Thursday, February 07, 2008

Dion Closes Leadership Gap

Well not really, but take what you can get I suppose. SES has new leadership numbers:
Most Trustworthy:

Harper 30 (-1 since Nov poll)
Dion 14 (+2)
Layton 21 (+7)

Most Competent:

Harper 39 (no change)
Dion 16 (+5)
Layton 15 (+2)

Leader with best vision for Canada:

Harper 32 (-3)
Dion 17 (+2)
Layton (+3)

Of note, Harper holds a large advantage over Duceppe in Quebec, on all questions.

A BIG caveat for Dion, if you take the SES numbers from one year ago, Dion is -6 on trustworthy, -6 on competence and -4 on vision. The good news, Harper is decidedly down as well.

Cherniak is making wild claims that Afghanistan is OUR issue. Mostly mindless, robotic propaganda, per usual, but I think we should look at the issue with these numbers in mind. Harper does have a massive advantage in terms of leadership and convictions. Is there another issue, besides Afghanistan, where Harper better demonstrates his leadership credentials? I don't care for the man, but when he speaks on Afghanistan, he does so with a genuine zeal that translates well for him. In other words, Harper looks like a leader on the issue, agree or disagree with the position.

If, and this remains an if, the Conservatives have calculated that they will fight an election with Afghanistan at the fore (this will be unavoidable, if the question remains open, the vote never taking place), it is important to acknowledge the rationale for doing so.

On first blush, it looks an odd choice, given the opinion polls. Look closer, Harper never needs a majority, only 40%, which is attainable. Factor in some acceptance of pushing forward, IF the Manley conditions are met, and I actually see some fertile ground for the Conservatives. We will only continue if these conditions are met, is attractive to the nervous voter, it might tilt the mental math for some people. And, don't doubt for a second, a big announcement during the campaign, that speaks to reaching these commitments. These people are always looking for an edge.

I believe we are seeing the final chapter of a co-ordinated dance that began with Manley. The pre-ordained conclusions allow Harper to use a Liberal against the Liberals, this is not a dynamic to ignore. There are hawks that vote Liberal, can Harper siphon off a few supporters, a couple points that will tip the election?

Harper is gambling here, no question. But, running on Afghanistan isn't as risky as it might appear. Over-confidence on our part fails to acknowledge a simple fact- Harper doesn't do anything without plotting the terrain. If the Cons move on Afghanistan, assume they see potential.

27 comments:

lance said...

We are in agreement. What it comes down to is go or no-go on the budget and all the risks that will entail.

After that the script is pretty much written against an election.

Cheers,
lance

Steve V said...

Something I hadn't thought about. Flaherty will deliver his budget early, last week of February. For arguments sake, let's say we have a non-confidence late that week, early the next. That means an election would probably take place mid-April. I'm reading this piece on Afghanistan, and Canada's demands. It just so happens the NATO meeting will occur right in the middle of this campaign:

I said that we would help the Canadians," Morin told reporters, adding that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has "extraordinary relations" with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"And I indicated to him that all this must be done as part of a global reflection on the reorganization of NATO forces," Morin said.

"If I had a message to address to Canadian public opinion, it's to have a little bit of patience, since late March is close to early April, and early April is the time of the Bucharest summit."

Just a coincidence?

ottlib said...

First we will need to see the motion before we can make any real calculations on how it might play out.

There is no appetite for a never-ending mission in this country even with The Manley conditions being met.

So if the motion does not have an end date or at least a date for further review then the Conservatives leave themselves going against the will of a large majority of Canadians.

Any election could then be framed with the two choices; leave Canadian troops in never ending combat or remove them from never ending combat. As has been pointed out by several pundits today such a frame would put the Conservatives at a disadvantage, particularly if the election coincides with an expected upsurge of Taliban activity this spring.

Of course, if Mr. Harper does include an end date, even a wishy-washy one Mr. Dion can claim victory and vote for it thus preventing an election on Afghanistan.

As for Mr. Harper using the mission as a way to demonstrate his leadership qualities I would point out that he has been hyping this mission for two years and it has not helped him one bit. Mr. Manley's report has as much in it that can be used against Mr. Harper as he can use against his opponents so I would not expect it to help him in changing that trend.

As for SES's numbers I would have been surprised if Mr. Dion's numbers were not down after the year he just went through. Indeed, to see the decrease is only in single digits is a small victory for him. He is exactly where Stephen Harper was before the 2006 election only his party appears to be tied with the Conservatives, which Stephen Harper could not claim just weeks before that election.

