows, should Dion go against the sentiment.

JimBobby said...

Whooee! The Grits do look weak an' cowerin' like yer sayin', Stevefeller. Aside from this immediate instance, Dion has done little to offset the crybaby wimp image that he's been tarred with.

Canajuns want a gladiator an' bullies make better gladiators than backpack boys. Dion should stand on principle an' then stand toe to toe with the bully an' show us he can be tough, strong and aggressive. He's gotta start playin' hardball.

An election campaign is a good opportunity fer Dion to re-invent his image. If he don't re-invent his image, he's finished. Cavin' into Harpoon's agenda is too wimpy fer a would-be leader.

JB

Steve V said...

"Dion has done little to offset the crybaby wimp image that he's been tarred with."

JB, and this why I ultimately fall on the "go now" side, because abstaining feeds that image and may gel it to the point of no return.

Anonymous said...

I agree with JB... Dion needs to show leadership here and go with his gut. Take them down and just go out and speak to canadians in an honest, straightforward way with the vision that Steve H. clearly doesn't have.

900 ft Jesus said...

Steve V, I still agree with you still. Even more after hearing the Throne Speech and responses by Mps. An elction will break Dion out of the rut CPC has directed him to, will give him a chance to show us who he is and what the revamped Liberal party stands for, will help united the party (they do this from time to time, but manage to pull it together when it matters), and like susan, I agree that Dion can be a very good speaker when given the chance.

If Dion folds on this, he will be attacked non-stop as weak by Steve, the NDP and Bloc. Goodale had a good point in that the formal opposition has a responsibility to make gov. work and that Bloc & NDP are just playing games, but while that is true, I believe those games can cost Dion dearly.

Dion made a stance concerning Afghanistan and Kyoto earlier. It is critical that he stand by those comments or he will appear weaker yet.

CPC isn’t sitting too pretty either, at the moment. I’m watching Holland rip into them over Conscam. Standing ovation!!! Yeah!!!!!

decoin said...

Dion is too weak just now to fight any election - he must accomodate Harper for the immediate future at least. Dion will allow the Harper agenda to proceed for now.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

burlivespipe,

The frustrating part is how much of our interior troubles come from Quebec.

Wow, I don't know. If I were a Liberal, I'd be really grateful that all the troubles were essentially limited to one province (and eager to convey to the world that Quebec Liberals didn't speak for all Liberals).

tori said...

he should have toppled it.

rolled the dice- polls and attitudes can change during and election.

Now, Dion looks cowardly, disorganized, unprincipled, and dare I say it, lacking in leadership.

How do you go from a man that says the TS must have these things addressed to our satisfaction (kyoto, afghanistan) and then give a long speech as to why he is against the TS, only to support it?

I would be pissed, too. It seems that many of you wanted to go ahead an trigger an election- which was Dion's only real good shot.

I agree with you steve. probable point of no return

Anonymous said...

Damn...Dion pussied out...what a freakin' wimp

I'm thinking his wifey kept his balls away from him. She knows he was going to be smacked around by that nasty Steve-bully

Gayle said...

"Now, Dion looks cowardly, disorganized, unprincipled, and dare I say it, lacking in leadership."

Or he looks like a man who is concerned about Canadians and their interests over his party.

He was between a rock and a hard place - no matter what he chose he was going to painted as something by someone.

As I said earlier, the media have given him an out since most of them have said the TS was not worth calling an election over. Liberals are trying to paint this as meeting the conerns of Canadians, and the conservatives and other opp parties as playing games. If that takes hold then no harm no foul.

Even if it does not, I am of the school that after a few months no one is going to care anymore. I read the live chat with Jeffrey Simpson at the Globe today and I think he has it bang on.

The party chose him as the leader, meaning they gave him the responsibility to make these decisions. By all accounts he heard his caucus out and then made a decision. What more can be asked of any leader.

tori said...

gayle,

he had a chance.

it was not a lose/lose sit.

It was a lose sit by essentially saying for weeks that the TS had to have certain things in it in order to support it, only to still say he does not support it, but won't topple the govt.

What kind of msg is that?

