Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dicey From The Start

I don't want to address the moral imperatives here, because my personal opinion is in entire agreement with the philosophy. That said, I've had reservations about the Liberals "push" on the abortion question from the start, from a strategic point of view. I do think the Liberals should have challenged the Conservatives sudden concern for women and children, an obvious manipulative ploy to curry favor with a weak demographic. However, instead of addressing the duplicity of cutting foreign aid while concurrently positioning as Bono, the Liberals decided to play wedge politics. In so doing, the debate has centered around a "gotcha" component, and allowed the Conservatives to defend themselves in a way that's actually beneficial, politically speaking.

A little noticed finding earlier in the week reinforced my hesitancy:
The poll indicates fully 74 per cent believed the plan should include government funding for contraception; only 21 per cent were opposed.

But respondents were almost evenly split as to whether Harper's initiative should include funding for abortion services, with 48 per cent opposed and 46 per cent in favour.

What the above shows, a wide chasm between contraception and abortion, resulting in a net benefit for the Conservatives, if positioned to stay ALONE in opposition. In other words, you can score the desired points on the contraception question, but that evaporates as soon as you introduce abortion. 48% of respondents are opposed, the slightest plurality, but legions above the current Conservative support level. Those that oppose are left with one option, the Conservative Party of Canada, whereas the opposition divides the rest. I believe our "thrust" here was tactical, which makes the decision all the more baffling. We didn't have the support on the abortion question, both inside and outside of our caucus. If anything the tension within the Liberal ranks is representative of wider problem, that should have been recognized.

Again, I'm not addressing the moral questions here, merely the strategy. If you accept the premise that the Liberals were motivated by a desire to embarrass the Conservatives (which they clearly were), then within this lens, the whole thing was nuts from the start. There were many different angles to challenge the government on this file, they are hardly credible and this initiative has all the hallmarks of opportunism. Unfortunately, that point is lost, because it is met with equal opportunism.

People are calling for sanctions against the Liberal MP's who didn't support our motion. I understand the frustration, but really it's a distraction, because the real culprit here is a poorly thought out "plan", the inherent pitfalls should have been obvious and the blame lies where it should and has already been articulated. The Liberals were a paper tiger on this issue from the start, and that we plowed ahead DESPITE internal and external cues, is disappointing. Hardly a positive to head into the "thinkers conference" with a "what were they thinking?" debate.

Even if the motion passed last night, politically speaking there was no upside for the Liberals. More succinctly, just as much risk as reward, which made the whole proposition dicey from the start.


Nero Wolfe said...

Maybe the Libs were just trying to make a point.

They believe women should have control over their reproductive choices, and have control of their own body.

There are so many flaws in the initiative, that they could and should have been pointing out.

It was poorly thought out, and poorly presented.

Once again they take the spotlight off Harper, and point it on themselves.

I truly believe if Harper was a better liked and trusted figure the CPC would have that majority now.

Peter Donolo what the hell are you smoking???

That all being said, I think Harper will have us looking like pikers at the G8 Summit.

We are already receiving negative press in Europe over this. They just can't understand Canada anymore.

What they should realize is we have a right wing religious crackpot, for a PM, who probably couldn't find his ass with both hands.

Get ready Canada, ridicule and scorn will once again be heading our way at the G8.

I am ashamed to have such a rube for a PM.

Steve V said...

The trouble is, they make the "point" the entire centerpiece of the argument. It reeks of old school "hidden agenda" stuff, which has NEVER worked, and sure as shit ain't now with four years of reign under his belt. Did we do some internal polling to see if this would fly, or did we just leap forward with tunnel vision? If you look at those numbers I provided, it confirms what I thought, you could actually PUSH people towards the Cons as the only alternative position.

The real downside now, the whole issue is lost. Whenever we rise to address, it will be accompanied with unpleasant reminders. I bet we dump this issue and rarely revisit now.

Liberal Justice said...

The Liberal resolution never made any reference to abortion so these Liberal MPs could have voted for it. Instead, they were disloyal! If we are to form government we must stand behind Ignatieff. These MPs must be punished ... and they will be.

Nero Wolfe said...

That is the problem with the Liberals.

They are so bloody busy tearing themselves apart, and not focusing on what they should be doing.

Providing a credible alternative to the government.

Start acting like a government in waiting.

Call the conservatives, on their handling of the economy, and the finances of the country.

Remind people about there record.
(Adscam aside)

Bluntly ask Canadians if they feel they are better off now than four years ago?

If they can not get their act together, they will be on the opposition benches for a long time spinning their wheels.

The party should pull behind Ignatieff. He is the leader, case closed.

As for some of those MPs, Derek Lee should be in the CPC, where he belongs.

That twit knows he would never be elected as a CPC in Scarborough.

The same goes for Mckay.

Geez Louise, I am a loyal supporter, but even my patience is starting to be tested.

Steve V said...


