Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Fall Election?

Travers makes the case for a fall election in his latest column. Yesterday, we discussed just that possibility here, and I see a powerful argument from the government side.

I see plenty of pitfalls for the Conservatives if they do a 2008 redux, basically creating a crisis where none existed, forcing an election. To assume the government can pull that off again, without any blow back, fails to consider recent events. I would argue that the Conservatives would suffer the same polling fate as the Liberals did last fall, should they arbitrarily push for an election. The appetite for an election hasn't grown in the slightest, and I see little reason to believe that changes in the near future.

In addition, Harper has expended all available political capital with his prorogation move. Should Harper emerge from the summer break and dissolve Parliament, any campaign will start with his government on the defensive, the same issues that have plagued him recently will be revisited. The slightest perception that Harper is trying to avoid accountability, the Conservatives will pay dearly.

I believe the Conservatives would much prefer to go in the fall, as opposed to next spring or later. Unpopular choices are on the horizon, deferred until the next budget, to avoid that presentation, best to secure another mandate first. When you consider the various timings, the Conservatives logically conclude sooner is better than later.

The only way the Conservatives could pull off a fall election, if they can avoid overtly chiming. In other words, the government needs to bait the opposition, but no so blatantly that their motivations are beyond obvious. I would look for certain new initiatives that push the opposition, without the appearance of poison pill. A very subtle dance, that provides mutual culpability, allowing for a dysfunctional Parliament that requires another mandate. This calculation means that the fall session must begin, you can't dissolve prior, it has to be a reactive development.

I'm with Travers, and I believe the PMO is already playing out different scenarios to bring about an election, without appearing terribly eager. Within this want, maybe an eventual climbdown on the detainee issue, give enough that the "wheels are in motion", but not far enough process wise, that it interferes with a fall election. I could actually see a surprise proposal in the offing, towards the end of this spring session, if the Conservatives conclude fall is their best moment.


Omar said...

When is the next federal election slated for anyway? Since Harper invoked fixed-election dates I never know when an election will be held.

Steve V said...

"Since Harper invoked fixed-election dates I never know when an election will be held."


Tof KW said...

The current Afghan detainee scandal exploded in the government’s face at their worst possible moment. Harper needs to have an election between now and this fall, and it was actually planned for this spring if all went according to plan. The budgets from here on in are going to get really bad (should have been dealt with now, but wouldn’t be good for Harper politically), the jobless recovery is going to continue for the next 5 years (much like the recovery in the mid-1980’s), and – worst – the Auditor General’s first report on EAP spending is coming this fall. If Harper had any hope of winning a majority, it was within the timeframe of this spring. It would only get worse from here on in. Now add this scandal on top and prorogation to avoid questioning, and this is a real mess for the ‘chessmaster’.

Hell, the Liberals should welcome any move Harper makes towards having his own government fall. He has no hope of getting his party anywhere above the 35% mark because Mr Pianoman is dead. His best case scenario now is that the CPofC makes it out losing a minimum of 10 seats, anything worse means Harper is done politically regardless of whether the party still holds government. Because after 4 elections and still no majority, there is no 5th chance – even the staunchest CPofC supporters will realise Steve just can’t win a majority, and leadership challenges will be out in the open. And I for one look forward to that day.

Nero Wolfe said...

Completely off topic.

Thoughts on Law and Order conservatives.

Tough on crime conservatives.

Plea bargain for Rahim Jaffer.

Why aren't they screaming about those soft on crime liberal judges.

Our soft on crime justice sysyem

In their infantile world, shouldn't Jaffer have received 150 years of hard labour.

Jeff said...

Steve, does recent polling still show that Canadians are so opposed to an election?

Steve V said...

All that's changed is they are more likely to expect an election this year, but that hasn't translated to wanting one.

Jeff Jedras said...

The question for Liberals is can we position ourselves as a credible alternative in the minds of Canadians by that time? We're making progress, so I'd hope so.

But every time an election is seen as possible, whether we're forcing it or not, we go down in the polls, because people like the theory of an LPC government better than the actual prospect at the moment. So if we're not there yet, any blowback by the CPC forcing it could be mitigated by a hold your nose sentiment.

Nevertheless, whether it's this fall or not, the task ahead for the LPC remains the same.

JimmE said...

I like elections. I have never understood why most folks say they don't. As you've said the detainee scandal is a Game Changer. Rather than let the Present PM set the ballot question the opposition should tun the tables on the Present PM & force an election over the rule of parliament. Making the ballot question about FREEDOM & DEMOCRACY would see the end of the present PM.
I know, I know, people don't want an election and they will blame the opposition- & they will get over it and vote. NOBODY (except Jack & Mr H) wanted a Christmas election, & Paul Martin was leading in the polls. What happened when the Reform party set the ballot question about FREEDOM & DEMOCRACY?

Steve V said...

There's another factor Jeff. Putting aside last fall, because that was clearly a self inflicted wound and subsequent reaction, the other times you refer also came with a massive Con ad buy savaging the Liberals. I'm not sure the poll change was as much apprehension, as it was a result of a co-ordinated attack coming from the Cons. Prior to dissolution in 2008, the Cons softened the ground. I hear what you're saying, but it's a bit more complicated that simply saying election threat=Liberal decline.

Steve V said...

What I'm trying to say, part of the equation here, we've been caught flat footed in the past, which has widened the gap. If there is one thing I hope, we have our rapid response at the ready.

Steve V said...


You may take an initial hit, but one has to wonder if voter backlash would be sustained once a campaign begins. Conventional wisdom used to hold that "blame" lasted as long as the first day of the campaign.

Part of the reason for the Lib backlash last fall, our posture came out of nowhere, we didn't give Canadians an argument. It was just we're voting against, without a compelling narrative to rationalize the positioning.