Neither Mr. Harper or Mr. Dion are going to inspire people in the next campaign. Mr. Harper may have some good leadership numbers now but a closer look at those very same numbers indicate a certain uneasiness with his style. Combine that with the fact he has the charisma of a turnip and you can argue the Harper "leadership advantage" is not as impressive as the media hype suggests.

On the other hand Mr. Dion is not all that charismatic either although he has an earnestness and he comes off as having integrity.

So in a battle of party leaders it is a wash. Neither has the clear advantage, which may lead to the situation that I would love, and I would think you would appreciate, an election where policy and vision take centre stage.

Then again it could just a easily turn into nothing more than competing attack ads.

We will see.

Mushroom said...

Still Afghanistan could be neutralized for the Grits. A Dion victory would mean that Canada gets rotated out of Kandahar and France takes over. How it can be done is questionable, since France is outside the NATO command structure. No way is the Cons in opposition going to oppose a resolution that calls for Canada staying in Afghanistan.

To do what Kinsella said, Dion can also side with Layton and suggest that the NATO mission in Afghanistan has failed and it needs to be converted into a UN peacekeeping mission. Canada will withdraw most of its troops, leaving only about 200-500 for peacekeeping and special commando type operations by 2009. This is similar to the Norwegian proposal which I blogged about earlier(no link though, sorry).

MarkCh said...

Steve V: Of course the timing is no coincidence. I believe that Harper is really committed to the mission. What better way to step up the diplomatic pressure on NATO than to have the election going on during the summit? Or, if you think more troops are already stitched up, then what better way to clean Dion's clock, than to have NATO announce reinforcements during the election campaign? What will Dion say then? "No, sorry, not good enough, we are out of there anyway" won't look very good.

Dion's problem is that his plan is actually silly, in purely military terms. He says that Canadian troops will fight, but won't go looking for the Taliban. What about mentoring groups embedded with Afghan army units? What if an Afghan unit gets attacked by Taliban forces? We're in or we're out, or we say we are only staying on base and not going outside the wire - nothing else will be workable.

MarkCh said...

Of course, there is also the interesting question: let's assume there is an election, and another CPC minority government is elected. Whither Afghanistan then? Would the Liberals, possibly under an interim leader, acquiesce then?

Gayle said...

"Harper is gambling here, no question. But, running on Afghanistan isn't as risky as it might appear. Over-confidence on our part fails to acknowledge a simple fact- Harper doesn't do anything without plotting the terrain. If the Cons move on Afghanistan, assume they see potential."

It was pointed out on Don Newman this afternoon that fighting an election over Afghanistan may place our troops at risk of escalated attacks from the Taliban, who will naturally want to turn public opinion away from the mission.

With the crime bills, which Harper is stretching in order to make an election issue (tabling a non-confidence motion against himself???) can also be turned against him. In this case the liberals have to get the message out that the conservatives sat on these bills for months because they were more concerned about timing them to coincide with an election than they were with actual public safety.

Harper - the man who will stop at nothing to win his majority - even placing lives at risk.

Gayle said...

"Would the Liberals, possibly under an interim leader, acquiesce then?"

I think that is when you will see harper do what he should have done all along - exercise his authority and extend the mission without a vote.

MarkCh said...

The Liberals can protect all those lives, just by accepting the Manley report and agreeing to extend the mission.

Anonymous said...

Harper - the man who will stop at nothing to win his majority - even placing lives at risk.

Now there is a stupid blurp in an otherwise intelligent bunch of posts. Did it sound really "hard hitting" when you wrote it? It is a foolish statement.

Gayle said...

silly little anon - of course it was not meant seriously.

I suppose I should not have included it since it allows people like you to ignore the actual point.

markch - I am just repeating myself here, but let me remind you that it is the PM's responsibility to act responsibly. We all know he does not need to politicize this issue. If he is truly a man of principle and he truly believes the extension is the responsible thing to do, he should not risk an election over it.

Mushroom said...

"I think that is when you will see harper do what he should have done all along - exercise his authority and extend the mission without a vote."

Not sure if Harper will take the bait. He will ask for a vote for an extension until 2011, accepting some Grit amendments. I prefer it that way too. No way the PM should be given carte blanche to conduct military missions without parliamentary approval.

