Monday, March 01, 2010

Forcing An Election Would Be "Crazy"

While I appreciate some of the arguments made by Frank Graves, I don't share the election enthusiasm. In fact, I think it pretty much "crazy" for the Liberals to force an election this spring.

Despite narrowing polls, Liberals would be foolish to consider a firm pattern. I believe the sentiment surrounding Harper has a certain growing rigidity, but the Liberal numbers have a underlying artificial flavor. Couple that fact with inability to full maximize dissent, and it's hardly a strong presentation. If you want to prove this thesis, pushing for an election would surely work. The Liberals simply haven't made the case for an election, at least not enough of one to sail through the voter headwind. You can chop 5% off in Ontario with the slightest evidence of sabre rattling, it's that volatile(or fickle, depending on your perspective). The Liberals have already chosen this path, to dismiss that outcome would be truly irresponsible.

Graves makes the argument that Ignatieff's only real chance to resonate is an election. That argument is probably true, but that will always be true, regardless of timing. Also, there is room to get traction outside of a campaign, and I'd argue we've seen evidence of that, of late. I also see positive potential framing on the horizon, particularly if Ignatieff is armed with a more coherent agenda. Graves makes it seem like Ignatieff is stuck, which I find a bit to simplistic- there is non-election space to occupy. Big moves? Obviously not, but a firmer backdrop is entirely doable and advantageous pre-election.

The coming budget is the next opportunity, and by all accounts it will be a tame affair. Quite a challenge to translate this type of a budget into a rallying cry for an election. The Liberals don't operate in isolation, the mood must be there to justify. I genuinely believe- for the first time I might add- that a "kick the bums" mentality is fermenting in the land, Harper a damaged character. However, I also don't believe we're quite "there yet", in terms of optimal opportunity. Unless we see another massive blunder, there is little impetus.

The Conservatives have two inherent advantages. The Conservatives still enjoy a more robust "machine", whatever measure you choose. Within a tight election, it's the type of factor than can decide the eventual winner. When you couple this type of advantage with the incumbent card, you need more than dead even to have half a chance (if that makes sense).

The Liberals should waste little effort debating the merits of a quick election. Instead, let's focus on the Thinkers Conference, and all the policy considerations it encompasses. Let's get a message that resonates, present a compelling alternative vision, firm up our support and try to expand it.

The earliest window I see is the fall, more likely next spring when Harper finally has to address the economic realities and make tough, unpopular choices.

24 comments:

Tof KW said...

I think the Libs learned a lot this past fall about pushing for an election, simple because they looked good in the polls. Broken record time - polls over the past 3-4 years show an incredible volatility, specifically in Ontario (home of 1/3rd of the ridings). Support for anyone at anytime may appear to be a mile wide, but it's only an inch deep.

I still think Ignatieff and the Libs did the right thing last fall by starting to act as the official opposition again and voting non-confidence every once in a while, and putting the NDP on the defensive for a change. However they took a big hit for doing that, and that needs to be remembered in case anyone in the LPC thinks forcing an early election is a swell idea.

Wait for a real (and inevitable) spending scandal to erupt from the Harpernauts and a genuine 'throw the bums out' movement to ferment. Until then, election posturing will just be viewed as playing politics, and rightly so.

CanNurse said...

Although I think you've written a very good blog here & I mostly agree with you, I am not as convinced that "The Thinker's Conference" will present the Libs with real insight into the needs of Canadians. I say this because, looking at the speakers' roster, I don't see any names from the fields of Women's Issues, ChildCare specialists, Aboriginal peoples, Peace and Justice fields - people working everyday in the field with Canadians. This is an enormous oversight, in my opinion.
The other thing concerning me is my uncertainty as to whether the Libs. will continue to actually take strong stands and action as the Opposition. I think it is essential that they make this stance very clear, & also try to work with the NDP, & the Bloc to ensure some control of the Harper Government.

Steve V said...

If you review the schedule, I think you'll see many of those issues are addressed:

http://can150.ca/schedule/


KW

I thought the Libs did the right thing last fall as well. I was surprised by the reaction, but maybe it had more to do with the language than the posture.

DL said...

So, I guess the cat is out of the bag that the Liberals will vote for Flaherty's budget and prop up Harper for another six months in exchange for NOTHING - and the talking points have already been delivered to the Liberal blogosphere.

That's fine, I don't really want an election this spring anyways.

thwap said...

Basic respect for our system of government and basic morality compels us to support the opposition defeating this pack of psychopaths.

Whether any party has the guts to campaign on the issues of Afghanistan, torture, accountability, democracy, etc., etc., I don't know.

Steve V said...

DL

That you can actually still say "prop up" after you guys put went completely belly up after your cover was gone is beyond hilarious.

Yes, we know you don't want an election. Losing 15 seats isn't an attractive option.

BTW, I don't even know where Lib headquarters are, you silly, silly boy.

