Saturday, February 28, 2009

When To Go?

Reading Rae's comments, reacting to Harper's paper tiger tough guy routine, he called him "tarzan"(not an attractive characterization, given the scantily clad imagery). The article also speaks to election timing, with these observations:
The likeliest timing for that would be June.

But Queen's University political scientist Kathy Brock said the official Opposition won't be in financial shape for an election before fall.

Fundraising, which staggered under Stephane Dion, is recovering under leader Michael Ignatieff, but not fast enough for a quick election, she said.

However, Jean-Marc Leger, president of Leger Marketing, said forcing an election after June "will be too late" from the Liberals' point of view.

"All the winning conditions are there" for Ignatieff, said Leger, particularly in Quebec.
The two views denote the tension between election readiness and opportune timing. I'm of the view that the Liberals are wrong to fixate on optimal readiness, at the expense of other factors. The question really becomes- can the Liberals fight an election in three months? The answer is yes, there are tools available that will allow the party to spend the maximum, and logistically it is possible. Obviously, the more time, the better, on several scores, but it's entirely possible, and it becomes even more attractive when you plug in the possibility of diminishing returns in other areas.

The government is largely in reactionary mode at the moment, and that dynamic won't change in the near future. There is a danger in giving the Conservatives a few months to retool over the summer, particularly when you consider that Liberal prepardness doesn't occur in isolation. We are being bombarded with staggeringly bad news on the economy, to the point of saturation. One has to wonder if future bad news, that has any hint of relatively mild, will be greeted with some optimism. Numbers and statistics are funny things, because they are constantly measured against other moments in time. If we begin to see indications that the downturn has slowed, a sense that we've reached bottom, certain indicators show lessening carnage, then the Conservative mood will change from defensive, to arguing light at the end of the tunnel. Assuming the economy will be a gift for the Liberals until late fall or early next year is largely a crap shoot, nobody really knows and the prognostications are varied. What we do know with certainty, there will be no silver linings for the next few months, the first and second quarter is largely a known quantity. This reality makes June attractive, in terms of opportunism.

You also can't assume that Ignatieff will enjoy this blitz of media, and largely favorable reviews for an extended period of time. On top of that, we already see signs of the Conservative smear machine, just waiting to pounce, if conditions change somewhat, expect a rash of negativity. Isn't it astute to recognize that timing is the only hesitation, and react prior?

I see a bounce for the Liberals in the lower mainland after the convention, if history is any guide. I see a Liberal leader who enjoys rare air at the moment, largely left to himself to define, clearly positioned to compete with Harper. I see a Conservative inner circle that's unsteady and recalibrating, a government simply trying to ride out the bad news. I see opportunity, and while it's true that time is our friend on one level, that may well be offset by other factors. June deserves serious consideration.

44 comments:

DL said...

I don't see why the Liberal coronation in Vancouver in early May will create any "bounce" at all. It won't get all that much coverage since there is nothing at stake anymore and word has it that the convention won't be well attended. It will also be very much over-shadowed locally by the final stages of the BC provincial election campaign. I don't see much evidence of the location of a convention creating much bounce. Did the Liberals gain ground in the last election in Quebec as a result of Dion being chosen there? Did the Liberals make a breakthrough in southern Alberta as a result of Chretien winning the leadership there?

I also think that the timing of the so-called budget update in June is a non-issue. If Harper doesn't want to face a vote at that time - all he has to do is prorogue Parliament for its usual summer recess in mid June BEFORE any "progress report" on the budget is tabled.

Steve V said...

"Did the Liberals gain ground in the last election in Quebec as a result of Dion being chosen there?"

Yes they did temporarily.

You can scoff if you wish, but three days of a Iggy love in helps, and that just seems self-evident.

DL said...

If the three day "love-in" were May 1-3 and election day were May 7 - that might be true. But just for the sake of argument, let's assume the government falls in late June - we are then looking at an election in early August. The fact that there was a Liberal convention in Vancouver in early May will be ancient history.

PS: There was a "love in" for John McCain in St. Paul, Minnesota - doesn't seem to have helped the GOP in Minnesota.

Steve V said...