Given the whole debate, and the lack of clarity prior, it's a bit to convenient to use the "loyalty" card" as excuse. Caucus should have been canvassed to find acceptable language, otherwise don't even introduce. Not excusing the social conservative Libs, but you don't go to war without the troops.

fern hill said...

I've been following polling on abortion for several years now. Every year, the fetus fetishists commission a poll asking Canadians what they think and every year they get pretty much the same answers. An overwhelming majority of Canadians want abortion to remain legal -- high 40% in all cases, low 40% with some restrictions. Only 5% want it made illegal. Angus Reid poll from 2008.

Where the fetus fetishists come closest to an answer they like is on the funding of abortion: 49% think government should fund it, 47% think it should not.

Here is my take on last year's poll.

Canadians are pro-choice.

I don't think this was a bad issue to force at all. The progressive women I know are livid over the Libs' failure to pull it off. It should have been a cake-walk.

If you are interested in the abortion issue in Canada, there is a ton of info here:

Steve V said...

I think that funding result you posted actually highlights my point. What people need to consider, the Libs don't enjoy full support from one side, it's fractured. Put another way, if the Libs were successful, would everybody suddenly vote Lib? Nope. Then you consider the potential downside of congealing the anti behind the Cons, it's a clear loser.

fern hill said...

Steve, don't you remember the brouhaha over C-484 -- the private member's bill to protect the 'unborn', but really a thinly veiled backdoor attempt to recriminalize abortion?

It passed second reading. Because of the Libs. Stéphane Dion was absent eating pink hamburgers to celebrate International Women's Day. (Irony is a bitch, eh?)

Again, progressive women were incensed at the Libs.

It may well have passed, but the Cons tossed it under a bus and called a election. And the 'we will not open the abortion debate' refrain was struck up again.

The Libs definitely have some ground to make up on choice issues. Now more than ever.

Liberal Justice said...

If you asked people whether the government should support funding any government program you'd find many of them barely achieve a plurality of support. It's almost like asking people if they want their taxes lowered, of course they say yes. The point here is that those adamantly opposed to abortion in Canada are part of a radical fringe group. And furthermore, the Liberal resolution was a reasonable resolution, consistent with Liberal policy, and could have been supported by ALL party members since it made no reference to abortion. Now we look like idiots because our own motion failed because some of our MPs did not vote for it. Even if Ignatieff failed to count the numbers ahead of time, these individuals still had a reasonable option of voting for this resolution. Instead, they deliberately made Ignatieff look like a fool when they did not have to. This disloyalty to Ignatieff must be punished, and harshly.

Steve V said...

Again, I think that the easy out. If you really want to place blame, look to our whip and the organization.

MP's didn't even know how to vote on OTHER matters, nobody conveyed urgency, to seek a pound of flesh is beside the point.


I hear what you're saying, but it doesn't address a simple fact- no matter how this vote went down, the Libs wouldn't suddenly become the only option for this side of the debate.

Steve V said...

Don Martin:

It now appears nobody bothered to declare the vote important enough to be whipped into compulsory Liberal MP support and, what's worse, nobody tried to round up every MP in the hours before the vote was called.

That explains the 13 Liberal no-shows and why a trio of pro-life Liberals felt they could stand with the government (and against their leader) without being seen as breaching caucus discipline.

Möbius said...

They believe women should have control over their reproductive choices, and have control of their own body

As do I, a fiscally conservative former CPC voter. I'm not sure what you (the LPC) gain with this kind of bullshit. The CPC doesn't seem to be threatening to impose an abortion law, because they know it would cost them the support of many Red Tories, and kill any chances of a majority.

I truly believe if Harper was a better liked and trusted figure the CPC would have that majority now.

Probably correct. If he behaved more conservatively on spending, he'd be unbeatable, despite his prickly personality.

Jerry Prager said...

The worst part of the blunder was that it came after the fifth Tory position reversal in a row. The game was becoming the Liberals to lose, and they lost it. Maybe that's why Iggy should have been in Ottawa and not touring high schools. A baffling decision in a season of high stakes.

JimmE said...


I'm not saying anything about leadership other than to wonder: how many more so-called Learning Experiences need to take place? Instead of getting ready for an election, with a winning ballot question - we change the channel to focus on a non-issue in a lead-up to navel gazing session. Why again?

The present PM has fecked up our country and LPC does not seem to want to get to work to fix the mess we're in. (Read change the management.)

Somebody remind me, why do I send LPC money every month again?

Steve V said...

Earlier, I was thinking the timing was brutal, but this just might be the cold shower we need heading into Montreal.

Sorry Gene :)

Omar said...

You are cordially invited to an evening with Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff for current Laurier Club-level donors, to be held in Halifax on Thursday, April 15th, 2010. As a past Laurier Club donor, I hope you will consider renewing your donation at this time to support the Liberal Party and take advantage of this unique opportunity.


Um, sure. Get back to me when you figure out just what the fuck you are doing.