Friday, April 18, 2008

Bringing Them Down On Immigration

Scott posts on Hebert's election timing column, cautioning the Liberals against a quick vote. I wanted to expand on this point, which is important:
I keep saying this: bringing down the government on one particular issue doesn’t mean that it will be the only issue talked about for a 6 week election campaign.

That is a crucial argument to remember, when people wonder about the logic of forcing an election over immigration reform. The Liberals have already framed their stance as accumulative, the "markers" approach, which I think easily translates into a campaign. Yes, by bringing down the government on immigration, you effectively make it a central talking point, it is the catalyst, but it doesn't mean a campaign revolves around this one issue.

First off, the government is more likely to want their campaign to revolve around their supposed "achievements". I suspect the main lines of attack will revolve around leadership, a concerted effort to paint Dion as fiscally irresponsible. In other words, I don't see how a protracted debate over immigration plays to the Conservatives preferred arguments. Hebert mentions Quebec, but I don't see how the Liberals are mortally wounded, given their remaining base, in fact it could shore up things, or at least make it all a wash.

If the Liberals take down the government over immigration, I think it will be rightly framed as the final straw, a tipping point in ending this long minority reign. Couple that fact, with a Liberal Party platform finally released, which is sure to hold a few surprises, some bold measures, and immigration is probably on the back burner by the end of the first week.

If Dion is serious about a carbon tax, then the environment will rear it's head as the defining issue. The idea is fresh in the minds of British Columbians, Quebecers are largely on board, it will make for an interesting debate in Ontario, and the Conservatives will rally their base, who are strongly opposed. In other words, the environment will become the lightning rod, a combination of voter interest, regional considerations, stark contrast, not to mention all the parties willing to engage. If the Liberals release their environmental platform during the election, an issue like immigration will fall off the radar, but it will have served it's purpose, demonstrating to certain groups that the Liberal tradition remains.

In Ontario, you already have Liberal buttons, which say "My Canada Includes Ontario", does anyone doubt that the provincial Liberals and the federal party won't do everything in their power to make Flaherty, the economy, manufacturing, working together, a central thesis in a campaign? Does anyone seriously think we will all be consumed with the immigration reforms?

I just don't see an environment where the country is plunged into a debate on immigration, at least not in a way that dominates this campaign. I also don't buy into the idea that voters would "punish" anyone for forcing an election, after all this minority already has historic distinction for longevity. So long as the Liberals properly characterize their vote against, as more the absence of proper consultation, hiding these changes in a suspicious way, I don't see the negative fallout. A vote against is a matter of principle, woven within the greater theme that the Liberals have decided it's time for an election, based on a host of considerations. I suspect the media will accept that rationale, because after all they have been consumed with election speculation for months, waiting on any trigger.

An election campaign is very organic, there are bound to be twists nobody can predict. To base apprehension for an election on the premise that immigration isn't "the" issue for the Liberals to bring them down seems to rely on unnecessary tunnel vision. With all the points of distinction, a platform everyone has desperately wanted to see, a government less than inclined to fight on this ground exclusively, other issues which continually show themselves as important in the public consciousness, I think the trigger, in this case, is mostly secondary.


Anonymous said...

Steve..I believe things are going to change for the better towards Liberals in la belle a liberal organizer has been charged and in their investigation the RCMP found the liberal party was being defrauded by this individual without their knowledge.....signed gramps

Steve V said...

Interesting twist. I subscribe to the view that we are at bottom in Quebec, no where to go but up, and the potential is there, given our competition ;)

Josh G said...

Steve, I hope the party leadership heed your words. In any case, the "issue" is simple enough - the Harper government is incompetent and irresponsible, and has demonstrated this especially over the past year. Seems like a good "issue" to have an election on to me? In fact, going for an election despite the conventional wisdom (as established by we-know-best pundits like Hebert) will not seem particularly opportunistic - that, and going in with low expectations makes them easy to beat (and wards off the complacency apparent in both 2004 and 2006).

Steve V said...


If there is one pundit, the Liberals shouldn't be taking advice from, it's Hebert. She has a large blind spot when it comes to commentary on the Liberals. That aside, I don't think she makes much of a compelling case, as to why immigration shouldn't be the trigger. Besides, while Dion is selling his carbon tax idea in the summer, Hebert will probably argue it's too late, his environmental ship has sailed, Harper has out-flanked the Liberals, etc, etc.

knb said...

If Hebert says don't go, GO!

JimmE said...

I second that KNB! CH makes her living hating Liberals in general & M. Dion has a special place in what passes as her heart. for her bile. As I have said on this and other sites: Has "Often-Wrong Hebert" ever been right?

Northern PoV said...

After 2 years of bashing our leader it is hard to believe that Chantal's advice was meant to be taken seriously. And is she now having a laugh at the reaction?

