Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Why Aren't You "Ready"?


The Liberals are currently into their own version of Groundhog Day, the exact same script we saw play out last fall. It would appear the "nervous nellies" are winning the day, as Dion softens his election rhetoric:
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion gave the clearest indication to date Monday that he may let the Harper government's Feb. 26 budget pass instead of voting against it and triggering a federal election.

During a stop in Quebec City Monday, he acknowledged he won't get what he wants in the budget and appeared to lower the bar for what he'd accept, saying he might let it pass if it's “not too harmful” for the economy.

“It won't be a Liberal budget. Unfortunately, the ideas I have put forward won't be in the budget,” Mr. Dion said of the looming fiscal plan.

“But we also have to respect the decision of the voters in 2006,” he said, referring to the Conservative victory in the last federal election.

“Therefore, if it's a budget that appears to us as being acceptable or at least not too harmful for the Canadian economy, we could let it pass and avoid $350-million in [taxpayer] expenses for an election,” the Liberal Leader said.

The old, "we don't want to have an expensive election, paid by the taxpayers" line. Gee, where have I heard that lame rationale before? Why don't we just copy and paste the events of last October?

Greg Weston column today, titled "Dion Signals Retreat", outlining why the Liberals want to avoid an election like the "plague". I find this reasoning curious:
They point out the party is short of money, candidates, organizers, ground workers and planks for a platform.

At this writing, the Liberals can't even find a campaign plane, and Dion's practice sessions for the pivotal televised leaders' debates are described by one party insider as "frightening."

Don't get me wrong, I understand the Liberals have challenges to confront. With that said, it is also inexcusable that a party isn't election ready, given the fragile minority situation, not to mention a full TWO YEARS since the last vote. Makes you wonder if the party will ever be ready.

How can you still be short of candidates? How can you still not have the organization in place? How in the world can you still not have a platform in place? Should I call Air Canada, see if I can line up some transportation, or maybe Dion can bicycle across Canada, highlighting his environmental creds? Wasn't Kennedy put in charge of "election readiness" over a year ago? Given the lack of current prepardness, how can anyone argue that the party will be "ready" come next fall? They won't, if recent history is your guide.

The real fallacy here, Dion needs more time to establish himself, confront the negative stereotypes. Nothing conveys leadership like abstaining from votes, giving your critics powerful ammunition. Those that argue it won't hurt Dion, must also acknowledge the fact it certainly doesn't help either. So, come next fall, expect the same Dion perceptions, treading water, making no progress. Are the Liberals just delaying the inevitable?

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Could it be that Dion actually BELIEVES the last Ipsos poll.

Anonymous said...

"Why aren't you ready?"

Bringing back the 1993 gang to fight an election in 2008 is so far proving to have been a pretty bad mistake. Where's the plane?

wilson said...

Kennedy took a job at the School of Management at Ryerson University.
Guess he had to pay off some debt.

Rae & Brison were supposed to put together an election platform.

Did Dion toss out the 'red machine' and install his own (novices) people?

MississaugaJoan said...

The time is now. Backtracking again is ridiculous.

I, as a Liberal, agree with spending in a recession and saving and paying down debt when times are good. I was taught this in Economics many decades ago - and it still holds true today.

I, as a Liberal, agree with more development and less military in Afghanistan. I believe Canada is respected worldwide not because of the Kandahar mission undertaken by Martin and Harper, but for peacekeeping and development undertaken by Pearson, Trudeau and Chretien.

The time is now to reverse 3+ years of the Americanization of Canada and bring back a government based on fairness and empathy.

Susan said...

mississaugajoan - I'm with you. But maybe they are going to go though - they are saying he has a plane and McCallum was in good form yesterday and he is rumoured to want to go. All this bs about not affording an election - we can't afford to lose our country. They should get some cajunas big time and Dion should sideline Ignatieff.

Anonymous said...

They should get some cajunas big time and Dion should sideline Ignatieff

Please don’t blame Dion's failure in leadership on Ignatieff.

It makes you sound like a kid and you advance a false argument to cause division started by the CPC.


-ITC

Anonymous said...

Lawrence Martin ed. in the Globe on the Weekend

http://ago.mobile.globeandmail.com/generated/archive/RTGAM/html/20080218/wcomartin18.html

These members see a raft of other advantages in waiting. It will allow for their by-election wins on March 17, it will give Mr. Dion more time to grow, it will provide more time to raise money, time to take advantage of any economic downturn and time for the party to perhaps pick up on the liberal tide that is starting to hit the United States. To chart the history of the continent is to see how political moods in the two countries sometimes mesh.

