Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Emphasis On "Team"

If you were to put the Conservative and Liberal caucuses side by side, there is no question which possesses more "talent". Outside of rabid partisans, nobody views the Conservatives as particularly deep, in fact the government is largely a one man show, you could count on one hand Minister's that actually stand out in their portfolio's. Taken a step further, hardly impressive when the Conservatives are forced to lean on the mediocre likes of Van Loan and Poilievre to make the case. When you look at the "rosters", it is no surprise that the Liberals will emphasize the team in the next election.

Part of the team concept comes from a reaction to a negative, Dion so unpopular, the Liberals need to draw attention to others to look a credible alternative. I prefer to look at in this way, if you have assets you exploit them, leadership questions aside, particularly if it draws attention to your opponent's weakness. With that in mind, a radical idea prior to the next election. Heading into the campaign, what if Dion were to name his potential cabinet?

The Liberals already have the standard critics, but I think it would be a political winner to put together a theoretical cabinet this summer, allow each MP to focus on their theoretical portfolio, then announce the team when an election is called. In that way, the Liberals could present to Canadians what a Liberal government would look like. Campaigns tend to focus on the leader disproportionately, by announcing a future cabinet, it would necessitate a look beyond who is PM. As the campaign proceeds, any issues that arise would put more attention on whomever is responsible for that particular portfolio.

Imagine a scenario where the Liberals release the daily policy announcement, and Dion isn't the only voice, the only salesman. A foreign policy initiative, reporters seek out the Liberals Minister of Foreign Affairs Bob Rae, who would easily outshine Emerson, or whomever the Conservatives choose from their thin ranks. A question about carbon shifting, enter Ignatieff, the Liberal Environment Minister, a question on Justice, enter Ken Dryden or Dominic LeBlanc, Martha Hall Findlay on Immigration... you get the drift. In pre-announcing the potential cabinet, would that not draw attention to talent pool, allow Canadians to see the group the Liberals would offer. Put that, side by side, with the Conservatives, hard to find much in the way of a threat.

Such a plan would demand the media focus on people other than Dion, as events dictate which issues rise to the fore. It would also show Canadians a greater diversity with the Liberal team, as opposed to the white man blandness of the single note Conservatives. It's hard for me to see a downside in any pre-announcement, although unorthodox, it allows people to pass judgement on who is best able to govern as a whole. It says to Canadians, we are ready to go, here are the people, ready to hit the ground running. Harper vs Dion, an uphill battle, Liberals vs Conservatives, a much better presentation. The best way to dictate the message of team, put that team in place and allow them to shine.

40 comments:

wilson said...

And they are winners because Rae, Iggy, Dryden, Martha were real performers in their federal cabinet posts, right??

When the election finally comes, Cons will have MPs that held cabmin and jr positions for 4 (four) years vs. Liberal talent that held .... what?

Does the LPC have any strong MPs outside of Toronto?

Steve V said...

"When the election finally comes, Cons will have MPs that held cabmin and jr positions for 4 (four) years vs. Liberal talent that held .... what?"

Have you seen your cabinet? That's why I said outside of "rabid partisans", because it's only a team Conservatives would find impressive. THIN.

RuralSandi said...

The Liberals mentioned have had great successes outside of politics - Dryden, hockey, Ignatieff, human rights, foreign afffairs, books, etc., Rae, foreign affairs, negotiations, etc., Martha Hall Findlay, olympic ski winner, lawyer and we could go on an on. This proves that these people are real performers in their own right and have the tenacity, drive and intelligence and goal oriented to get the job done. Each is also able to be good in any position handed them - versatile.

In fact, most of the Liberal caucus is talented.

And the CPC caucus? If they had "real" talent they wouldn't have to resort to extreme partisanship and putdowns - their value would speak on its own.

knb said...

Interesting idea Steve.

Playing devil's advocate, it would open the door for concerted attacks on specific people as spurious as they may be.

wilson, you crack me up.

Anonymous said...

Hey, good idea. Like it a lot! And it would force voters to re-focus how they view the parties - more depth.

penlan

burlivespipe said...