At least with an election he had a possibility of winning. ANYTHING can happen in an election- all you have to do is look at the last one. Martin was leading in the polls, and a few missteps from the LPC campaign and a good one from the Conservatives and you get a reversal of fortune.

Dion had a chance with an election. Certainly he would look very principled. What do you think is going to happen when an election is called? The conservatives are going to play on the fact that he threw Kyoto and Afghanistan under a bus to save his political life. For those who passionately support Kyoto and getting the troops out of afghanistan, they may have trouble supporting a party and a leader who would do this.

All i've been reading on liblogs today is how many of you wanted dion to take on the govt. Many wanted an election.

Scotian said...

I'm with Gayle on this one. I think it would have been a mistake to go now. I do not believe that given the current levels of divisions seen within the Libs that they would have been able to simply come together in an election campaign effectively enough to make the difference. Sorry, but I don't. That being the case to go now would have risked handing Harper a majority or even a larger minority which would have been a real mandate for at least another year to 18 months, unlike the faux mandate he tries to claim the Throne Speech represents.

For me the most important thing is the prevention of Harper fully emplacing the tools of his true agenda in place, and right now he is still fairly limited in what he can do (which is not to say he isn't doing any damage, he is but so far most of it can be corrected without too much difficulty down the road IMHO except on the Climate issue) to advance that agenda. I would rather leave him in place for now and allow him to build up more record of doing little to nothing positive (he is great for cutting things, but putting things in place that have impact on the average voter he has not shown to be so good at, and the more he thinks he has the whip hand the more arrogant he shows himself to be, which hurts him especially given the clear unwillingness to trust him with a majority government even to this day in the electorate) with the minority he has now and the questions coming out from his last election campaign and the potential scandals he has there plus what the AG will have to report next Feb.

I understand where you are coming from in this Steve V, but for me unless I see sufficient reason to believe Harper should not be able to capitalize on the election I do not want one. As bad as things are now they would be much worse if he was able to increase his power position in the Parliament. Then of course I am not a Liberal partisan so that will give me a different set of priorities and concerns than a party member/supporter. Something too many people tend to forget about me is that I am a first and foremost a Harper foe and not a partisan of any party and that affects how I look at things.

Gayle said...

"All i've been reading on liblogs today is how many of you wanted dion to take on the govt. Many wanted an election."

Sorry - but that is pretty meaningless to me (no offence Steve). Anyone who wants to support the liberals and host a blog can join liblogs. The people who matter in this debate were the ones in caucus - and from all reports the majority of liberal MP's did not want an election.

Let us be frank - an election now would have only been about liberal fortunes v. conservative fortunes. Sure there was a chance the liberals could have turned things around, but as Scotian points out, the most likely outcome would have been a stronger Harper minority or even a Harper majority.

As for Afghanistan and Kyoto - the throne speech does not define what is going to happen on those issues, no matter how much Harper claims it will. There will actually be a separate vote on each issue, and if Harper really wants to go to an election over the environment then so be it. I think he will not want that though - that is clearly his weakest issue.

tori said...

actually gayle, it kinda does, especially when you have dion saying "canadian's don't want an election". Last I checked, many libloggers are canadians, and the caucus you talk about represent them, are employed by them (as well as others).

I honestly came over hear today to see what people were wanting- election or no. I actually fully expected to see most, if not all, stating that they did not want an election.

But the many who did want one, I'm actually pretty impressed because it shows principle, a willingness to stand for something, and not just anything. I though that was what the liberal renewal was all about?

Gayle said...

Well tori we can agree to disagree. It really does not matter what we agree or disagree on now anyway, since the decision has been made.

As I said earlier - when we do go to an election I highly doubt Dion's decision not to vote down the TS will be the deciding factor.

Markus D. said...

Thanks Gayle and Scotian, your comments have enabled me to step back and reconsider Mr. Dion's decision today.

I hope it all works out for the best (give the CRAP more rope) - but I just hate Harper so much that perhaps I was projecting my hopes on to reality with my desire for an election.