Moods are not to be underestimated. Most Liberals don't see the mood for change being ripe enough just yet. They are wise to wait.

Steve V said...

Re Martin:

-the by-elections will be a plus, but with what has happened regarding Orchard, the headlines could be mixed

-Dion doesn't grow, particularly if he is forced to hide in the shadows, abstain, and offer sorry excuses, that nobody really believes. Projecting weakness will not help Dion, that seems pretty obvious

-the Liberals already have the money to fight an election, whether it be donations or loan. Given the fact all the former leadership hopefuls must clear up their debts soon, expect a further drain on potential fundraising.

-waiting for an economic downturn is a gamble, there are indications of a very soft landing, at least in the next few monts\hs

-An Obama bounce? Give me a break, the fact he used this logic, speaks to the weakness of the overall argument.

Anonymous said...

Along with his English classes, Dion needs to take debate classes - he get indignant if someone doesn't see things his way.

Harper had how many years to prepare his party?????

Anonymous said...

Harper had how many years to prepare his party?????

12:18 PM, February 19, 2008

good point. but Harper's a leader.

ottlib said...

Mr. Dion also said that there is no real appetite for change.

Is he wrong? Is there a massive but so far hidden movement amongst the electorate to toss out the Conservatives?

It is an unfortunate reality in modern politics that the majority of voters vote against someone as opposed to voting for someone. Although I would like it to be different I do not see the next election being that way as none of the parties seem to have that defining issue.

So it will be a slugfest of negativity and in that situation the opposition needs to take advantage of some appetite for change in order to win.

And that is the goal. I would rather see Stephen Harper in power for a few more months if those few more months will result in the conditions that allow us to see the back of him for good. I do not want to see him win another election because we will be stuck with him for a minimum of two years afterwards and that is totally unacceptable to me.

There appears to be a change happening in Canada amongst the electorate. However, that change has not really taken hold or gone deep.

So, waiting is not a bad idea.

As for the optics of the Liberals supporting or abstaining on the budget I would not worry overly much because Canadians do not care.

And even if they did it would be canceled out by the repeated optics of Stephen Harper suddenly making everything, including his trips to the bathroom, confidence motions when he decides he wants an election, only to fail in getting one or backing off because the conditions change in his disfavour.

If we manage to avoid an election over crime, Afghanistan and the budget that will mark the third time Stephen Harper has sought an election and failed to get one.

Again, not that Canadians who are not political animals would care.

I like Greg Weston's statements about the Liberals being unable to find a campaign plane. Amazingly he reported the same thing about a year ago when election fever was in the air then. Is it still true or was that just a copy and paste error?

Steve V said...

ottlib

If Canadians don't care about abstaining, then they also don't care about Dion trying to improve his image. In other words, at the very least, Dion goes nowhere. I love this "Dion will improve with time" argument (not necessarily you), from the same people who claim nobody pays attention the Liberals hiding in parliament. How can he improve, if no one is paying attention? I find that a nonsensical argument.

"Mr. Dion also said that there is no real appetite for change.

Is he wrong?"

The sad part, Mr. Dion doesn't believe his own rhetoric. Dion wanted, and wants, to go, that is his stance. Everyone knows that, which makes all the justifications and clarifications even less persuasive.

Anonymous said...

Comparing Chrétien to Dion is comparing apples to oranges. One was a voracious bulldog who knew how to fight in the streets, craved power as he put it in his own words in his memoirs, and the other is a softie academic. One got his caucus in line and had a group of strong loyal caucus supporters (ie. The rat pack) and the other is a loner.

I hate to gloat, but a lot of us predicated this mess and argued this point on the leadership convention floor. He got a free pass through the race and wasn’t tried and tested.

Buyer beware.

Now, part of me wants Dion to go now so we can put in a real leader in the party after he loses, but the other part of me thinks Dion may actually be able to pull of a victory down the road because Harper has consistently failed to knock him out and you can sense the economy will be a big issue in seat rich Ontario.

So it’s going to be a flip of a coin on who wins the next election. We are stuck in stalemate for a very long time until someone really recaptures the public's interest in politics
-ITC

Mushroom said...

Not a party insider, the answers to these questions as portrayed by the grassroots, local level.

Q: How can you still be short of candidates? How can you still not have the organization in place?