I'm not saying the convention is the be all and end all, but you're simply not acknowledging that it can be a great vehicle to define the leader and set a direction. The fact it's in Vancouver, can give another platform to argue an outreach. In terms of timing, the convention should provide a nice starting point, if the Liberals choose to force an election.

As for the McCain analogy, he jumped 10 points in the polls after the convention, so again it sort of shows that yes, conventions, even coronations, can be beneficial. What happens afterwards, is completely unknown, and I recognize it doesn't necessarily stick.

Antonio said...

if harper and co. release a dud economic report at the end of March, the Liberals have no choice but to dump the government in early April and the election is actually in Mid-May.

The convention isnt debating policy and almost all positions for the national exec are uncontested.

Considering the very real problems the party had in getting people to sign Form 6s to be delegates and then asking them to shell out a thousand dollars, the Liberals are better off with an election and a convention by tele-conference afterwards

Steve V said...

Let's put it another way. If you're looking towards the future, what event sticks out as the most high profile opportunity for the Liberals? What event or development will give a cash strapped entity the most free media?

Steve V said...

Antonio

The budget hasn't even passed yet, sort of hard to argue they've failed in March. I don't know if that justification will fly.

Scott Tribe said...

I agree with Antonio: the Convention isn't going to be as high-profile as you think, Steve. No drama.. no apparent policy debates, acclamations/coronations, and rumours that Liberals arent going to shell out money for a non-event. Basing your electoral hopes on this may backfire badly.

Jim Travers of all people is saying the Liberals should dump the Cons now if they continue to threaten an election over their slush fund. I agree with him.. better to go on issues like lack of accountability and lack of transparency then basing your hopes on publicity in June - when it may be not there - or even negative.

Antonio said...

sometime next week (prolly Friday) we will get another job report

If by Late March the money still hasnt left the coffers, its a miserable failure of their probation.

Unless Ignatieff was never really serious about the probation and he really meant Liberal financial probation from their lenders...

Steve V said...

"I agree with Antonio: the Convention isn't going to be as high-profile as you think, Steve."

It will be the most high profile event the Liberals will have. You can argue degree, but that's a simple fact.

I dont recall the Bloc convention having much drama, and I don't think it much accident there numbers suddenly improved after...

Steve V said...

Besides, it's not like the convention is the ONLY factor here, for a June preference.

Antonio said...

the bloc had a convention?

DL said...

Hey, i just had a thought. Since Ignatieff seems to represent a bit of a lunge to the right compared to Dion - what better way to take advantage of that than to dovetail the Liberal convention in Vancouver with the BC election campaign. Why not get Gordon Campbell to give a key-note speech to the convention and embrace Ignatieff in public and then have Ignatieff campaign all through BC for Campbell and sing his praises as a great Premier and make it clear that under Ignatieff BC voters can rest assured that the federal Liberals are going to be just like the BC Liberals!!

WesternGrit said...

DL: I believe that is errr "in the cards" for the big show.

I think the Convention will not be as big as past ones (certainly, with no "race", etc.), BUT, Vancouver is one of the key territories we want to grow in. Greater Vancouver is ripe for the picking Liberal/liberal territory. While we can somewhat "count on" a solid chunk of votes from GTA/Ontario, and the region around Montreal... AND the Atlantic... the West is an area we need to grow.

I wouldn't see a huge benefit for a Convention in, say, Calgary, for immediate local growth. Vancouver, on the other hand, presents a solid opportunity. If the Convention is not all about groups sequestered in "staging rooms", getting ready for a group march into the convention center, etc., etc., then there is a LOT of time for PR, and local engagement. Michael will have a ton of time for local media interviews.

Don't worry about "attendance". We'll fill it up with locals - just like the "Farewell Jean" events were packed in the ACC in Toronto in 05. And we WANT to bus in a bunch of locals (I'll be looking to organize that right here in Surrey). The convention will be a "full house" for the media. It will be a "sell out".

We can work on engaging the locals, in pubs, nightclubs, and around town - something we Liberals do very well when we "come to town" in a convention. I'll be looking to promote some Liberal Swag. There will be LOTS of time for PR - which may be a good thing.