Steve V said...

thwap

The sooner the better I say, but the last thing you want is another mandate. If we go now, I'd still put odds on that happening, all things being equal.

Tof KW said...

”I thought the Libs did the right thing last fall as well. I was surprised by the reaction, but maybe it had more to do with the language than the posture.”

Indeed, either you are criticised for three years for not distinguishing yourself from the Harper government - by not providing a proper opposition and voting ‘against’ during confidence votes. Or when you finally do so, you are criticised for wanting to force an early election.

I feel for the Liberals right now, they are in a terrible situation. As I’ve said before they would have been better off if Harper had won a majority, and the Grits could have been given the four years without election threats to regroup and re-create the party. That and I for one would enjoy watching the Mike Harris re-treads cut funding to everything the NDP holds dear, much like the common sense revolution days. The only problem is they are total incompetents on fiscal policy thanks to following the US Republican idea of tax-cuts and ramped up spending, leaving a real challenge for the Libs once they were done. That’s part of the new-right’s philosophy of starving government, but that’s another issue all together.

Let’s just leave it as the Libs shouldn’t think of forcing an election right now. And the dippers shouldn’t bitch about the Grits supporting the budget …do you really want an election with your leader going through cancer therapy, and a probable loss of 10 seats from ’08?

Steve V said...

In hindsight, it was a bad call, but at the time I thought it was spot on. The Libs needed to break out of this cycle, wherein other parties had free reign, while they were the only responsible ones- unless of course people wanted 50 elections a year, which is what all these non confidence crap votes really amount to, if the COVER wasn't there.

The NDP can start the prop up stuff again if they choose, but nobody will listen. When push came to shove, they rolled over in lightning fashion and no amount of spin can change that- unless of course getting Harper to adopt 1/3 of his EI reforms, that he was going to do ANYWAY is a coup ;)

DL said...

No one is "bitching" about the Liberals propping up the Tories in exchange for nothing. I'm glad they're doing it. I suppose they could have said "Mr Harper, you're time is up!" and thrown the ball into the court of the NDP and the BQ - but we all know how that went over in September.

But if you give your opponents ammunition - don't be surprised if they decide to use it.

Steve V said...

You're firing blanks.

Tommies said...

By then Ignatieff will be in a senior's home!!

Steve V said...

What's particularly sad, you probably laughed to yourself while you typed.

Omar said...

Doughboy Harper will likely experience a massive Dick Cheney-like coronary before Michael Ignatieff ever finds himself in need of seniors residence care.

(almost pissed myself typing that)

Fred from BC said...

Whether any party has the guts to campaign on the issues of Afghanistan, torture, accountability, democracy, etc., etc., I don't know.


(oh, man...how can I pass up a 'straight line' like that one?)


If any party could, it would sure as hell NOT be the Liberal Party. On ANY of the issues you mentioned.

Perhaps the NDP could do it, if they weren't being led by a cartoon character...

xyz said...

@Fred from BC: Stop with the NDP self-righteousness. You will never win a federal election so stop complaining. Who is the most successful modern NDP'er? Gary Doer from Manitoba and he was successful because he governed pretty much as a Liberal. That says something when the most successful leader of your party in the country has ran a province exactly as the Liberals would. Just goes to show how out of touch your ideas are with the rest of the country

Steve V said...

Fred's a rightwing nutjob, just to be clear ;)

CK said...

Tof KW: As I’ve said before they would have been better off if Harper had won a majority, and the Grits could have been given the four years without election threats to regroup and re-create the party. That and I for one would enjoy watching the Mike Harris re-treads cut funding to everything the NDP holds dear, much like the common sense revolution days

Forgive me if I'm rude, but, are you out of your cotton picking mind?

Give him a majority for 1 year and I fear all the damage. Imagine 4? Plus, his dream; a majority; in fact, for him, a totalitarian regime. I remembered that by-election Harpercon sign in the riding of Hochelaga in Montreal: it said "de l'action, pas d'election": Translation: Action; no election. That doesn't scare you? I do have a copy somewhere in my favourites of the video of this by-election sign.

Think about that one, you assume that Stevie would allow elections to take place!

To think inside one year under his totalitarian regime.
It would be Christian evangelical rules.
The American health care system, complete with insurance industry practising discrimination on the basis of pre-existing condition.

Privatization of everythign with a la complete George W Bush deregulation

Abortion would be criminalized.

Same sex marriage legislation would be repealed.

Shall I go on?

No, our salvation is a coalition.

Northern PoV said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Northern PoV said...

Between the contempt of Parliament stuff and Harper's own penchant for poison-pills an election may just, finally happen.
In any case, we won't be doing any forcing as the recent past has pointed out.

Whether we go to the polls this spring likely depends on Harper being able to sell his detainee-stonewalling and poison-pills as "normal" and again force Jack, Gilles or Michael to stand down.