A: Many potential candidates have been "greenlighted" by the central party. Given the so-called 33 per cent of candidates have to be women, the nominations process in some ridings have been suspended. This allows for the imposition of possible appointments from the leader. The result is a backlog. Potential candidates are reluctant to sign new Liberal members and solicit donations. You cannot allow for a Orchard like fiasco to happen in unheld ridings. The consequences for the party are more lapsed membership and criticism fairly or unfairly directed at Dion for imposing the quota.

Q: How in the world can you still not have a platform in place?

A: Rae and Brison said in the beginning, no new red book. A richer, fairer, and greener Canada is enough. Can't have Harper steal your policies before the campaign. The Cons proceed to implement the tax cuts we promised in the 2006 election. 30/50 is no longer mentioned or highlighted by the party, despite the accolades received during the launch. Now it looks like it will be the rehash of 1993 all over again.

Q: Wasn't Kennedy put in charge of "election readiness" over a year ago? Given the lack of current prepardness, how can anyone argue that the party will be "ready" come next fall?

A: I cannot speak for Gerard. For election readiness, Senator David Smith is now on the steering wheel. We in Ontario are directing our wrath at him, particularly in holding up the nomination process. Was in Hall Findlay's campaign office a week and a half ago. Apparently, many people who got jobs in Ottawa after leadership have now returned to Toronto. Too many cooks in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition and Liberal Party of Canada headquarters. The attitude towards newcomers is not that friendly.

I hope I gave you my views of how the party renewal process is shaping up among my conversations. I am not even talking about conspiracies, just party logistics.

Steve V said...

"Q: How in the world can you still not have a platform in place?

A: Rae and Brison said in the beginning, no new red book. A richer, fairer, and greener Canada is enough. Can't have Harper steal your policies before the campaign."

I understand the logic in not wanting to release the platform, that says nothing about actually having one in place.

MarkCh said...

I'm starting to wonder if, notwithstanding the polls and the opinions of people here (including me), the Liberal insiders actually foresee a Conservative majority if they go now. All this chopping and changing has to be bad for the party, and if the expected result is even another Conservative minority, why would anyone want to wait? It would at least give an opportunity for getting rid of Dion, which most of those who want to wait seem to want to do.

Steve V said...

"the Liberal insiders actually foresee a Conservative majority if they go now."

Mark, there is always the risk of that I suppose. I would counter, the polls show the opposite. Leaving out Ipsos, which always trends Conservative, the other three outfits have a statistical tie, Libs slightly ahead. If you break it down further, the regionals look good for the Libs, very concernign for the Cons.

On that score, apparently one of the Liberal operatives circulated an email after the NANOS poll, arguing that the Liberals could potentially pickup 20-30 seats in Ontario. That kind of bravado doesn't jive with worry about a magority. If anything, the cautious probably think waiting offers a better chance a victory.

If I had to guess today, I would lean slightly Conservative, because I think the leadership angle is relevant in a campaign. However, I firmly believe Canadians have a very real apprehension to giving Harper a majority, particularly in Quebec and Ontario.

MarkCh said...

I wouldn't really disagree with you. It is just that I think we need a theory to explain what the Liberals are doing, in light of the arguments in your post.

Or do they feel "entitled" to a majority Liberal government, and refuse to fight an election until the can count on one? :-)

Steve V said...

Given what is going on "entitled" is probably the last stance ;) "Saddled" is probably more apt.

Gayle said...

I would guess it has more to do with money and fundraising than anything else.

I see the advantages of waiting and have no difficulty with that, but as I have said before, the party should be ready to go should there be good reason to do so in the budget. No poison pill, no election.

That nullifies the whole crime package and whatever momentun there may have been for Senate reform (though I doubt there is much to gain for Harper on that issue).

Right now the liberals could win a minority, but would probably be brought down before two years are up, and they simply do not have the money for two elections in two years - particularly since it seems they may need money for a leadership convention too.

As for making Dion look "better", I do not think that is going to happen. He is what he is. Personally I think he is sincere and honourable, and my feeling is the party should simply pump that up rather than try to get him to compete with Harper and Layton on their definition of leader.

From what I see from the outside looking in, the divisions in the liberal party are greater than any one person. I doubt it would matter who is the leader right now.

Steve V said...

gayle

"I would guess it has more to do with money and fundraising than anything else."

I see little improvement on that front. You have all these people siphoning off donations for their personal leadership debts. The pressure is really on now with the deadline, a further distraction.

I agree with you about Dion, he is what he is, and that isn't changing.

Anonymous said...

Dion won't have an election because he would lose and lose big.The liberal party have no money no policies and no one wants to donate any money to the pack of losers and has beens.

