Thursday, June 05, 2008

Okay I'll Bite

The Toronto Star has another story, which details the internal Liberal debate about whether to force an election now or wait:
A mild case of summer-election fever is gripping the Liberal caucus, with some MPs convinced conditions are ripe to bring down Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government.

But Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion is so far resisting the calls, sticking with the rough plan to provoke a fall election instead.

Sources say the Liberal caucus meeting yesterday was punctuated with discussion about whether to pull the plug on Harper's government and plunge the country into an election campaign, with voters going to the polls around mid-July.

The election-now debate was reportedly pointed earlier this week when Dion met with the inner circle of caucus, known as the "priorities and planning" group of MPs. It's said that the major contenders in the Liberal leadership race, including deputy leader Michael Ignatieff and foreign affairs critic Bob Rae, were forcefully presenting the case to trigger an election sooner rather than later.

Debate at Liberal caucus yesterday centred on whether the party should seize this moment – when Conservatives are looking weak and besieged – to spring an election on Harper

Earlier in the year, when we heard talk of an election, Dion was apparently in the "hawk" camp, but had deferred to those in his inner circle that argued patience. This story tends to suggest that Dion is now committed to waiting, which is disappointing.

The article mentions one point, which mirrors my own concerns about waiting:
There's a sense in Liberal strategy circles that the government is in trouble and transition – that giving the government a few more months will just help Conservatives consolidate and do damage control.

It is fine to argue that the Liberals can use the summer to sell their policy ideas, allow Dion time to make his case, improve fundraising and election readiness. I have little doubt, that should Dion release an ambitious environmental plan, it will allow him to stay on the front page, always a challenge for an opposition leader in the quiet summer months. There is an opportunity for improving Liberal fortunes, especially if one considers events outside of their control, namely the economy.

The real problem with this plan, the Liberals don't act in isolation. It isn't as though the Conservatives stand still during this time, they do are also provided time to retool, regroup and develop a clear strategy for the fall. Couple that reality, with the clear understanding that the government tends to do better when Parliament isn't sitting, has the luxury of scripted announcements, and you see a counter balance to the idea of rising Liberal fortunes. In one sense, this summer allows Harper to reassert the "control" he has clearly lost at present. If the rumors are true, Parliament may not reconvene until as late as November, providing ample time to get the Conservative message back on track.

Speaking of November, it just so happens that the Liberals will have a convention the following month, which means, should Harper delay the return of MP's, there is a very small window to force an election, prior to that convention. I don't know about anybody else, but I see potential "issues" arising at that convention, as the media scours Liberal circles looking for a juicy leadership quote. The convention isn't supposed to be about Dion, but it doesn't take much imagination to see how a few mischievous discontents could change the theme. Yesterday, I heard mention of Liberals trashing their leader at an Ottawa garden party, true or not, no one is naive enough to think that Dion has a firm hold. Do we risk the prospects of waiting so long, that we enter another phase of discontent? Does anyone put it past Harper to delay Parliament, so it forces that convention before an election?

What I'm saying, there is risk moving forward, in a way by waiting, we lose control. It is hard to imagine another time in the future where the government is so off its game, in transition, bereft of ideas, basically in damage control mode, trying to play out the clock until the summer break. If you ask Conservatives if they will be glad when this session is over, their obvious answer tells us a great deal about whether it is wise to go now or wait.

Nobody can predict the future, Liberal prospects may improve, but just as likely, any "gains" will be offset by Conservative positives, meaning, at best, the electoral map will look much the same, with the negative current government predicaments a distant memory. I prefer the known, to the theoreticals of the future. Time will tell...

24 comments:

catherine said...

How accurate can a newspaper story about who wants an election be? Okay, there could be someone leaking, but leakers aren't necessarily straight-shooters. Or, there could be a purposeful leak, in which case the opposite is probably true.

If there were some leaks about the Liberals aiming for an election that Harper believed, then the whole Cadman doctored tape press release would make sense. You don't want to release that stuff during an election when it will be even more obvious that you are just trying to save your own skin.

I guess we will see.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Dion here, why have an election in the summertime when people are not paying attention? A fall election is far more prudent. I want to see Harper run out of Ottawa as much as the next guy, but as Dion is showing, Harper keeps digging himself a bigger hole with each passing day.
A fall election on Dion's terms, not an election on Harper's terms.

Steve V said...

"A fall election on Dion's terms, not an election on Harper's terms."

You would describe right now, as "Harper's terms"? To assume Dion's terms moving forward, fails to compute what Harper does moving forward.

catherine

The article mentions one MP by name, and we already know that many in the caucus want an election. What I find really curious, Rae arguing for one, considering he was the one preaching patience just prior to his election. Interesting that.