Either scenario favours Harper, at least that's the way he sees it and he might be right.

Dame said...

yes I see your point and agree
BUT knowing Harper ways of Doing things it is also crazy completely denying the chance for election .What if he is implementing something outrageous in this coming Budget ??? I Think it can happen .
it is amazing how many Trial Balloons are Floating around...

Tof KW said...

CK wrote:
”Forgive me if I'm rude, but, are you out of your cotton picking mind?”

Please re-read my full comment CK before you pass judgement on my mental stability. I think if you’ve followed my commentary over the years you’d know few are more vocal in their opposition of Stephen Harper than I. His takeover of my old party is what caused me to say ‘AdiĆ³s’ to the federal Conservatives. Again if you re-read my comment you will note the following lines:

” The only problem is they are total incompetents on fiscal policy thanks to following the US Republican idea of tax-cuts and ramped up spending, leaving a real challenge for the Libs once they were done. That’s part of the new-right’s philosophy of starving government, but that’s another issue all together.”

I didn’t want to get into a huge off-topic discussion, but here we go.

The fear of a Harper majority turning Canada into a despotic, authoritarian state is a bit over the top, no? He would however do a great deal of damage to our democracy (I mean much more so than he already has) in attempting to transform the Reformatories into Canada’s natural ruling party, much like they’ve done in Alberta (Wildrose is still a new and big ? – plus not a real change). I think a comparison is best made to Mexico’s PRI party which ran that country for more than 70 years (only in recent years sent into opposition) thanks in large degree to alterations of electoral laws to ensure it remained the party of the state (well lots of corruption too, but that comes to any government with age).

The other danger is the ‘starve the beast’ mentality of the firebrand western populist movement’s neo-liberal economic policies …in other words what passes for fiscal conservatism these days. Harper’s dream is to dismantle as much of Canada’s social safety network as possible, and recreate the nation as a libertarian economist’s paradise. With an out of control deficit, a majority would allow Harper to take deep cuts federal spending, and specifically to provincial transfer payments …a desire of Alberta’s for quite some time as this automatically gives the provinces much greater powers over their finances. So the ramped up spending coupled with tax cuts are no misguided policy, there is method to the rightwingnut madness in both the US and Canada. Do you notice how mired the US Democrats are these days in really fighting the uncontrollable US Deficit? Just try and suggest tax increases down there right now.

Now that said, no doubt Harper’s has mellowed with age and he is nowhere near as frightening as I’ve outlined above. However these are still central ideals in much of the neo-liberal scatterbrained philosophy of the faux-conservative movement. He would never proceed with any of this outright, if for no other reason as he would face a real revolt in this country if he tried. But that wouldn’t stop the CPofC from doing some of this piecemeal to gradually re-draw the politics of our nation. But you can bet your last political donation dollar that Harper would re-draw electoral financing laws in any way that favours the Reformatories and guts the Grits, and scrapping the current party subsidies would just be the beginning.

In my view the only good thing in the event of a Harper majority is that NDP sacred cows are gutted and to remind them who their real enemy is. And also for the record, yes I was solidly behind Harris and the common sense revolution, at least until his second term. It was then I realised the Austrian school’s re-definition of fiscal conservatism was in fact neo-liberalism gone bad.

And back to the very beginning of my comments, yes if this were a traditional PC government then the Libs would have been best off in the wilderness for a 4-year term or two to rebuild their party. Then again if the PC’s were still around and in power, I wouldn’t be here giving the Grits advise.

Do you still think I’m off my rocker?

Dylan said...

As I see it, issues of accountability, democracy, and parliamentary reform would be a tough sell for the LPC to make to the electorate. That said, it wouldn't be a waste of their time to point it out during an election.

The polling during the '06 campaign looked very similar to the situation we're in right now. 34-36 on one side to 31-33 on the other. The game changer was a "leaked" insider trading allegation by one Dipper against one Ralph Goodale. And I'm afraid that without another electoral "gem" like this one, the tide won't turn away from the governing party in an election on the issues alone.

So what is Ignatieff to do? He can either inspire the hell out of us (and by "us" I mean Ontario, QC, and soft-CPC former-LPC ridings in places like Winnipeg and Vancouver that were lost due to Dion-itis) or he can try to whip up scandal around the Harperites.

By his current tone, the former is the way he's willing to go; but that doesn't necessarily limit his ability to smear Harper in a campaign.

Going into the next election (which I also believe would happen in the fall at the earliest) at 32% (+- 2%) is the best the Liberals will get barring a schism in the CPC. However, this time Harper will really face a two-front war against the NDP and LPC with strengthened leadership from the Liberals and a bad track-record of fiscal responsibility.

Malcolm Barry said...

I believe the Liberals will not force an election unless something unforseen occurs to require them to do so. We know the volatility of voters and we are learning more every day about the government ministers being mean spirit and arrogant.