I'm sure we'll still get the full Newsworld and CPAC coverage. CTV will probably mention in in their 10min rotating newsclips on Newsnet.

Scott Tribe said...

The frame is there Steve, for Iggy to say that the Conservatives have failed their probation. We objected to their slush fund and no accountability, and offered them a way to step back from the precipice (and this after Harper threatens the opposition with going to an election), and yet they refused.

Why should we let them off the hook again (and this of their own making) over hoping we get some rah-rah publicity in Vanvoucer in a few months that may not even turn out?

Antonio said...

I still want to know why the Liberals put harper on probation if there is no penalty for violating that probation

DL said...

I was actually being sarcastic about Ignatieff appearing with Gordon Campbell. Right now the federal Liberals in BC are highly dependent on getting at least a segment of the provincial NDP vote. I can guarantee you that the spectacle of Ignatieff embracing Campbell - who is intensely hated by anyone vaguely left of centre in BC would be the kiss of death in those circles. Do you really want to be Ujjal Dosanjh or Hedy Fry or the federal Liberal candidate in places like Vancouver-Kingsway or Victoria etc... and have to fight the next election under a leader who is seen as pro-Campbell??? If Ignatieff actually does that, it will be the sign yet that he wants to compete with Harper for the rightwing vote and that he is giving up on trying to compete with the NDP for the progressive vote. Layton will be laughing all the way to the bank!

The Mound of Sound said...

DL's spot on. Iggy isn't going to get the progressive vote in BC. He's forfeited that to the NDP, leaving him facing an uphill battle to displace Tories. Too bad, it didn't have to be that way.

Jim said...

Steve perhaps you weren't aware but if I'm not mistaken the designated priority policy of the LPC BC that will be debated on the floor of the bienniel convention is called "Legalize and Regulate Marijuana"

If that passes (which it very well could with the convention being in BC and that being the most popular policy to come out of hte BC wing of the party) that story will overshadow the positive love-in of Ignatieff I think.

In fact the story out of the weekend could be that Ignatieff is off-side with the membership on all the major policies that end up being passed.

We don't control the media spin and unless we cancel and hide our policy process like the Conservatives did it's a little difficult to prevent our policy debates from shaping the coverage.

You could say it's not big news if the party members vote to make the legalization of marijuana a top priority when Ignatieff I don't think even supports decriminilazation, but it could create a bad narrative that Ignatieff doesn't care what the grassroots think.

Anthony said...

there is no policy at convention

the resolutions chosen by the party will be debated...and even then, those were submitted last august

DL said...

so, if there is no policy to be discussed at the convention and also no leadership race - won't this be a total waste of time??

Tomm said...

If the LPC dumps the government over the $3B "slush fund" then they are doomed. The public will turn on Ignatieff.

Joe Plumber will see the LPC actions accurately, as a naked grab for power.

LPC will have gains in Quebec, consolidate their control of the Atlantic provinces, keep bastion Toronto and die in the west.

Ignatieff is in his 60's. He will get one good chance to become PM. He can't blow it.

Anthony said...

yes tomm

the tories have a right to hide 3 billion dollars the way they see fit!

I doubt Western reformers will clearly see that as a power grab haha

As for the convention, call me a conspircy theorist but I always thought it would be canceled because the party cant afford to do one.

Jim said...

Anthony you are flat out incorrect.

Each commission and each province submitted a priority policy that WILL go the floor of the convnetion for an up or down vote.

The policies that get voted as priority for each of the online workshops (of which there are 13) will also go to the floor for up or down votes. It's not clear who is going to be able to vote in those online policy workshops, but there will be at least 30 policies to be debated on the floor of the convention (the already designated priorities plus the ones that pass the workshops).

The policies that pass on the floor become official party polcy though the Leader retains a veto on whether they actually go in the election platform.

I'm not sure where you get your info from.

The point remains that the potential is there for Ignatieff having to cast many vetoes on what gets passed and in some cases it could be for policies with overwhelming majority support (like for legalizing marijuana) and the optics of that aren't great and could make for poor media coverage as a result.

Steve V said...