Anonymous said...

Did you send your article to the OLO? If not, why not?

Maybe the vote tonight will represent one of the 1st times there has been a double confidence vote. It would be interesting if the Liberal members just decided to show up to vote tonight, even if the Whip is turning them away.

I bet no one would be more surprised than Jack Layton. All of the tough talk from the NDP would be put to an end if the entire Liberal caucus rolled in just as the last bell rang for the vote. Same for the BQ.

It would be even better if Dion decided that HE wanted to go. It would be amazing to see a packed opposition side of the house behind Dion (for once) when the vote is taken tonight.

A real winner of an image of a leader. Dion standing in front of ALL of his troops and saying for the whole nation to see that "Enough is enough!!! We are bringing you down!!"

Instead, we will probably be left watching as 4-5 Liberals sit in front of a bunch of empty seats.

Pathetic.

There is nothing like a campaign to focus the issues, fundraising, and motivation.

With one masterful move, Dion could put an end to the charade that has been going on from the weakened Bloc and NDP, who have been blustering away against the Liberals.

If Dion does not take this opportunity, I am afraid that he will have lost all hope of remaining leader. He has had two years to get this boat going in the right direction and to have a plan ready for this moment. For God's sake, this is a minority government! Why wouldn't we be ready whenever the hat drops?

Here's to sanity prevailing and fate letting us get down to the business of removing this awful government and installing a government that actually believes in Canada!!!

Socially Active said...

Very well said Far and Wide and I agree.

Koby said...

Yes the Conservatives are flat right now. Yes the Conservative will come back reenergized after the break. This will be especially so if they bring parliament back only after the Conservative convention. However, no the Liberals should not go right now. If you go province by province riding by riding there is very little evidence that the Liberals would win an election right now. Whatever gains they might make in the 905 are more than offset by Conservative gains in Quebec. Liberal support has not budged outside of Maritimes, the 416 and parts of the 905. Indeed, there is pretty good evidence that it has gone down in “the West” and Quebec.

The consequences of an election loss are just too high for the party. A lose would mean another leadership race and more importantly the party would have no money to fight another election anytime soon. The Liberals have enough max out this time around, but after that the cupboard is bare. If you think things are bad now, imagine how effective a Liberal party will be when they are truely broke and in the midst of the leadership race. Forget a death by thousand cuts; the Conservatives would look to disgorge great gobs of flesh.

The best thing that could happen to the Liberals right now is lively and raucous Policy convention, where Liberal orthodoxy and complicacy are overturned.

Anonymous said...

I worry about Dion's lack of coverage in the press on his important policy pronouncements. There was virtually nothing on his speech on infrastructure spending.

Steve V said...

"If you think things are bad now, imagine how effective a Liberal party will be when they are truely broke and in the midst of the leadership race."

Herle was on the CBC, and said we are broke now, and will remain so until there is an election. Herle said the only time the Liberals will be on a level financial footing is during an election.

As for the electoral map, I would love someone to show me how it gets better moving forward, more likely it will be the same crap shoot no matter when we go. Are we expecting a revival in Quebec? We're up now in Ontario, the East looks good, and British Columbia will always be about the election. Where else? I mean, if we follow the logic, of an election loss, with a broke party, Harper given a free reign, how is that different from NOW? This is where we are, it isn't about to change substantially, we are just delaying the inevitable. We would already be in the next phase now, rather than delaying it. Everything people offer to not go now will largely be the same moving forward.

We are currently in the worst period of this government, unless you think it erodes further (are we not a core Conservative numbers now?), which it won't over the summer, then what exactly are we waiting for?

Steve V said...

"I worry about Dion's lack of coverage in the press on his important policy pronouncements."

The one caveat to that, and something I cling too on the positive side, if this carbon plan is as advertised, Dion will get plenty of headlines.

Steve V said...

Another thing to consider, have Dion's leadership numbers gone up or down since the new year? What is the Liberals greatest liability right now? Has this strategy addressed that liability, or has it only reinforced the negative stereotypes about the leader? Relevant that, while the Cons have stumbled, we have largely failed to capitalize. We have concurrent themes, Cons mired in various scandals, while a weak opposition cowers and looks ineffective.

Anonymous said...

Nothing is more compelling than a principled position. This is the time to bring this Tory government down.

Steve V said...

"Nothing is more compelling than a principled position."

There's a certain irony in not voting based on principle, so you can spend the summer selling your principles.

Koby said...

Yes let us play Russian roulette now because we might have to play it sometime down the road. The payoff is small and the risks huge.

As for party being broke, yes the broke is already broke. However, the Liberals have enough held in reserve so they will not be outspent by the Conservatives during the next campaign. The Liberals will spend the max. Herle makes this clear. The problem is if the Liberals loose the next election, not only will they be broke and in the midst of a leadership race, they do not have anything left to put towards another election campaign.