I was wathcing QP today when Harper was saying Dion's response to the TS reminded him of a professor who marks up an assignment but then passes it anyway, then he proceeded to take a number of cheap shots all the while his minions were hooting and hollering. Perhaps Steve was so disappointed today that he had to once again resort to his usual vindictive self. If so, perhaps Dion made the right choice today.

Gayle said...

"I was wathcing QP today when Harper was saying Dion's response to the TS reminded him of a professor who marks up an assignment but then passes it anyway, then he proceeded to take a number of cheap shots all the while his minions were hooting and hollering."

Good - let him be like that.

The QP Harper is one of the reasons people dislike him. Having your "boys" stand behind you and laugh while you mock someone is what schoolyard bullies do.

I do not mean that in a "we should keep calling him a bully" kind of way. There is no need to call him that. Everyone can see for themselves what an immature childish petty man he truly is. I firmly believe the liberals were correct to wait until Harper had a few weeks-months in parliament before killing his government.

Anonymous said...

The way the polls have been lately - it would mean $300 million for the same result - getting nowhere.

Maybe it will give Dion to clean up the Quebec problems somewhat.

burlivespipe said...

I'm kinda finished with this. Those here who are real Liberals and continue to bark don't see the CONs among us jabbing that stick through the fence.
It'd be easy to say 'All or nothing' and rush to the polls; many seem to be trapped in 'short-view' arguments and not the long term.
A lot can happen that is less scripted than an election. You can expect Harper to campaign much like Dalton during the last election - and with this wishy-washy TS to wave about, he would likely get at least a strong minority. That the CON gang is interested in subterfuge and demolition work only adds to the risks.
Put them in the house and let them show their real cards.
But to keep carping along the 'no-leader' gov't sponsored meme is futile.

nacho libre said...

The latest Environics Poll shows Cons 33/Libs/29/Dips/19 but shows Harper as best PM, which is ridicules since he seems to be holding his party back. Perhaps, if the Libs went now, we could keep the Cons to another minority, which would allow the Libs more time to recoup without the Cons having the full authority to wreak havoc in the meantime.

nacho libre said...

The is no easy answer here for Dion, he knows he could get Turnerized if he runs a bad campaign and then the country could be exposed to a Con majority. I simply do not trust the likes of Flanagan not to impose a right wing agenda on the country. The Libs although trying to save their necks, are also trying save the country from a right wing agenda.

Steve V said...

"I firmly believe the liberals were correct to wait until Harper had a few weeks-months in parliament before killing his government."

If we are talking a few weeks, I'm on board.

I appreciate the reasonings of some, it is a difficult question, but my argument remains, all the bad optics people point out aren't about to change anytime soon.

Gayle said...

"all the bad optics people point out aren't about to change anytime soon."

I agree - but I believe bad optics were a risk whichever way he went.

I think it would be easier dealing with Layton's accusations than it would be dealing with Harper's. Last night on Duffy the liberals were calling the NDP a fringe party and not worthy of being heeded. I certainly do not agree they are a fring party, but if that perspective holds they have only themselves to blame.

By the way - I hope the election will be some time just after the Christmas break.

Mark Dowling said...

Dion can't stop Harper by voting down his bills since each will be made a matter of confidence (which makes a mockery of the process anyway) but he could slow them down. In addition to the disgracefully stacked Senate he could get some filibusters going (surely Michael Ignatieff could provide many hours of debate filler) prepping for a spring election while carefully avoiding bringing down the government. I can't imagine many people are keen on a winter election so I think voters won't mind a bit of media frenzy about perceived weakness.

Instead, Dion should let his house leader deal with Harper's bills while he meets with the premiers to talk about the national programmes he wants to launch.

I disagree with you on the environment - Dion has a significant lead on the environment but he's unlikely to persuade more people than he already has - if we wanted a greenie one trick pony we'd just have May for PM. He needs to broaden the topics on which he is perceived as being as strong if not stronger than Harper, and the Economic Club might be stage one there.

He also needs to rebuild the party in areas where the Liberals are shut out entirely, starting in Redmonton.

The Ontario election showed how events can destroy a frontrunner. Harper should look at John Tory and feel a little worry.