Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Crazy Talk

I'm not sure I agree with some of the assumptions being floated, as we deal with the document release issue. Conventional wisdom assumes that the Liberals will do everything in their power to avoid a "showdown", because an election is the last thing they would want. Obviously, the polling isn't kind at the moment, and the Liberal body language suggests a long term strategy. However, game plans are fine and dandy, but parties must be nimble and ready for all possibilities. Given what amounts to a seismic rebuke of the government, the Liberals now have an important ruling on their side, which gives them the moral high ground in these "negotiations". This reality changes the dynamic, any threat of an election now clearly rests with Conservatives, it can and would only be triggered by their continued refusals to comply with our democratically elected body.

Much macho bravado coming from the likes of Kory Teneycke. Truth be told, it's a bit amusing to hear the testosterone banter, because in reality I'd put 3 to 1 odds on the paper bag. Let's keep it real, the tough guys are facing the most likely scenario of a reduced mandate, worst case an outright loss. Not ignoring the Liberal challenges in the polls, we're hardly facing a Conservative juggernaut, that should strike fear in the opposition. I'd add, part of success is exuding CONFIDENCE, and it's about time the Liberals get some moxy. The polls aren't likely to change much in the next year, so the motivation should be more based on principle, rather than strategic timing. If I could scour all the issues and narratives at our disposal, my first choice by a mile would be the idea of a secretive, non-transparent, non-democratic, anti-accountability, "culture of deceit". That's our winning issue, it's not going to be the economy, or reaching out to rural voters, it will be a sense amongst the populous that the Conservatives represent an unattractive option, and we contrast that with a more open presentation. If you agree on the best case narrative, then you have to be pragmatic, and see the Speaker's ruling as an opportunity- should we fall off the ledge- to guarantee that our desired talking points would be center stage in a campaign.

I don't care what the Conservatives say, nor do I buy this idea that this is the excuse Harper is looking for to go to the polls. Harper has one more crack, anything but a majority and the united Conservative veneer will evaporate. The Conservatives want to choose the timing, and they desperately want a managed campaign, wherein they set the election parameters. If would submit, the idea of kicking of a campaign, faced with thwarting the will of Parliament, supported by our constitutional "referee" is the least desirable scenario imaginable. There is some thought that Harper would relish a debate about protecting national security, our soldiers safety, but last time I checked the sentiment out there doesn't support this narrow justification, it doesn't smell like a rallying point. On the other hand, the idea of democratic will does stir many, it has shown itself to motivate, there is a passion attached. Do the Conservatives really want to go on an issue that motivates the apathetic?

This is a fundamental issue, and Liberals should be prepared to take this as far as Harper chooses. We should offer compromise, as a matter of fact we already have for months. However, if we face more stonewalling, then I'd suggest we realize that in a certain sense, this "event" plays to our advantage. I don't think an election will come, but I'd proceed as though anything is possible and/or preferrable. Attitude is everything.


Jesse said...

1) If Teneycke says he wants a fight, can't we assume that means they'll actually back down in the end? If Harper wanted an election, there'd be no reason to bluster.

2) Not only is this a great issue, this is great timing; not only does it seem possible Guergis-Jaffer stuff would trickle out, there'd be no reason not to assume, then imply, that there's something to hide there too.

Steve V said...

I'll use the bear attack analogy. When you encounter a black bear, and they huff and puff, slap their jowls, it translates to a defensive posture, they feel threatened. When you encounter a bear and he remains silent, no visual cues, THEN you must worry that it's a predatory attack.

Northern PoV said...

I hope you are correct, Steve, but more likely:

They will twist 4 ways to Sunday to appear to be compromising. When the inevitable failure happens, they will contrast their reasonableness with the intransigence of the Taliban lovers that want to endanger our troops.

Then, if that narrative polls well for them.... bingo, it is election time. (Or if Iggy sees similar poll results it is back down yet again time).

Steve V said...

That narrative has already polled poorly for them, people believe parliament has a right to know and the taliban lover line only works with the base. I'd add, the government can expect pretty much zero third party support on this line, which isn't something to fluff off during a campaign. I think they will isolate themselves, their blustering will ring hollow and they will be left with the proroguing, secretive, lack of transparent, outside of democratic tenet, presentation. Now, if I'm in the PMO, that type of debate would be at the bottom of my preferences. I'm sick of being afraid of these guys, again let's get some moxy and take it to them.

Dale said...

Are you sure that an election based on accountability and transparency would be in the Liberals' favour?

Even though the Conservative government has obvious issues with accountability and transparency they can point to Adscam and say:

"We'll we did it to protect our troops in the interest of national security. The Liberals did it to feather their own nests!"

For the unaligned voter who pays little or no attention to the political drama in Ottawa (which, I think, is the majority) an election where it's "The Control Freaks" VS "The Filchers" will just turn them off completely and they'll stay at home.

Northern PoV said...

I just took a causal glance at Blogging-You-Know-Whos

very little on the speakers ruling

and in various blog comments on MacLeans etc. I keep seeing the con trolls stating: neither side won

given that they are rarely this modest, you may be right about knowing that their narrative is already failing

Paul Wells is a must read, btw - and he supports my pessimistic take.

Ted Betts said...

I'm with you on this 100% Steve.

They may bluster, and the Liberals may be vulnerable on several fronts, but they are even more vulnerable.