What I hope happens is that Liberals use the policy convention in December as a platform for spring of 2009 election. Of course, my personal basis shows through here. You generally seem to like the Liberal platform and I think it is the dog’s breakfast. For me the Liberals are the least worst option. I am hoping that the Liberals introduce some policies that I might like in December, but I am beginning to think I am waiting for Godot.

Steve V said...

"The problem is if the Liberals loose the next election, not only will they be broke and in the midst of a leadership race, they do not have anything left to put towards another election campaign. "

Koby, I guess the question is, will they still be broke come the fall? The answer is yes, so what's the difference? You're arguing what will happen afterwards, as though waiting changes that, it doesn't. Does anyone really believe come the fall the polls will show the Liberals at 37%, the Cons 30%? I don't see it.

Koby said...

>>>>> Does anyone really believe come the fall the polls will show the Liberals at 37%, the Cons 30%? I don't see it.”

I do not see it either. I do not think a carbon tax --- sorry tax shift --- will provide the Liberals with a bounce. Indeed, I can not think help but think of Warren Kinsella’s quip about carbon tax when the idea was first floated and the perimeters were not as clear. “Think gas is expensive now. Want to be pay more? Vote Liberal.” However, it is pretty clear that Canadians are not enamored with the Harper government, the economy is going south and good god the Liberals only roll up their selves in December they might be able to convince the party to vote give them a minority government. Call me a critical optimist.

Steve V said...

"Call me a critical optimist."

I have my moments too.

Blues Clair said...

Sometimes I think the best thing that could of happened for the Liberals was that the Conservatives won a slim majority back 2006. That would of given the Liberals 4 years to get their shit together without all the distractions, humiliations and abstaintions of this minority situation. It is going to be about three years of Conservative rule anyways... what matter would it of been another year, considering that the Conseratives have a good chance of winning the next election. That being said I don't think people realize what a difficult situation the Liberals find themselves in.

Mushroom said...

"What I find really curious, Rae arguing for one, considering he was the one preaching patience just prior to his election."

The incentive for Rae in wanting to go now is enormous. He has:

1) paid down all his leadership debts

2) re-energized the Grit caucus in less than three months

3) gets the opportunity to campaign on issues he is the strongest in: the weak Ontario economy and Finley's immigration reforms. Both issues that are paramount in Etobicoke-Lakeshore and Toronto Centre.

"If Dion does not take this opportunity, I am afraid that he will have lost all hope of remaining leader."

I think Dion has retreated into doing what he is most comfortable in. He will have a duelling op-ed in the National Putz tomorrow against John Baird with regards to a carbon tax. This is the same tactic he employed in the Clarity Act debate. I presume this will boost his leadership numbers somewhat.

Socially Active said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"(Rae) gets the opportunity to campaign on issues he is the strongest in: the weak Ontario economy"

Huh??? Since when is Rae of all people "strong" on the issue of the weak Ontario economy??? If anything that is the issue that is his biggest liability since the biggest knock against him was that he ran the Ontario economy into the ground in the early 90s and that he knows NADA about economics

Socially Active said...

I believe there was reason why the Canadian electorate voted for a minority New Conservative Government of Canada. Because they where unsure about the Conservatives under Harper's leadership and expected that there would be an election very quickly if Harper didn't "lead" well and make Canadians satisfied by honest integral leadership. It was a big theme during the election.

I remember in the previous election talking to other parties, and expecting to see each other again in about a years time.

Mushroom said...

"Huh??? Since when is Rae of all people "strong" on the issue of the weak Ontario economy???"

Go to Oshawa at this moment. Ask the members of the blockade there whether they would accept "Rae Days" (four day, 35 hour week) over Flaherty giving Ontarians a reduction of the gas tax (at the cost of going into deficit) as a means to pull the province out of recession. If you choose the latter, then let us ramp up the election machine.

JimmE said...

What do we get the Dippers to agree to & join a vote to bring down the government? Have we not wasted all the issues they might want to fight an election on?

Anonymous said...

"Go to Oshawa at this moment. Ask the members of the blockade there whether they would accept "Rae Days" (four day, 35 hour week) over Flaherty giving Ontarians a reduction of the gas tax (at the cost of going into deficit) as a means to pull the province out of recession."

Funny I don't recall Oshawa voting NDP in the 1995 election in order to express support for the concept of Rae days? In any case that was all about the government imposing a settlement on its own employees.

Wake me up if Bob Rae wants to call for a meeting with the CEO of GM where he puts forth the notion that GM use some version of Rae days as an alternative to shutting down entire plants. I think not