The economic argument, that being a potential downturn will hurt the Conservatives, is credible, but it's also more wishful thinking, than sound strategy. The Canadian economy is not a monolith, everyone would concede that any downturn is largely a Ontario and Quebec equation. With that reality in mind, any potential harm to the Conservatives is confined to this region of Canada, other regions are in boom and show no signs of a pullback.
Let's look at these provinces, and see how exactly a potential recession would play out electorally. First off, in Quebec, nobody in their right minds think the Liberals have any real potential to "grow" in the short term, more likely the status quo would be seen as victory. Within this environment, to say an economic downturn would benefit the Liberals, isn't rooted in reality. While it could hurt the Conservatives, polling shows voters more likely to look elsewhere, by-passing the Liberals. The harsh truth, for many the Liberals are no longer the second option, and it is hard to see how the economy will bring back voters in droves. No, whatever happens with the economy, it is unlikely to raise Liberal prospects considerably in Quebec.
The premise really revolves around Ontario, a possible recession, that could do real harm to the Conservatives. Nevermind that this belief is a theoretical, a "maybe", a "could", nothing conrete or known, the belief also fails to look at the present circumstance. Last time I checked the Liberals were leading in Ontario, some polling actually has the Conservatives down to their core constituents. In other words, the Liberals are already in a good position in Ontario, the Conservatives unlikely to see much more erosion, if history is your guide. If anyone thinks the Conservatives fall below 30% in Ontario, then they are detached from reality, that's bottom. In the only region where the Conservatives can be hurt from the economy, their position is already tenious, the Liberals appear strong. Given this circumstance, the now, it is hard to see how waiting on the economy pays any dividends. In Ontario, the optics are good right now.
There is another major problem in looking to the economy for salvation. That strategy is a one-sided proposition, because it fails to factor the concurrent erosion of the Liberals. While the Conservatives could be harmed, it happens while the Liberals operate in this vicious cycle of perpetual weakness. Whatever potential gain is negated by cementing the theme that Dion is weak, the Liberals stand for nothing.
If one wonders why the media "picks" on the Liberals, much of it comes down to a lack of respect. There is no way for Dion to emerge as a strong leader, while he takes a pass on issues which are core principles for the Liberals. In many ways, this recent debate on immigration is seen as the litmus test. This issue is being framed in such a way, that if the Liberals take another pass, it will be the final straw, the narrative cemented. And, when you think about, that isn't necessarily unfair, given that when you think Liberal, historically, immigration is always part of the mix.
While we are waiting for the economy to tank, or some other silver bullet to bring us electoral bliss, we in fact ensure our defeat. Our inaction guarantees failure, it doesn't lead to "winning conditions", it prevents them. The argument of the doves, you don't go into an election you could lose is irrelevant, because this circumstance guarantees that possibility for eternity.
Two more articles today, detailing the Liberals problems. The Globe and Mail piece is particularly scathing, but there is one quote that should be heeded:
Influential Saskatchewan Liberal Tony Merchant is convinced that Mr. Dion will “wear well with the voters” once he is on television every night during an election campaign. Echoing Peter Russell, Mr. Merchant says Mr. Dion will be “liked by crowds.”
He says: “I regret the decision that has been made to hold off on an election. That's not really playing to Dion's strength – his passion over issues. The waiting hasn't been helpful to him.” As an opposition leader, Mr. Dion has to wait until an election is called before he can vend his issues to the public. Otherwise he won't get the media's attention.
Dion never gets traction until an election campaign. In fact, Dion's numbers continue to erode, borne out in the polls (from abysmal to unheard of), as we sit on our hands, waiting on maybe's. The only chance Dion has, the glare of an election campaign to make his case, the other path, a slow burn to oblivion.
Susan Delacourt in today's Toronto Star:
In an interview with the Star this week, Smith talked about election readiness. In his seasoned assessment, the Liberals are in okay shape in terms of logistics – money, planes, organization, platform.
"I would say that on the organizational side, we can handle an election from this point on," Smith said. "I wouldn't have said that a few months ago, but I can say it now."
Good to go, or good enough to go. But, we need a narrative:
"What everybody would concede is that the party is not ready, intellectually," said Herle. "What is the Liberal narrative in this election? What's the strategy to win an election? Without answering those questions, you can't settle on a platform, design advertising or lay out a tour plan."
Herle, then answers his own question:
"Stephen Harper is a very intelligent person, but he's very right-wing. If you look at the philosophical spectrum, he's probably as right-wing a leader as we've had in memory. And I'm not sure that a lot of Canadians understand that," Smith said. As well, "in living memory I've never seen anybody where things were run from the Prime Minister's Office so directly," he argued. "I mean, this is new. And to the extent that Canadians understand that, I don't think they relate to it."
There's your narrative.
If people want to lose an election, then I can't think of a better way than furthering the idea of weakness, alienating core groups, by taking a pass on this immigration reform. Don't blame the media, we provide the storyline with our inaction. Dion doesn't get any respect? Why should he really, all he does is abstain. When the Liberals ask six questions in QP, criticizing the Conservatives on this immigration reform, and then do nothing in the end, don't get angry when we read more and more on weakness. Is it fair? You know what, it probably is when you stand back. Nobody respects a wimp, nobody gravitates to inaction, nobody holds cowering in high regard. The only way to change the channel, is for Dion and the Liberals to take a stand, and get out there and make our case. Sitting on the sidelines is a recipe for failure, you never win. Patience shouldn't be confused with sealing your own fate over time.