It's almost fair to say the worst is behind us on the economic front. That doesn't mean we won't see more job losses, stagnation, plenty of poor indicators, but there is a sense that we're turning the corner, emerging from the thickest brush. What that means politically- and we already see evidence of this- the government can start sounding more optimistic. It wouldn't surprise me, if we see further positive developments, that Harper and company start taking credit for a recovery on the horizon. Within this climate, nobody expects a robust economy to emerge, so the bar is set quite low for the government to turn meger into substantial.
I suppose that was the great danger in waiting to have an election, the economy would plateau or show signs of health and the opposition's attacks would hold less weight. It's actually starting to go according to script, from the HAWK perspective. What this means, is that while the Liberals can still go after the government for fiscal mismanagement, EI, other economic matters, the Conservatives are now better placed to counter. You can hear the lines, and it's already started-by fall expect a succinct message that conveys better days ahead, this government has lead us through the worst and Canada is "poised". That frame may well resonate with an electorate who's optimism is already rising.
For the Liberals, we need to stay ahead of the news and develop a detailed approach about how Canada does emerge, what do we want it to look like in the new economy, what are the policies to put us back in the black. Simply criticizing won't do, and the benefits of a government continually battered by absymal economic numbers has waned. The new battleground that will probably win the next election- who is best equipped, who has the most comprehensive plan, who has a realistic and honest program to return to fiscal health, who best brings a vision for the new jobs. The most obvious idea, the Liberals need to adopt a multi-layered mega theme, all revolving around the idea of the green economy. Yada, yada, every government in the world talks about this now, but behind the rhetoric there's a simple truth- the countries that best identify this economy and learn how to compete, develop ideas, will be the big winners during the recovery period. If the Liberals can develop an approach that draws on all areas to show a consistent thrust in this direction, it will be compelling. On top of that, you deal with the environment, but in a very practical way that speaks to the naked economic concerns that dominate the agenda.
The Conservatives don't really have any vision for the economy, apart from these simplistic notions. All the money being spent, it's a piecemeal, there's no overarching plan to retool the economy in a legible way. It's all bandaids, that only seek to get us through the rough patch, pretty much business as usual after that. The "big" idea deficit provides a real opportunity for the Liberals, because we can articulate a host of policy positions, all working in concert, towards the greater theme. Once Canadians digest the notion that brighter days are ahead, even if timid, then the next consideration moves to things like "5 year plans", looking to a party to show a path that sets us up for continued growth.
I think that's where we're headed, the Liberals need to seize the debate with something challenging, something that has imagination and direction. The green economy is so obvious, hit Canadians will a thousand small concepts, scattered throughout different jurisdictions, that allows Canadians to step back and see all oars in the water with common purpose. Within that, demonstrate a detailed plan to deal with the deficit in a responsible way, and we might start winning confidence. It's no longer about chasing the news, it's now about DIRECTION, that will be the point of distinction.