Steve V said...

"Dion won't have an election because he would lose and lose big."

Yes, plenty of evidence to support your biased delusion.

Gayle said...

Steve

I hope all the people pushing for an election are also donating to the party.

I donate monthly, and will top up should there be an election. As I said before, I am not interested in funding another leadership contest so I am holding off until I know the money I donate will be for the election.

Dr. Tux said...

Why we should go to an election

1) We're polling competitively with Conservatives and are ahead in key provinces (Ontario and Quebec). The governing party usually loses even more points during an election, and this governing party will most likely lose points because of their terrible record.

2) The Budget is the best place for Dion to knock the Conservatives off their stride. The recent book published by Jim Prentice bombed and this shows a major weakness for the Conservative party.

3) Going to an election on the economy makes the most sense for Dion. The economy is the single best issue for Dion to champion during an election because it comprehensively covers the other major pillars of his platform - the environment (Research and Development, knowledge-based economy) and social justice (sharing the wealth and taking care of all Canadians).

4) Not going to an election on the Budget brings us to another contentious vote - Afghanistan. The media have pounded Dion on the issue and tend to side with Harper's version of the story where we need to establish "command and control" in that country. Signalling that we are willing to capitulate on the budget means we're also willing to capitulate on Afghanistan.

Steve V said...

"The recent book published by Jim Prentice bombed and this shows a major weakness for the Conservative party."

Dr. Tux, I completely agree. These wild accusations have raised the ire of Liberals, and the retorts are done with a rarely seen confidence and conviction. I don't care what the Cons say on this, they lose the discussion everytime, because it allows Libs to point to the one part of their legacy which screams accomplishment, while simulateneously highlighting some Con failings.

The basic thrust, Liberals are proud of their fiscal record, they would never do anything to return to the mess they inherited. I think that a believable line, coupled with the idea that many of the commitments would be phased in, based on fiscal room.

I say knock yourself out to the Cons, it's a strategic error. The outlandish numbers look ridiculous, and people have responded accordingly, even the press can barely utter a sentence without reference.

northwestern_lad said...

I've read some comments here talking about how the by-elections will be a bump, but I think that maybe some people are over-looking something. If the current policy of abstaining and alike is hurting the Liberals now, why wouldn't it hurt them all the more in a by-election? By-elections can be funny things and more unpredictable than general ones, so if this path of unreadyness that the Liberals have gone down is going to hurt in a general election, in my opinion it would stand to reason that it would hurt them right now in these by-elections. To what extent, who knows, but I think that to assume that these by-elections will automatically be good news might be jumping to conclusions too quickly.

MarkCh said...

What do the insiders know that we don't? I still haven't seen a plausible reason for the Liberals to wait.

Steve V said...

On the by-elections, you could argue that Rae the MP just sucks more oxygen from the room, leaving Dion less sturdy, if that's possible. The team looks stronger, Martha is a great addition, but their are agendas at play, and Rae will be rubbing elbows with Iggy for attention. How does that reflect on Dion, the press already flocks to Iggy's mic, he tends to get more soundbites. More ego on the frontburner, not sure that is a plus moving forward, for a leader desperate to consolidate, or give the appearance of a firm hold.

Tomm said...

This thing is a train wreck for the LPC. You can see it coming and going.

But its not going to get better.

Ezra Levant is speculating today that if the LPC doesn't drop the budget than Harper should try disbanding the Canadian Wheat Board and let them choke on that.

I have been totally consistent on this. Dion should pull the pin. He should have pulled it last spring.

Tomm

burlivespipe said...

We're rattling off on complete speculation and some occasional leaks and faux leaks here. If we take what many columnists/unidentified sources have said as gospel, Dion wants an election; his troops, by and large, are tugging on the reins.
I agree in the thinking that waiting and looking the other way on another Tory budget is counterproductive, but I don't think what Dion's saying now 'We need to see the budget first' is wrong. One of the contrasts Liberals can offer is that we are not the opportunistic CON club; we offer reason, thoughtful action. Of course we eagerly await the action part, even dispeptic Tommy here.
If the economy should be the issue, and i like that match-up, perhaps some of the nellies believe a recession still remains 50/50, thus a majority of Canadians consider it at a tipping point. An election, where talk of 'He'll put us in deficit' vs 'They've bled the cupboards' bare!' will actually do more harm and leave the eventual minority winner (which most seem to perceive is the result) as a real loser in the end.
In other words, lets see what's in the budget and then watch what the Liberals do. All this speculation really does is give Wilson pleasant dreams.