Trigger issues (or lack-of-issues ala JC's "early" election calls) tend to quiet down a few days after the writ is dropped. And "last straw" is a pretty good line.

Steve V said...

It's really funny, because I think this is her first or second column since she said Dion had lost the environment issue. Now, she says, the prudent strategy is campaign on the issue all summer. So, she is basically saying Dion should put all his hope into a lost cause. Good advice for sure.

Josh G said...

Oh, I completely agree. A few years ago, I found her columns insightful and interesting, but lately it's been nothing but doom and gloom for Dion and the Liberals, with occasional jabs at the NDP and declarations that we won't have an election this spring.

In fact, the entire At Issue panel agreed on that last point a week ago - I'm going to enjoy seeing her, Coyne, and Allan Gregg have to recant their as ever baseless prediction. I enjoy watching it, but it only serves to illustrate that pundits have exactly zero greater expertise (possibly less!) than a random bloggor or person on the street.

Steve V said...


You know what is a real hoot? Conservative bloggers attack the CBC on a daily basis, as anti-Con, pro-Liberal. Take a look at the "At Issue" panel. Gregg worked for the Cons, Coyne worked for NP, Hebert, well nuff said. That's the core panel. Bias alright.

I was surprised at Coyne last night, he usually loves a good scandal- the guy is OBSESSSED with Mulroney. When they were discussing the RCMP raid, he basically said there wasn't much substance, what did they really do wrong.

Yes, clearly a anti-Con crowd on the CBC.

Anonymous said...

And what else s it we are going ot talk about.

We have no platform.

Someone I was talking ot the other day joked and said, "No we have a platform. Bob Rae wrote it on the back of a napkin."


Anonymous said...

Too may typos in that last post

What else is it we are going to talk about?

We have no platform.

Someone I was talking to the other day joked and said, "No we have a platform. Bob Rae wrote it on the back of a napkin."


knb said... someone you know said, we have no platform and you have now concluded that, we have no platform.

Brilliant. When the person you know actually works for the party and is responsible for putting the platform together, then you might have a point.

Until then, napkin scenarios lie in the realm of those who have nothing intelligent to say.

Northern PoV said...

knb, fair comment

my reaction to the napkin whine?

"In December 1981, three engineers fresh from Texas Instruments and hell-bent on getting a foothold in the infant PC market, tossed ideas around during a meal at a local House of Pies restaurant. Rod Canion and Bill Murto met with industrial designer Ted Papajohn, who sketched out the design for the Compaq Portable on a napkin."

knb said...

Fair Northern POV. To be honest, I've been known to sketch a few things out on napkins.

The way the term is now used though, grates on me. The equation is often, envelopes stuffed with cash and plans on napkins. Idiotic at best.

Your example is great and I'm positive that there are many more examples that would prove the comment ridiculous.

WesternGrit said...

The press has pretty much been goading us towards an election "c'mon Liberals. What's the matter? You scared?" If indeed we choose to go, at any time, there is no way anyone can accuse us of tossing Canada into an election - especially since we have enough good reasons to dethrone "King Harpo". If sponsorship resulted in our last election loss, certainly the numerous Conservative scandals are worth triggering an election over. We just need it to sink in with voters a bit...

Steve V said...

I'm just not worried about a platform. I don't think we should keep it under wraps, but that doesn't mean I doubt there are ideas on the table. Dion's a policy wonk, it's not like the party is full of rank amateurs, or lacks talent, let's keep it real. We have a platform, which is different from saying we may lack the narrative.

Anonymous said...


"The University of Calgary's Jack Mintz and Simon Fraser University's Nancy Olewiler base their idea on the federal government's existing 10-cent-a-litre gas tax, which amounts to a tax of $42 per tonne of carbon.

Set a tax at that level on all other fossil fuels, and the government would pull in $12 billion to $15 billion in new revenues, which it could use to cut personal and corporate income tax by fully 10 per cent, they write in A Simple Approach for Bettering the Environment and the Economy: Restructuring the Federal Fuel Excise Tax, which was released Wednesday."


"Thirty per cent of the emissions come out of Alberta, and if you have a federal excise tax and the revenues were spread across the country, Alberta's going to end up transferring quite significant amounts of revenue to other parts of the country," he (Jack Mintz)said.

So it looks like Dion is going to spend the summer working out the fiscal federalism aspect of this proposal as it creates the appearance of the National Energy Policy Mark II.

Personally I believe in taking a pre-emptive strike and start smashing Harper in the head ASAP. May give the Cons the incentive to tango immediately. This definitely hurts their core constituency. At the same time, there is no way are the Dippers going to swallow that 10 per cent decrease on corporate taxes

Steve V said...

"Personally I believe in taking a pre-emptive strike and start smashing Harper in the head ASAP."

If we embrace this idea, it will interesting to see how the BC government reacts in an election campaign. By all accounts their program is reasonably popular, the Liberals would have an ally, and they could lift some soft Green support.