Thursday, February 14, 2008

Just Go Already

Here we go again, the nervous nellies fearing an election, better to hold off, seize the correct moment. Where have we heard this apprehension before? How many times can we play this script, getting prepared, raising the alarms, then we cower, the prudent party waiting in the weeds? Please.

The argument seems to suggest nobody is paying attention anyways, the millions of Canadians who watch the nightly news, the people that vote, they aren't engaged, not need to worry about the optics of hiding, jiving, doing anything to avoid the dreaded election. If you follow that logic through, then nothing will improve either, because, well, nobody cares, apart from a few geeks on blogs. I've never believed that view, people do develop impressions, people are aware of the issues of the day, maybe not the details, but the broad strokes.

The spectacle of the Liberals abstaining again is frankly unacceptable. It is gutless, it is cowardly, it actually speaks to a lack of leadership, fueling the already held negative impressions. Dion's leadership score is actually less than it was a year ago, a hard feat to erode from the abysmal. Nothing says leadership, principled direction, like hiding from an election, OVER and OVER again. The Liberals have already played this game last fall, using the lame argument that Canadians don't want an election (which is true, but nobody believes that is the Liberal rational for a second).

Dion talks tough, then Dion backs down. Liberals ready for an election, oh wait nevermind. The shelf life for this parliament is long past due, this minority has lasted beyond anyone's expectations. The argument that there is nothing to run on seems ridiculous, there is plenty. So we wait for the magic bullet, the economy to maybe tank and then pounce? Guess what, it might not tank the way people expect, Canada is already demonstrating resilence that wasn't forecasted- in other words it may be a smooth landing. What then? Wait until the fall, next spring, all the while sitting on our hands, looking mostly irrelevant.

You can't keep threatening and posturing, only to back down, time after time. You can't call yourself the official opposition, when you continually scurry the corridors, hiding from the open light. You don't get to keep abstaining, which is simply an affront to the idea of principles, without paying a price. Those that believe it all occurs in some esoteric playground, nobody notices, I think are out to lunch. It does harm Dion to continually rationalize, backdown, it puts him on the defensive. Maybe Canadians aren't glued to their sets, but they pickup things here and there, a common theme tends to stick. All this sage advice to wait, all it really says, the Liberals are scared, they lack confidence in Dion, the party isn't prepared. Given the infinite, neverending hesitation, maybe it's true.

25 comments:

Gayle said...

Quite honestly I do not care one way or another, and I am in the "no one really cares if the libs abstain" camp.

What I want is for the liberals to be prepared to go to an election if the circumstances demand it (ie. if there had not been any compromise on Afganistan or if the budget is unpalatable), but I do not want them to force an election solely to shore up Dion's leadership strengths.

As far as I am concerned, if this is only about leadership as defined by the conservatives and the NDP then the liberals are going to lose, whether they go now or later.

So, if the liberals feel it is prudent to wait now and go later, when they have stronger reasons and after the whole tough on crime thing has been neutralized, then maybe they have a point. After all, a bunch of liberals were demanding an election in the fall, and it turns out that would have been the wrong move.

Steve V said...

"After all, a bunch of liberals were demanding an election in the fall, and it turns out that would have been the wrong move."

Gayle, why do you say that?

Gayle said...

Because the tide started turning for the liberals after the Throne speech.

Once the story started focusing on the conservatives (Chalk River, Mulroney), the media became bored with the "not a leader" thing, and the polling numbers started reflecting that.

Steve V said...

I don't see how you can say it was a "wrong move" with certainty. I could easily counter that the environment was on the frontburner will the fiasco internationally, and the Liberals could have capitalized on Dion's core issue. Nobody can be definitive, arguing that it would have been a mistake, there will always be pros and cons, no matter the timing.

Steve V said...

And, besides, this misses the whole point. The budget will be up for a vote, you either say yes or no, you don't abstain, that is just nonsense.

The only reason Rae wants to wait, is so he can get in the H of C now, and look the potential leader. If we go now, and the Libs lose, then Dion is out, and Iggy holds most of the cards, Rae never having time to establish himself. Don't think for a second this isn't part of the reasoning, everyone knows all the former leadership contenders are quietly circling the potential corpse. Rae's making a tactical decision, and part of it is personal ambition. That's my take anyways.

Anonymous said...

The only reason Rae wants to wait, is so he can get in the H of C now, and look the potential leader. If we go now, and the Libs lose, then Dion is out, and Iggy holds most of the cards, Rae never having time to establish himself.

Bingo

It's funny, both Dion and Stelmach won as compromise candidates, and both leaders are struggling to catch fire within their own caucus and face a stagnation of support from the population. It just goes to show, without money and caucus support from the outset, it is very hard to be a leader of an political organization unless your someone like Obama and can prove the establishment wrong.
-ITC

Calgary Junkie said...

Here's another consideration ...

Assume you guys let the budget and Afghan motion pass, and then table a non-confidence motion later on.