Tof KW said...

The LPC needs to do two things before any potential election; set firm policy on how you would do things different (to which there have been positive steps, but still work to do), and frame the election around transparency and accountability.

If anyone needs to be reminded, this is the formula Harper used to win against Martin in 2006. He made the CPofC a realistic alternative (overcoming the 'secret agenda' tag), and frame the question to transparency and accountability in government.

To that last point, might I suggest to the LPC that they promise to adopt those two major recommendations of the Gomery Inquiry that Harper neglected to. As a bonus, promise to table the same tough government advertising guidelines that the McGuinty government did in Ontario. There's two off-the-shelf policies guaranteed to keep a lot of hardcore CPofC supporters home on election day. And Harper can air as many attack ads as he wants against those …good luck!

Jerry Prager said...

Since the liberals lack the courage to protect parliament by a contempt of parliament charge, I suspect nothing will come of any of it. The moral collapse of liberalism always precedes dark interregnums, and that is where we are. God I get so tired of being disappointed by the Liberal Party. Too seldom philosophically liberal, and too often self absorbed and right wing.

ottlib said...

Mr. Travers must be bored.

There is alot of politics to go before the Fall so speculating on a Fall election is very premature.

Omar said...

What Jerry said. In spades.

CK said...

An election this fall? Could be beneficial for the Harpercons then; in fact, they could get a majority then. Harpercon media will serve up 'the economy is recovering faster than everybody else and it's all thanks to steve kool-aid'

Election this spring? Stevie best he could hope for is a minority; torturegate brewing. Provided the strategy used against Stevie is not about torture; unfortunately, (especially after reading a cbc comment board today), most Canadians don't like Muslims and don't care if they get hurt. Sad reality, I know. Make the crisis about accountability and about breaching international laws; Geneva Convention is very much legally binding.

As for for moaning about the opposition having not much to offer. Do they really have to? this should be a no brainer to progressives really. Basically an anybody but Stevie should be suffice.

Don't know about you, but nothing but nothing frightens me more than a st-stevie majority.

Difference between Libs and cons? Give St-Stevie a majority and you'll find out. Trouble is, we don't want (or we shouldn't anyway). One major major difference between St-Stevie and any Liberal leader?? Evangelical Christian fundamentalist far right sub-culture.

It's a no brainer: stranger v Evangelical Christian Fundamentalist. I'll pick the stranger.

Besides, Iggy won't get any better anyhow and the only way to be rid of him is an election. When he loses, they will get rid of him and find another leader.

I would hope that the next leader won't be Bob Rae for obvious reasons; pure suicide.

Besides, after the talk from cons and Quebecers and many others, the Liberals now have the reputation as a regional party: the Toronto party.

therefore, if they are to be successful; next leader should not be from Toronto; not even Gerard Kennedy

Tof KW said...

Besides, after the talk from cons and Quebecers and many others, the Liberals now have the reputation as a regional party: the Toronto party.

Sorry but that's rich, the ex-Reformers & Bloc-heads calling the Grits a regional party? Who the hell exactly caused the sectarianism in our current political quagmire? Advice to Grits - don't put a lot of stock in what your enemies brand you.

...therefore, if they are to be successful; next leader should not be from Toronto; not even Gerard Kennedy

Funny, I said that about the new CPofC back in the day. To be successful the new party was supposed to shed the Reform party image and pick leader NOT from Alberta. After all the top leaders of the conservative movement since they last held government have been: Preston Manning, Stockwell Day, and Stephen Harper. So who did they go with after the 2003 merg …I mean take-over of the PC party? Right! And after Harper is finally done, will their next leader be chosen from some other province? Personally I’m figuring it will be Jim Prentice, after all he was from the PC side and is still considered a Red Tory …and from Alberta. So if the Reformatories are saying the Grits should pick someone outside of Toronto, my only answer back to them is 'pot - kettle - black'.

CK said...

Tof KW: there really is no need to get touchy here. Time for practicality. Reality is, in recent decades, most successful PMs (before St-Stevie naturally) were not from Toronto, but from Quebec: Trudeau, Mulroney and Chretien. And French Quebec nationalists view Trudeau and Chretien as traitors. Mulroney; not so much. Mulroney also doesn't come from Montreal, which appealed many.

Let's be practical here, Bob Rae would be absolute suicide for the Liberals.

Harper was successful actually because he's not from Toronto (well, can't call him a TO guy anymore, can we?), but because he's from Alberta or if you like, anywhere but TO or even Montreal.

No, I'll tell you who would probably be successful leading the liberals: Frank McKenna (I know, he's refused, but you know that saying; throw enough things at the wall and something will stick) or Martin Cauchon; I honestly believe he can take back his seat in Outremont.

STock and Preston Manning didn't lose because they were from Alberta, they lost because the right wasn't merged yet.

Prentice, a red tory? What is that anymore? A dying bread is what. Most of those old Progressive Conservative and even liberal centrists have all been led on Stevie's sharp right turn. Stevie predicted one thing correctly when the right would merge; he predicted Reform would win and they have.

And it wasn't just Conservatives and their cheerleaders showing disdain for the "Toronto" party. Quebecers feel the same way these days. So do many others.

Our priority should be getting the Evangelical Christian fundy out of office or at the very least, for the immediate future anyway, keep him from getting his coveted totalitarian regime.

The NDP will never govern.

That leaves the Liberals for better or worse (at least they would never have a draconian Christian fundy governing with Extreme Christian values). Iggy can't cut it and he will never get better. A new leader is needed and it's best that they not come from TO.

No, I don't hate folks from TO: My whole family lives there and they agree with me too.