Interesting idea. I would consider that if you go that extra step, it would likely give the CONs more targets for their dissinformation/hyperbolic scripts. But i think the contrasting idea, of team and depth of talent on the team, is terrific.
On a similar note, as Don Martin called out on CBC, what I think is more important is to demonstrate the role that women would play in the caucus. Highlight the experience and out-of-parliament experience that our main members have. Harper's cabinet is a shell of wind-up clown musical boxes. He is also frightened of using more than one or two at a time. The only star candidate i've heard of that is very possible for a Con point of view is Hillier, which would put two 'A' type personalities, well, one with a personality the other with a Vista Home version;^) at the top of a real miserable heap.

Anonymous said...

Hm...so the Tories have a strong leader and a team of incompetent yes-men. The Liberals have a very weak, incoherent leader, but some big names in the shadow cabinet.

I'll just take the best of both worlds - the NDP has a very strong, dynamic, popular leader in Jack Layton AND they also have a caucus full of strong performers (ie: Davies, Cullen, Siksay, Martin, Blaikie, Nash, Chow, Angus, Mulcair, MacDonough, Stoffer etc... just to name a few)

Anonymous said...

And, the NDP have - policies and attitudes right out of the 70's. They really do need to move to the 21st century.

Gayle said...

One of the pundits, I think on the At Issue panel, commented that the liberals are finally starting to look like a government in waiting. Your idea would emphasize that point.

I am not sure about Dryden in Justice though... :)

I would comment that in Edmonton Centre the Liberal candidate is a man named Jim Wachowich. His family are well known in Edmonton, particularly in legal circles. He would probably get positive press and has a real chance at winning the seat back from Laurie Hawn. He is also a well-known cosumer advocate. He probably could not jump into a senior cabinet position like Anne McLellan did, but it could not hurt his campaign if voters knew he would be in some cabinet post.

knb said...

gayle, I'd put Dryden in Social Justice or Development.

Steve V said...

I was just throwing out names. One other point to consider, and this goes to the more targets for the Cons to smear comments, it would show that the Liberal MP's are open, while the Cons are muzzled. It could really contrast nicely with the message control, or at the least, force some negativity with the press, as Liberals are available to comment on policy matters, while the Cons rely on directives from the war room. The Liberals present people, the Cons present fancy backgrounds and scripts.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they can propose Bob Rae as Finance Minister and take advantage of his great reputation for sound fiscal management!!

Steve V said...

As compared to Flaherty, the guy who lied about his own fiscal management. Put anyone beside the angry little troll, and they would shine. Anyways.... the boring anon speaks.


One other thought, once we have a full slate of candidates, the party could identify which new one's have a proper background to be considered for certain positions. In this way, you could target a few seats, held by other parties, letting the local voters know, that should they vote for this candidate, he/she would have considerable influence in government. Unseating MP's isn't an easy task, adding clout to potential MP's might sway, or at least draw more attention.

RuralSandi said...

Boy, when you look at it, the Liberals really do have an impressive caucus.

And, the current caucus had absolutely nothing to do with adscam and the CPC can't continually use that ridiculous rant - actually, people I've spoken to are truly bored with that - it's done, over.

The Jurist said...

(T)he party could identify which new one's have a proper background to be considered for certain positions. In this way, you could target a few seats, held by other parties, letting the local voters know, that should they vote for this candidate, he/she would have considerable influence in government. Unseating MP's isn't an easy task, adding clout to potential MP's might sway, or at least draw more attention.

Isn't the converse also true though? If you name a cabinet-in-waiting in advance, then every voters in every riding whose candidate doesn't make the cut will rightly perceive that they're going to have no say.

RuralSandi said...

I meant to add to Anon: NDP's Blaikie and McDonough will not be running in the next election - they are retiring.

Besides, the NDP are more like the neighbourhood snoop - they are always snooping like blue haired gossip ladies.

WesternGrit said...