How will Dion get both Duceppe and Layton to go along with his motion ? Layton has signalled that he will be campaigning on the message that the Liberals are not an effective Opposition Party

That suggests to me that there is no way Layton will play the supporting role to Dion taking Harper down. No matter what kind of motion Dion crafts, Layton can nit-pick some aspect of it--the wording, timing, motive, whatever--and safely vote against it.

Gayle said...

"The budget will be up for a vote, you either say yes or no, you don't abstain, that is just nonsense."

That is what I meant when I said:

"What I want is for the liberals to be prepared to go to an election if the circumstances demand it (ie. if there had not been any compromise on Afganistan or if the budget is unpalatable), but I do not want them to force an election solely to shore up Dion's leadership strengths."

Chose to go on an issue for the country. Stop worrying about this leadership crap because if the majority of Canadians buy into it the liberals lose anyway. The liberals have to show themselves to be about the issues, not the perceptions. Put Dion above this silly definition of leadership the cons want to run on. A true leader builds consensus, and then leads by example.

Anonymous said...

Rae is really a piece of work. Everyone wants to blame Ignatieff and I've known all along that it's Rae that is working behind Dion's back.

Rae has the audacity to be out there telling Dion what he should do? Why doesn't he tell him in private?

Rae pouted when he lost. He's a sore loser.

I have a friend that worked in Rae's office - he's not what he appears to be - he's a nasty piece of work.

What he has done is unacceptable. Even if Ignatieff wants the job, at least he isn't out there advising Dion in public trying to make Dion look like a fool.

I hope Rae loses his riding - would look good on him.

A snake in the grass.

Steve V said...

gayle

We mean the same thing then. You go on an issue, which speaks to leadership. I never meant to say you go to make Dion look strong, but if you don't agree with something, then abstain, he looks weak in the process.

Mushroom said...

The budget will be presented at the end of the month. NDP says it is dead in the water, the Bloc wants a fiscal stimulus worth five to fifteen billion dedicated to forestry and manufacturing in Quebec. The Grits want??????

"We will support the budget when we see it," Grits cried. What happened to the 30/50 plan to reduce poverty by 2013? Why not demand an increase to the child tax credit, tax cuts to the lowest income earners? Tax breaks to firms developing eco-friendly products. The Grits need to come up with an alternative budget to highlight a greener, richer,and fairer Canada. Or are we going to reveal them in a phantom red book that will be distributed in an unelection campaign?

bigcitylib said...

"You can't keep threatening and posturing, only to back down, time after time. You can't call yourself the official opposition, when you continually scurry the corridors, hiding from the open light. You don't get to keep abstaining, which is simply an affront to the idea of principles, without paying a price."

Yeah but the point is, apparently, you can. As Nik Nanos said, all this stuff painting Dion as weak and the Libs as confused, divided, etc., just hasn't paid dividends in the polls.

And I am not any believer in subliminal messaging. This stuff won't just automatically start to kick in when an election called.

Also, and I think this is what Gayle is saying, is that if you pull the plug over a inoffensive budget than it looks like you are going into the election over nothing but raw self-interest.

Mushroom said...

"You can't call yourself the official opposition, when you continually scurry the corridors, hiding from the open light."

This is another sad fact with the Grit caucus. Attendance at Question Period remains a problem since Dion has become leader. Creates an impression that many are waiting to collect their lucrative pensions. Or believing that constituency work is more paramount than caucus solidarity. Not a good impression, especially when it is filled with veteran politicians in their late 50s, early 60s, battle worn from the Chretien and Martin era.

Steve V said...

"Yeah but the point is, apparently, you can."

Do it a few more times, let a nice theme develop, and then get back to me. Abstaining is a copout, period. And Mushroom is right, why doesn't Dion issue some demands on the budget, like the poverty plan? We don't care about the issue until the election, is that it? We don't want an election now, so the poor, so poverty, the urgent crisis, can just wait? A budget that doesn't offend, but a budget that doesn't do anything either, that is okay, because we want to wait until fundraising improves and the economy tanks? Nice party, maybe its time to try another one.

MarkCh said...

You guys need to stop worrying about this. Decide what you stand for, vote in favour of the government when it comes up with something acceptable, against if not. Negotiate with the government. Dion should shut up about when the election will be. The line should be "Canadians elected this government, we will support what we can, reject what we must, and improve the government's approach whenever possible". Even if there is an election because the Liberals vote no on a matter of principle, and the Conservatives win a majority, that's not the worst thing.

Right now, _everybody_ knows that the Liberals stand for power and nothing else. Dion has only reinforced that view again and again by his actions and his words. BCL is right that not many people are paying attention, so the Liberals have not been hurt as much as they deserve. However, they have been hurt lots. Only the strength of the Liberal brand is keeping the party going. It won't last forever at this rate.

MarkCh said...

Steve V, at 2:16, you summed up the Liberals exactly. That's what the party is now. Cherniak, not you, is the Liberal party as it is.

By the way, care to comment on this or are we all bored with the topic?

Steve V said...

mark

This is the thing, the actions raise expectations. You have high profile people telling others to "get ready", we are going first opportunity in the new year. The media hears the whispering, and then you backoff AGAIN. None of the posturing seems to have any relationship to principles, it all seems to be when it feels right, then it doesn't, Dion issues demands, then he stands down. Good grief.