Scott

We're not going in two weeks. Hey, the budget passed yesterday, but we're not satisfied. It's a weak frame, that's why June is the first realistic opportunity.

Jim

You seem the type that just wants to piss on anything that could be positive, so your opinion is pretty much a big whatever as far as I see it.

Oh, same to you Tomm.

DL

I knew it was sarcasm for the record, just not particularly good :)

Catherine said...

DL and MoS, what are you predicting for BC?

Dion had an environmental plan which kicked in sooner and was more comprehensive than the NDP and transferred more money for poverty and low-income than the NDP, and, yet the Liberals had their worst showing in BC since ?? Actually, when were the Liberals last below 20% in BC? It doesn't seem that having a progressive platform gets many votes for the Liberals in BC.

And weren't the provincial NDP at their peak of popularity when they were hammering away at "axe the tax", when studies showed the BC Libs rebate was actually one of the very few progressive things they've done? I don't see the connection you are making. Please explain.

The Mound of Sound said...

I expect the Libs will do fine in Vancouver, the Cons will hold the rest of the mainland and the island, beyond Victoria, will remain NDP. Except for my riding (Nanaimo-Alberni) where we'll likely be unable to get rid of CPC Lunney.

I really don't see Ignateiff making much headway in BC and his fawning over the Tar Sands isn't helping.

Why vote for Iggy when we've already got Harper? If he and his "war room" pull their heads out of their backsides and realize that Canada only needs one conservative party and that the LPC is supposed to be progressive, that could change. But if voters are left to pick the Ingatieff Party of Canada I don't see a lot of people switching.

DL said...

Many people on the left regard the carbon tax as a regressive policy that hits the poor disproportionately. But, I don't think the Liberals got thrashed in BC solely because of the carbon tax. They got thrashed because everything about Dion was the opposite of what BC voters want in a PM. He was seen as incoherent, weak and alien. He became an object of ridicule. Organizationally, the Liberals barely exist in BC outside of a handful of urban seats. People in BC tend to respond well to populism - and Ignatieff is as lacking in that as Dion was - though in a different way.

Steve V said...

Antonio

Sorry, I missed that comment. This "convention"

Catherine said...

Yes, carbon pricing (tax or cap and trade) is regressive, and that point needs to be addressed directly as the Green Shift did.

It is one thing to want Ignatieff to lean to the left because that is where you want Canada to be, but on the matter of winning votes in BC, it seems like the Conservatives saw the most growth in the last election. The Liberals went down 8%, lost 4 seats, and the Conservatives went up 7% and gained 5 seats (the NDP lost one too).

Do people see Harper as populist? It seems so obvious that he is policy-wonk-loner type, with a nasty streak to boot, and anything that presents him as a people-lover is simply a marketing ploy. But, I guess marketing works.

Jim said...

No Steve the point is that the fall might be better than June because the potential for negative fallout from the convention is still there. I don't think the Conservatives got a boost out of their convention last fall did they?

And if you missed my post in the middle I was defending the party policy process against those were lying about it. I have no qualms with how the party is doing the policy process so far and others are saying there won't be policy votes at the convention when that's a lie.

What are your thoughts on the party policy process Steve?

If you want to put me in a corner with trolls I guess that's your perogative but I think I was making a valid point - passing legalization of marijuana is a story for the media that won't play well for us outside BC.

By fall no one will remember our convention the economy will still be tanking and people will be looking more and more for someone to blame then we can throw the bums out.

Steve V said...

I don't see marijuana issue as anything to worry about, particularly in BC and Quebec. I just don't see the big worry that you're presenting.

My point about the fall, we might start seeing some reason for optimism on the economy, indicators better, a sense that we're on the other side. IF, that happens, you don't think Harper will start getting some wind in his sails? Why change governments, when our policies are working, blah, blah, blah. Now, the economy could still well be in the tank, but that's an IF, and by definition a risk. I also think the hesitation to go negative on the Cons part will have waned, and they'll be using their resources against the Liberal. There's an attractive window here, and I'm not sure it's wise to let it pass. March isn't realistic, but June provides a real opportunity.

Jim said...

