Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Staying Ahead Of The Curve

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.


Robert McClelland said...

Sales of existing homes do almost nothing for the economy. The only thing they add is via the commissions to the realtors and that effect is miniscule in an economy the size of Canada's.

Meanwhile, StatsCan reports today that manufacturing sales were down another 6%.

LMA said...

Agreed, the timing is right for Ignatieff to start promoting a new green economy for Canada. This is the perfect unity and global policy issue. Also, he has been far too vague with respect to statements about "cleaning up" the Tar Sands. We need a leader to guide us through the climate change that is coming.

Yappa said...

I hope you're right, but I don't think you are. The economy is going to continue to get worse for at least eight more months, and will only grow as an issue. After that we may (possibly) see some light (if the stimulus isn't so mishandled that we wind up with inflation). The last thing we need is to face an election for a second time with an environmental platform that the public is not in the mood for. That's not to say that we shouldn't be moving on environmental initiatives, just that they shouldn't be front and center in an election platform.

Steve V said...

"The last thing we need is to face an election for a second time with an environmental platform that the public is not in the mood for."

I think you misunderstand, it's not a rehash. What we lacked last time was a compelling economic component to our environmental plan. People understand that the old economy is in decline, offering a comprehensive move to a green economy provides a path to future growth. We're already behind on this score, so a plan with some sense of urgency can weave environmental concerns with new jobs.

Anonymous said...

The national daycare fiasco should NOT be part of the Liberal platform - not now and probably not ever.
It is a $10 billion black hole already in Quebec and this is provincial jurisdiction. Ditto early childhood learning and all of those provincial/municipal apple pie issues.
It freaked me out that Ignatieff mentions these as his priorities. If so, he is in the wrong level of government. The feds should not micromanage provincial issues.
And as far as retraining and post secondary education - like how much more money needs to go into that as a new $5 billion is being rolled out now.
He must stay away from provincial issues.
I think a clean water strategy like stopping sewage being dumped into the ocean from Victoria, the Great Lakes, etc. is a joint issue that "holds water" and people could get behind.
Also, for foreign aid - become the country that provides wells and clean water for the 3rd world.
What do you think?

Steve V said...

Sound like good ideas for sure. Beyond that though, I'm of the mindset that their will be one and only issue in the next campaign, everything else window dressing. The Liberals need a compelling argument on the economy, how we modernize and set ourselves up to compete in the future. Particularly in areas of the country where old industry is dying, never to return, people will be looking for direction on the economy, how you're going to create new jobs.