MPs outside of Ontario? Are you serious? We have Ralph Goodale (MP of the year in 2005/6?). Then their is Ujjal Dosonjh (former BC Premier AND federal cabinet minister). We have a PLETHORA of candidates on the East coast with federal experience (too numerous to name). We also have several stars in the Greater Vancouver area which have been huge talents OUTSIDE of politics (not life-long Conservative back-room hacks like our PM - and that includes the NCC), and have strong provincial and municipal electoral experience.

It's no contest. You lose. Keep talking about Mr. Bungles.

WesternGrit said...

Far and Wide: Nice idea, with one sticky point: Elections often identify your superstars. People very often shine on the pulpit, and as a result probably work into a ministerial role. We have so many people who are talents OUTSIDE of political life, that our "cup literally runeth over".

With so many potential stars, you want to ensure that they all have a fair shot at becoming ministers in government - and not name the few names that you know in advance. How would you attract more stars to the party, if you've already decided on your cabinet? You would hope that they would still run, but seriously, a real heavy-hitter that deserves a cabinet role (let's hypothetically assume a Danny Williams) would definitely want to know there is a shot. Besides, if any of these "stars" lose, it's quite a laughing matter for the opposition... They would probably target all of them HARD to crumble the whole theory...

But... it is a good idea in principle. I think the "critic" route is best. I'm confident these people will step to the forefront on these matters. Besides, the media knows where the stars lie. The Canadian public too...

Anonymous said...

"NDP's Blaikie and McDonough will not be running in the next election - they are retiring."

Blaikie is the only member of the current NDP caucus who is retiring (compare that to the vast number of Liberal MPs who are bailing out). MacDonough has already been renominated to run again and she has stated numerous times that she plans to keep running until the day she dies.

Steve V said...

" How would you attract more stars to the party, if you've already decided on your cabinet?"

That could cut both ways, you could attract star candidates if you told them they would have a portfolio.


jurist

"Isn't the converse also true though? If you name a cabinet-in-waiting in advance, then every voters in every riding whose candidate doesn't make the cut will rightly perceive that they're going to have no say."

That's true. But, if you take that to its final conclusion, then you could argue there is no sense voting for anyone who wouldn't be part of the cabinet, like NDP candidates ;)

Anonymous said...

McDonough must have changed her mind because I saw her interviewed by Katherine Clark on CPAC just a couple of months ago and she said she was going to retire and spend more time with her kids/grandkids.

Layton must have talked her into staying.

The so-called vast number of Liberals retiring - just take a look at their ages - late 60's most of them. Doesn't mean a thing. They realize it's time for new blood.

The "only" two NDP's I respect are Blaikie and Comartin - the rest are just activists and/or unionists.

We couldn't afford an NDP government - triple the taxes probably.

janfromthebruce said...

We couldn't afford an NDP GOVT - TOO EXPENSIVE. Well, considering it was two NDP govts - provincially (with the exception of the Bob Rae Ont govt)- that were the first to get out of deficit (even before the fed lib govt) in the mid 90s, one should base their conclusions on FACT, rather than fantasy, and drinking their party's koolade.
Them are the facts, mame!

Calgary Junkie said...

Okay, how is this going to work in practice, over a 36 day campaign ?

The media will be on Dion's campaign plane/bus, following him along from place to place. The media will expect Dion to make policy announcements, hold daily press conferences, hold impromptu scrums (to react to events unfolding elsewhere), give stump speeches, and the like.

Dion will be the go to guy for whatever is happening during the campaign. The media will not try and track down Ignatieff/Rae/whoever for a reaction. It's too much trouble for them.

Unless you guys have Ignatieff and a few others tagging along with Dion ? But the optics of that are questionable.

You guys are just going to irritate the media, if you change the rules they are used to.

Anonymous said...

Gary Doer is okay, but he does cut corporate taxes - not a thing Layton likes.

Didn't the NDP have problems in BC?

Mushroom said...

Maybe the Grits should set these debates rule come election time and put less emphasis on Dion.

Emerson v. Rae on Foreign Affairs.

Martha v. Flaherty on Finance.

Wilfert v. MacKay on Defence.

McGuinty v. Baird on the Environment.

Forget about inviting Layton and Duceppe to the televised debates. They can't form government.