Gayle, if the vote was on Friday next week and the CPC motion was defeated, it cannot trigger an immediate election. Harper's aim is to have the Governor-General call an election on Saturday March 1, thus the House must fall by Friday February 29. The budget vote gives Harper the raison d'etre, although he may want to kill the crime bill in the Senate to take an added jab at the Grits.

Gayle said...

mushroom - it is not that I want him to make the decision himself, at least not now and in particular because I know what that decision will be, but I find this whole notion of an election over Afghanistan very unsettling. In particular, I find it disgusting the way he is using the war as a wedge issue. People are dying and he sees it as a ploy to split the liberal caucus.

Mushroom said...

Gayle,

Read my earlier post. Shows how Afghanistan can be neutralized posted at 5:34 pm today.

Steve V said...

If Harper were to win another minority, the first thing he would do is have a vote on Afghanistan. With absolutely zero appetite for another election, the extension would easily pass.

Tomm said...

Gayle,

Its not Harper placing troop lives at risk. His position is consistent and consistent with the Manley report. It is only Dion who will bring down the government rather than negotiate a suitable extension that would cause an election over Afghanistan and place troop lives at risk.

Don't mistake the source of the unease. It isn't Harper.

Steve,

In regards to an election, the LPC doesn't have to bring one on. The budget will be appropriate for an economy that needs a little stimulus, but is basically strong. The vote on Afghanistan can be passed by agreeing with Manley's recommendations. The Crime Bill being blocked in the Senate is a Liberal embarrassment, end it.

...or would the Liberal's rather run on Sharon Carstairs telling people that if we make 14 year old prosti"tots" illegal they will just go underground. ...Or was it the reverse onus for bail on violent crimes with guns. Or was it the minimum sentencing for violent crimes with guns...

You want to run on the criminal side of that? or just the Liberal Senate?

No election need be called.

Tomm

Gayle said...

Tomm, of course you would see it that way. There are none so blind as those who will not see. I would respond to the substantive portion of your comment, such as it is, however I would only be repeating what I said above, most of which you conveniently ignored.

You are the only one who cannot see it is Harper who wants the election by the way. I mean honestly, tabling a motion trying to tell the Senate what to do? It may not even be legal, but even if it is, it is absolutely useless. It reeks of desperation.

The crime bill is not being blocked in the Senate. It does not assist your argument to rely on such fabrications, and ignore the months the conservatives delayed this bill in the House. The Senate has a job to do, and they are doing it. There are already enough complaints about the money we pay these people - now you do not even want them to earn it???

Tomm said...

Gayle,

You said the crime bill is not being blocked?

Is that really true? All the time the Senate spent poking at these provisions with a stick last year doesn't count? Sharon Carstairs indicated that there are no amendments being discussed, they are just asking the 55th person they can find who would disagree with the provisions just so they can be the House of Sober Second Thought?

Be honest. What is happening in the Senate is 100% politics. It is an embarrassment and a joke. They are adding nothing, subtracting nothing, just trying to frustrate the House of Commons because they are LIBERAL and the House isn't.

I'm not a CPC member. I happen to like the direction of the change but it doesn't make me blind.

If you want me to give you a few examples of what I don't like about this CPC government I'll be more than glad to oblige. They just happen to pale in comparison to what I see from the other parties.

Tomm

Gayle said...

Tomm, I am being honest. The Senate has been sitting for all of 25 days since the bill was first read there. Like the House, they send their bills to committees for review before they pass them or suggest amendments. Often the amendments they include in the Senate are adopted in the House.

Now why don't you be honest. Aren't you a little bit concerned about the fact these bills languished in the House for months AFTER the liberals offered to fast track them? Do you not question Harper's motives in failing to reintroduce the bills in the Senate after he killed them when he prorogued? If he had they would have passed a long time ago.

The person playing political games here is Harper.

Tomm said...

Gayle,

In regards to Afghanistan, I think you are reading the tea leaves wrong.

The PMO didn't announce the tabling of the extension bill until after Harper met with Dion. Dion made it crystal clear what he was telling Harper. That was no combat after 2009 and that it was non-negotiable. After Harper heard that, he was perfectly free to table the Bill. Why wait? There would be no common ground possible. Dion had drawn his line in the sand and it just wasn't close enough to Manley for Harper to buy it.

Isn't this a reasonable interpretation? Or did the media mess up?

Tomm

Gayle said...

