Friday, September 11, 2009

Risk Vs Reward

Ambiguity is the preferred option, based on past political experience. Last election, none of the parties accepted a deficit as inevitable, common sense the casualty, for the most obvious of reasons. This election, the stage is set for another denial fest, in the name of not rocking the boat, "laying low" so to speak. I get it, and you can understand the vagueness, given the media climate, given strategic consideration. However, I would submit that Flaherty's lastest fiscal update provides the Liberals with an opportunity to seize this ground, to update their own rhetoric.

I'm not sure if people have noticed, but whenever the government receives criticism for their horrible predictive record on the deficit, or the sheer mass, any discussion is accompanied with an equally dismissive characterization of the Liberal position. In other words, the Liberals don't really gain much when Flaherty doesn't offer a detailed plan for tackling debt, because we are offering equally "murky" rhetoric. This explains, and it's about time we realized it, why the Conservatives still enjoy a healthy lead on managing the economy, dealing with the deficit. Given the circumstances of late, we really shouldn't see any Conservative preference, it speaks to our own failure to emerge from the shadows.

The deficit numbers are a serious issue, that requires a mature and sober response from the Liberals, if they hope to "own" this turf in any meaningful way. The latest figures provide an opportunity for us, because there is a growing hunger to see someone recognize reality, rather than dodging and weaving on specifics. It isn't a "plan" for Flaherty to defer decisions for another day, that's a copout. That copout sticks if we echo that wishy washy stance, we give the Conservatives a pass by being equally evasive on specifics.

Again, there is risk, you can hear the Conservative rebuttals, in a sense you put a target on your back. But, the alternative is to voluntarily take a chief criticism of this government off the table by appearing similar. You can hammer the government for their numbers, the depth of the deficit, but it rings hollow at a certain point, if you cling to simple political considerations, rather than admitting the elephant in the room. Whatever traction the Liberals get from the latest Flaherty boner is fleeting, it lacks stamina because it's followed by a critique of our own inability to DEAL.

We can amend what we've said to date, without appearing as though we've changed our tune. These new figures and prolonged deficit have given us a free shot at a internal revision. I'd take it, because I believe the political landscape is finally ready for a little sober reflection.


Scott in Montreal said...

I think Ignatieff wants to focus on the credibility issue and not get into promises he can't keep either. The health of the world economy has too great and impact on federal spending. Flaherty's stimulus spending was done at the opposition's behest, and then the ownership of a portion of GM made it balloon even further. Criticize Flaherty too much on deficit projections and you might as well say the same for Obama, which no one in Canada wants to do, (or more importantly, deny)

Steve V said...

Well, if we can't go after them on the deficit, we're left with the improving economy. So, effectively we've ceded the entire issue, not smart.

ottlib said...

In politics as in life timing is everything.

We saw what happened to Stephane Dion when he released his plans for the Green Shift way before the last campaign.

The same thing would happen if the Liberals release their plans for reducing the deficit now.

The Conservatives would just love to be able to turn the channel on what has become the week from hell for them and we all know that there are many in the media who would love to assist them.

Good on the Liberals for resisting the pressure to help out the Conservatives.

Steve V said...

I don't think the carbon tax bears any resemblance to this circumstance. We're not putting a dent in the Con numbers on the economy, THE primary election issue, so the question becomes... A little honesty here. Not necessarily taxes, but a credible spending reduction plan. We either get on par with these guy on the economy or we lose the election.

ottlib said...

One more thought.

I would love to see an adult conversation on how to eliminate the deficit. One with a minimum of rhetoric and hyperbole, filled thoughtful analysis so that we can come up with options on how to do it.

Perhaps we could then come up with a plan to eliminate it that mitigates any damage the plan would cause and spreads what damage that cannot be avoided in an equitable fashion amongst Canadian society.

However, we all know that it is a pipe dream. Any discussion will be nothing but rhetoric and hyperbole, along with lies, deceit and general dishonesty from many quarters.

So, no substative plan will be coming from any of the parties if they can avoid it.

Sad really.

Steve V said...

And, that's why nobody knows what we stand for, always afraid to stick our head up. I think, on this issue, the mood is ripe for some frank talk.

ottlib said...


I don't disagree with you but we all know that the frank talk will be filtered through the media.

They gave up on substance a long time ago and they would just concentrate on whether speaking so frankly is good strategy or not and then parrot the talking points of the Liberals' opponents.

The message would be lost in a miasma of political and media bullshit, actually causing the Liberals harm instead of helping them and not really giving Canadians a true idea of what the Liberals really plan to do.

Considering that reality I can understand why the Liberals are being circumspect about releasing their plan to bring down the deficit.

I am hoping the Liberals have a plan with actual substance to it and I hope that they release at some point before the election. However, I also believe that they are going to have to do some groundwork first to prepare the media for what is coming.

And that is what I am disappointed with the Liberals about. I have not seen any of that preparation to date. With a probable campaign only weeks away I would think they had better get started.

Steve V said...

We do agree in one sense. The media laments the dumbing down, timid nature of today's politics, but that only came about as a reaction to the depth of their coverage.

It's hard to find the balance.

Steve V said...

Ignatieff will give a speech next week at the Canadian Club where he will supposedly offer more details on slaying the deficit. That should be interesting.

Jerry Prager said...

It's all timing, slow release, gathering monemtum, a vision to be unfolded in due process, before the pyschotics who run the Conservative can Fox news twist the message in that particularily malicious way they have of attempting to destroy their enemies, or before they can Duffyize their response and deliver it swaddled it in blue sweaters all malice concealed like a rock in a snowball. Timing.

Jerry Prager said...

Scott: Flaherty is best compared to Kevin Page. An ad perhaps, "it's not impossible to do better." Flaherty's predictions versus Page's more accurate predictions: 'we' as Canadians, rather than 'we as Liberals able to do what some claim is impossible. All you need is a willingness to be accurate rather than misleading.