Well the forecasts are getting worse by the day, I'd be surprised if the economy even shows it's first signs of recovery by the end of 2010, let alone 2009.

It's an if, but by June regardless we'll have a better picture of the likelihood of an economy recovery, but things could still get far far worse - it seems with each new week there are new bankruptcies and market collapses in different parts of the globe.

People aren't using the word depression for no reason, this could really actually last 5-10 years before we can be said to have experienced a "recovery"

Tomm said...

Steve,

I'm not being negative for the fun of it.

$3B amongst a $40B package is peanuts and is imminently defensivle as a hedge or mad money account.

I am dead serious. Ignatieff will have mis-read the mood of the public if he pulls the strings based on this. People do not want a meaningless election.

Unless the media covers the LPC ass, their ass is grass.

Steve V said...

Jim

I don't dispute the economy will be in the tank for some time, but you must concede that many believe it will rebound slightly later this year. It's an IF, whereas now is a known. Another thing to consider, it's not like the Libs operate in isolation, as they prepare for an election. I remember the same conversation last summer, and we allowed the Cons to retool and use the pause to push their agenda.

The Mound of Sound said...

Cathrine, I think you've misred the last election results from BC.

That election was one shrewd call. It was the end of summer. The Tory scandals were as distant in peoples' minds as they were going to get. The opposition was lulled to sleep. And, best of all, Harper was able to frame the election as a referendum on Dion and his Green Shift policy. Yes the Tories did better but how could they have failed in a province where Dion simply did not connect with the electorate?

Ignatieff is no Dion and Harper is fully aware of that. I expect the Libs will do somewhat better here in the next election but it remains to be seen whether that will translate into seat gains.

Joseph said...

The liberals will gain back some vote in BC without a doubt. It may not be enough to win them many seats, though I could see North Van and West Van back in play.

With regards to the "we need a $3 Billion slush fund and we want it NOW!" demands on Harper and Flaherty, I laugh at the prospect of an election over that.

I think Ignatieff just needs to state unequivocally that Liberals will only support the funding with clear oversight processes and an approval process for any projects that receive funds to ensure the projects benefit all of Canada (instead of Harper's electoral needs during an election). If Harper's response to that is "Absolutely Not," I relish the prospect of an election. I would just love the issue in an election would be for Harper to run as the "hell no we don't need any oversight for our non-transparent government" candidate.

I can't imagine better grounds on which Liberals to - rightly - claim that its time to put the adults back in charge of government.

Harper's petulant brinksmanship always sells so well. Hope he really nails it this time.

burlivespipe said...

Tomm, when the media stops covering harpers fat ass (promise more police in 2006 - none delivered; election law, income trusts, accountability et al) then we can talk. Harper is being the one saying 'approve this or we're gonna have an election' and people may still remember his Christmas s**tting the sheets, and tie a can to him. It's just a matter of framing his attempt at papering CON and swing ridings 'liberally' with this $3b swag without having no paper trail, and people will see thru his and YOUR arse-wiping...

Tomm said...

burlivespipe,

How soon you have forgotten the multi-billion dollar slush funds of the LPC governments that got pounded back into "fun stuff" instead of being used to pay down the debt.

Harper has a minority parliament, and much greater accountability. The Liberal's spent it quietly from back rooms with precious little accountability. You are defending that?

Steve V said...

Tomm

The Liberals paid down the debt. Period.

Tomm said...

Steve,

So did the CPC and they used a far greater percentage of the surplus in doing so. The CPC also cut taxes. The first "stimulus" package that the media and the LPC wants to ignore.

Steve V said...

The Liberals cut taxes too Tomm, you might recall the Cons actually reversed the personal income tax that Martin had, raised .5% in their first budget. Hilarious, are you just not well informed, or intentionally being dishonest?

Tomm said...

Steve,

You are right, if Martin had won he had promised to finish his 15.5 to 15% reduction for personal income tax.

He didn't win. He also promised to bring in unviersal day care.

Steve V said...

Tomm

Revenue Canada was already using the 15% figure for 2005, because the government made it effective for 2005 in November. It was raised to 15.5%, effective July 1 by the Conservatives.

And, just what does day care have to do with anything?