Tomm - the cons announced the motion to adopt the Manley recommendations would be a non-confidence motion (where they would tolerate no amendments) on MDL at least a week before Harper and Dion met. According to Dion and media reports who got the scoop from the cons, during their meeting Harper told Dion he would be doing just that.

Dion went into that meeting holding the same position he has held all along. That is not a shock.

Harper never had to hold a vote over this war in the first place. He politicized this war at the outset.

Perhaps that is why the media are all reporting how Harper wants an election so badly he is giving the opposition three reasons to defeat him - one if which is the war.

Tomm said...

Gayle,

Are you telling me that the Senate may have indicated to the government that if the government re-introduced the bills in the Senate after the Prorogue they would fast track them because they already kicked them around?

If that's the case, why didn't they take the new omnibus and deal with it in an identical way? It isn't like Harper slipped in some bad words. They are the same words, strung together in a multiple section crime bill. Its the same thing either way.

Your pretending that the Senate is seeing this stuff for the first time is like blind mice trying to figure out the elephant, and therefore needing plenty of time to get it right, is just hooey. It just isn't reasonable.

What is it about a 14 or 15 year old girl being propositioned by a 30 year old man/woman that you are in favor of? I know this statement is outrageous, but it is just that simple to me.

Tomm

Tomm said...

Gayle,

So you are opposed to Harper going back to the Minority paliament to vote for an extension to a war where Canadian's are being killed at a rate of several each month.

You think the cabinet should make this decision all by itself? You would support that?

In regards to confidence, you are opposed to Harper doing what he has strongly indicated multiple times, being that he thinks the Afghanistan mission is important enough for him to lose his government over. He has been clear on this. The vote last year was not a confidence vote, but now it is. This is consistent with how Harper has framed this to the Canadian public. If Dion doesn't want to support the bill, he knows that this will cause a vote. Your posturing that Dion didn't know is just not credible.

Afghanistan has become such an important mountain for NATO that our continued involvement or lack of, has become a key NATO issue. This alone is a good enough reason for a minority parliament confidence motion. NATO is our primary organization for allied forces.

Tomm

Gayle said...

"Are you telling me that the Senate may have indicated to the government that if the government re-introduced the bills in the Senate after the Prorogue they would fast track them because they already kicked them around?"

Tomm - when, exactly, did the Senate last"kick this around"? Are you referring to last summer? The Senategot this bill about 10 days before teh summer break, and Harper prorogued Parliament before it had a chance to reconvene. Do you recall the House sitting over the summer passing legislation? Because I don't.

"What is it about a 14 or 15 year old girl being propositioned by a 30 year old man/woman that you are in favor of? I know this statement is outrageous, but it is just that simple to me."

Yes, it is very simple. This is one of the bills Dion offered to fast track a year ago. Fast tracking it would not have served Harper's purposes because he needs this bill to still be in the Senate during his election, and he needs lemmings like you who are willing to believe every thing they feed you rather than the truth. What you should be doing is asking Harper why it is more important to him to delay this bill for a year so he can use it as an election issue than it is to use this bill to protect children.

Most of your statements in your second post show you have not taken the time to read all my comments on this issue. Please go back and read them.

If Harper were committed to this mission on principle, he would act that way and extend it himself. But he is not acting in a principled manner. He sees the war as a wedge issue and he is willing to exploit that for his own purposes. It is a disgusting action by a man who is more concerned about beating the liberals than about anything else.

ottlib said...

Tomm,

All of the measures in the Omnibus Crime bill were introduced as individual bills over two years ago.

Two years.

So why are the Conservatives suddenly so horny to have them passed that they are putting forward a motion that is probably unconstitutional and certainly breaks a whole raft of Parliamentary conventions?

Why now? The bill is through the House and in the Senate.

Incidentally Tomm, if the Conserveratives are so worried about the Crime Bill why are they taking actions that risk it dying, yet again, in the Senate?

If they really want to pass this crime bill then let the process take its course. The Senate will not reject it and it will be passed in due time, provided Mr. Harper does not screw it up by forcing an election in the next few weeks.

Gayle said...

Exactly ottlib. If Harper gets his way the bills will not pass before he calls an election.

Does anyone else find it suspicious that both times the cons allowed these bills to pass in Parliament it was days before a break (summer and Christmas), and that just after returning from the break they started complaining about the senate stalling, including all the days of the break and weekends in their calcuations?

Anonymous said...

Steve...dont you just love the new Nanos poll out today that puts liberal in FRONT.