The thing about this concept is will Harper let his ministers go into a CBC Town Hall meeting and embarrass themselves? Or are we changing the debate rules to reflect the leadership polls?

Steve V said...

"You guys are just going to irritate the media, if you change the rules they are used to."

Huh? Surely, you can come up with something better than that. Why wouldn't the media seek out others, they do it EVERYDAY now.

Möbius said...

I love that Volpe/Coderre tag-team!

North of 49 said...

I've got another angle on Jurist's question: "Isn't the converse also true though? If you name a cabinet-in-waiting in advance, then every voters in every riding whose candidate doesn't make the cut will rightly perceive that they're going to have no say."

Good point. But in my riding, the Liberal candidate is one I'd prefer to see out of politics altogether. I'll probably vote strategically, for him, just to make sure the Cons don't get the seat, but it will be a nose-holding exercise.

On the other hand, if I knew that a Liberal win would put certain other better candidates into Cabinet, I could vote for him with less revulsion and more enthusiasm.

So there's another up-side.

Steve V said...

"I love that Volpe/Coderre tag-team!"

Yawn.

knb said...

Steve: Huh? Surely, you can come up with something better than that. Why wouldn't the media seek out others, they do it EVERYDAY now.

Precisely. I'm sure they are chomping at the bit to get something, anything to report on.

So my question to you is this. Can we get this in place for Monday?

I know the answer of course, but there is something in me that would love to take them down then. Harper's off his game and I'm not sure now is not a good time to go.

Steve V said...

knb

You hawk you ;) It is a good time, when you consider the inner circle is in flux, they don't expect an election. Truthfully, I've just resigned myself to the fall, but what you're saying is intriguing.

Mushroom said...

"Can we get this in place for Monday?"

knb,

The team is already in place. You can start paralyzing the House on Monday through filibustering. Something the Grits aren't even thinking of starting at this moment :(

knb said...

Doves have claws too...not talons perhaps but the older we grow, the tougher they get.

Seriously, if we could do this on Monday it would be brilliant.

I too doubt it will happen, but I think we might be missing something here.

Harper's in the midst of a cabinet shift and policy paucity.

I think it could work.

knb said...

mushroom, well, maybe we should push that. We still have Sunday.

I'm serious here. I think you're right in terms of a filibuster. I fear Lib's would be loathe to do that, lest they be compared to the Con's, but it would show strength.

All in favour, write your MP tonight and tomorrow.

Mushroom said...

knb,

Monday's main agenda in Parliament is movement towards Final Reading of the budget, which includes the contentious immigration reforms. My local MP will support a filibuster, but he is an NDPer anyway. In fact, I expect the NDP to start a filibuster soon.

Also note that I expect Harper to shut down Parliament between now and June 20 to avoid any further confidence motions. He will also not recall Parliament until after the Conservative policy convention, knowing full well the House will fall immediately after the Fall Throne Speech. The Cons expect some damage for doing this, but they have come into the realization that the Government cannot limp until Fall 2009.

Steve V said...

"Harper's in the midst of a cabinet shift and policy paucity."

While the summer might allow Dion and the Liberals time to get their message out, it doesn't happen in isolation, the Conservatives can also retool and come up with some new policy. In some ways, it's hard to imagine the government going through a tougher patch, then they have the last couple of months. I try to think of it from the Con side, when Parliament shuts down for the summer, there will be relief, which actually speaks volumes.

RuralSandi said...

I wouldn't put it past Harper to have some (secret) policies he's saving "just in case". I wouldn't be surprised if he wanted to opposition parties to believe there's nothing there.

The Liberals could stress the amount of talent and would have no problems filling the cabinet positions at all - but not say who in what position.

Gayle said...

I am confident Harper has policies he will hang onto until the election. He needs to run on something, and good government is not it.

Möbius said...

Yawn.

And I thought the left had no sense of humour.

Desperate times.

The Pundits' Guide said...

Looks like ruralsandi scooped the former NDP Leader on a Liblog ...

Alexa to leave federal politics

(link will probably only be good for 7 days)