Raphael Alexander said...

I agree. Even though I don't want the government to fall, I would almost be embarrassed for you, Steve, if Dion gutlessly passes an empty budget.

Steve, super sweet choice of picture.

Steve V said...

Just one thing on the polls. Don't misread apprehension about Harper, as some vindication of the Liberals. You will notice, that much of the latest Harper erosion, isn't accompanied with a uptick in Liberal support, which speaks to general displeasure for both. We can all take solace in the Cons problems, but I see no indication that the Liberals are inspiring anyone, and sitting on your hands reinforces the negativity. I'll say it again, Dion's leadership numbers are lower today than they were a year ago, which were LOW. Part of the logic I have heard, give Dion more time. I would argue nothing will change if the Liberals keep abstaining, except you will cement the negative impressions. Right now, this is all Liberal brand/Harper apprehension, whe

Raphael Alexander said...

Steve, I've penned a little summary of Liberal "consistency" at my blog. It's my feeling that if Dion doesn't take Canada to the polls soon, that his leadership stands to take a worse beating than an overage Muhammad Ali.

A View From The Left said...

Rae wanting to delay an election because he wants to be seen in the House is what this is really about. All it does is play into the story of Liberal infighting. If anyone actually listens to him and an election is delayed any further then the best we can hope for is to keep our numbers steady in the polls.

The trend I've noticed in the past few polls is while the Conservative numbers are going down, the Liberals are remaining steady and the Bloc, NDP and Greens are increasing their numbers. So while it's all well and good that the Conservatives are dropping in the polls, Liberals should be concerned that they aren't inspiring anyone.

Personally I'm of the opinion that while things aren't going well for the Conservatives we should try to force and election and inspire people instead of sitting on our hands and hoping it gets worse for the Conservatives.

wilson said...

It is difficult to understand, why a party that has governed Canada for 80 of the last 100 years, don't think they are able to draw up a winning election platform,
in good times or with tough times ahead.

'Wait until the economy tanks so we can blame it on Harper'.
hmmmmm

Canadian Tar Heel said...

Steve,

I have to agree with your comments at 11:34 and those of anon at 11:41. Dion became the Party leader as a compromise candidate, and such leaders generally do not enjoy the same degree of power or legitimacy as someone who wins convincingly. Presently, Rae appears to be subverting Dion’s hold and Ignatieff gives the general impression that he’s always a step out of sync with Dion’s rhetoric (not that it’s easy to follow).

Moreover, I have to agree with Mushroom at 1:50. With respect to the budget, the Grits appear too disorganized to even advocate issues that the Party apparently favors, much less push for an election. In your words at 2:16, the Liberal Party seems content to have A budget that doesn't offend, but a budget that doesn't do anything either, that is okay, because we want to wait until fundraising improves and the economy tanks?

Perhaps the present circumstances are just that simple, and we should not over analyze them.

BTW, Steve: …well, nobody cares, apart from a few geeks on blogs…

I resent that remark. Don’t deny it. Just resent it. Ha.

Steve V said...

"The trend I've noticed in the past few polls is while the Conservative numbers are going down, the Liberals are remaining steady and the Bloc, NDP and Greens are increasing their numbers. So while it's all well and good that the Conservatives are dropping in the polls, Liberals should be concerned that they aren't inspiring anyone."

Miranda, that is why people shouldn't assume that abstaining and sitting on our hands doesn't come with a price. The Conservatives have failed to win widespread support, but it seems voters are uncomfortable moving back to the Liberal fold. The question is why, and I would argue that perceived weakness is part of the equation.

Tarheel

By all indications, Dion wants to go the polls. Dion also wanted to force an election last fall, but it seems there are other voices pulling him back. This fact speaks to the "compromise" leader, who doesn't enjoy widespread support, he is forced to appease. Think of another leader, if they determine it's time, everyone else falls in line. That's why we have leaders, to make the calls, hardly supportive of Dion to continually question his desires.

On the, "a few geeks on blogs" angle. It's funny, because when people find an issue they deem important, they argue that it will hurt the government. If nobody is paying attention to the Liberal problems, then nobody is paying attention to Chalk River, nobody cares about detainees, clearly nobody gives a shit about the Cons inside/out campaign scandal. Seems to me, millions of Canadians watch the news, read the newspaper, some even go online (the horror), so they do pickup on themes, maybe general, but perceptions are formed. It always seems like nobody cares when it supports an opinion, when its something they deem important, look out the government is mortally wounded. You can't have it both ways, and if you really believe that, then WHY BOTHER?

clh said...

The PM has a lot of control and Harper has been using it to stir up election fever quite effectively. There was a fever pitch around the throne speech and now we have a three-for-one going on.

I try to tune out all the rhetoric and framing stemming from Harper's style and see what is really going on. The Senate thing had no content, the Afghanistan issue is something governments often settle among themselves unless it gets to a point that people demand input, and the budget remains to be seen. So, I really don't see what everyone is getting so worked up about, except I agree that all the election talk does get tiresome. However, I see that as emanating from Harper's actions not from the Liberals or any other opposition party.