I would classify the Ignatieff speech framing as shrewd. While the immediate focus centers around the fact the Liberals have changed their parliamentary strategy, I was struck by the themes Ignatieff developed that look to be the cornerstone of any coming campaign.
The big question, we hear over and over to justify an election- what's the ballot question? Interestingly, there was no ballot question last year, but Stephen Harper's relentless repetitive machine created one and it quickly became acceptable as cause. Ignatieff used a similar tactic today, and it was echoed by all his surrogates. The Liberal justification will be a question of Canada's future.
It is VERY smart for Ignatieff to set a voluntary benchmark, in this case 2017, our 150th anniversary. I've argued before about "5 year plans" and such, this idea fulfills the need to plot a course for the future. In doing so, the Liberals position themselves as the party with a VISION, a characterization that can't be understated, as Canadians wonder about future prosperity. This thrust also allows for a very strong contrast with the Conservatives, who prefer to manage, rather than inspire or set ambitious goals. The Liberals have stepped on the HOPE messaging, without an overt comparison, but it has the potential to appeal in the same way, obvious non-similarities ASIDE. So long as keep repeating ad nauseum, this ballot question will come into focus, it will be our theme.
Ignatieff kept referring to "four years" when he spoke about the Conservatives. I don't think this was by accident, the Liberals are clearly trying to blunt the recent election argument by pulling back and making this a verdict on a much longer tenure in government. Ignatieff used the words often, and they were sprinkled throughout the speech. The intent was obvious, and again it was shrewd.
Ignatieff didn't lay out a platform in this speech, but there is no question he hinted at the policies Liberals will present to the country. Quite passionate on Canadians abroad, aborginal issues, technological advances and innovation in the name of reshaping our economy, etc, etc. Again, not down to the nuts and bolts just yet, but plenty to send signals and give the Liberals some edges.
I had high expectations that this week would turn out to be a good one for the Liberal Party. With the summer lull ended, the boring narratives can fade, if the Liberals use this caucus retreat to change the channel and present strength. What we see, the Liberals have actually been quite busy this summer preparing the ground. A massive ad buy is in the can and ready to go, which speaks to a newfound prowess. We just announced that party membership has exceeded the extremely ambitious 100000 benchmark, announced only a few months ago. A sense that the majority of candidates are almost in place, associations and wings ready. Upbeat MP's, an upbeat leader, coffers full and still filling, it all congeals to give a pretty strong presentation. It's light years ahead of anything I've seen under the Liberal banner since I joined this party.
I think we've set a great tone heading into the fall session. Vision vs division.