Even more than he is an a**, Harper is politically smart when it comes to self-preservation. He wants to keep power and get more. Sometimes he makes a big mistake when he overplays his hand - like the fiscal update or prorogation - but he's been singed twice there and in each of those situations, he was the active player who set the agenda. He thought he had it all carefully figured out and proceeded aggressively. Here though he would be reacting to the issue set by others and I think he's always been a bit more tentative in such situations.

All the moreso here because there is no indication he is winning people over on this issue, and lots of polling indication that he is losing people or already lost them.

Three significant facts that seem to get ignored or forgotten which seem to me to indicate Harper will want to avoid an election.

1. Despite going up in seat count in 2008, fewer Canadians voted for Harper than in 2006. This despite the enormous war chest, an impoverished and divided and disorganized opposition, Dion as leader, two straight years of breaking spending records to buy our votes with our dollars, etc. Harper in 2008 actually had the lowest level of support among the electorate than any other PM in our entire history.

2. He'd be playing defence. While he could try to be aggressive and go on the offensive over the detainee issue, the fact is that he has no great agenda to campaign on and would be reacting to the isues and agenda set by others. That is not a good place to start for a government low in the polls.

3. Not only would he be playing defence but he has no alternative agenda. He spent 3 months "re-calibrating" and came up with... nothing new. So people are going to scratch their heads on his not abiding by Miliken's decision and forcing an election.

That all may not be enough facts lined up to assure a Liberal government, but it is enough to ensure a Liberal seat increase and more than enough to give Harper enough pause in forcing an election.

So which of his natural instincts will win the day? To never back down from a fight and force fights where you can? or self-preservation for the sake of power? My guess is the latter.

Tof KW said...

Dale, I'm certain they would try that tactic, but I doubt it would have the same traction it did in 2006. After all just last fall the Auditor General has herself stated in no uncertain terms (to Dean Del Fatso and his ilk) that this is over, and to stop using her office for partisan political gamesmanship. Likewise a full commission has investigated, there have been court cases and guilty people are in jail. Top it off with Mr Ignatieff having as much to do with adscam as Harper did with Mulroney’s Airbus scandal.

Oh, and I’ll add that they’ll probably use the ‘coalition’ bogeyman too, and again it will ultimately also have little traction. They can cry adscam & coalition all they want, but it will do little to exempt them from the perceived notion that the Harper government is being quite secretive about the Afghan affair (among other issues). I think it will look like a lame excuse to avoid a contempt of Parliament charge myself, and actually work against them.

Regardless of the timing of the next election, the Liberals will probably face these adscam & coalition tactics anyhow; so if they are afraid of this I suggest they grow a pair.

Ted Betts said...

To that point T of KW, there is a maxim in politics that you can't run the same campaign twice.

Martin tried to demonize the Harper hidden agenda in 2004 to some success but it failed when he did it again in 2006.

Ernie Eves tried to paint McGuinty as "not up to the job" in 2003 just as they did 1997 and failed.

McCain tried to replicate the 2004 Bush campaign of smear and fear in 2008 and lost.

If you have nothing new to offer - and what new policy initiative has Harper introduced since 2006, let alone since 2008 - and you run the same kind of campaign, the electorate will see that you are out of gas and quite done.

So for Harper to run on Adscam would be a complete disaster. For him to run another campaign that was all about the other guy's issues instead of presenting his own, is almost as risky.

DL said...

I think this is as a good a time and as good an issue to go to the polls over as we will ever get. Why not make Harper force an election because he's too stubborn to submit to the will of parliament - it would feed into every negative stereotype there is about him. Quite frankly, if we keep waiting for Peter Donolo's "long game" to work its magic it will be Oct. 2012 and Harper will still be in power and serving a full term.

Steve V said...


Kind of hard to bring up Adscam, when you're running ads that Ignatieff was out of country at the time :)

penlan said...

Watching QP & Baird is bringing in Adscam in every "answer" he's giving & I've heard "unholy coalition" being used as well.

Oh yes, they are going to use these issues again.

Steve V said...

I don't doubt they will, but it's a crying wolf feel now. I really, really believe this coalition, adscam stuff is beyond old and won't resonate the way they hope.

Ted Betts said...

"I really, really believe this coalition, adscam stuff is beyond old and won't resonate the way they hope."

Certainly if that is all they have to offer Canadians, more attacks about old stuff.

But they also have tons of money for pollings and focus groups. They will, if they haven't already, start testing many different lines of attack.

Anything except talk about what they will do as government.

Steve V said...

As I recall they floated these old attacks during prorogue, and it didn't help a bit. At a certain point, it just gets old. I'm sure they are polling like crazy, but I'm pretty encouraged if this is the best they can offer.

Steve V said...

If anyone doubts the Con bluster here, I suggest a read of Toews and his "looking forward" to a compromise.

Shiner said...

If anyone doubts the Con bluster here, I suggest a read of Toews and his "looking forward" to a compromise.

Despite what Toews is saying, Big Daddy doesn't seem to be giving an inch (from lenny at Dawg's place):

Sounds like Harper is going to play some high stakes chicken:

"We look forward to both complying with your ruling and with the legal obligations that have been established by statutes passed by this Parliament," Harper told the Speaker during the daily question period.
"The fact of the matter is the government cannot break the law, it cannot order public servants to break the law, nor can it do anything that would unnecessarily jeopardize the safety of Canadian troops."

Damned if I know how he can comply with the ruling and not comply with it at the same time.

Ted Betts said...

Funny how he is so concerned about breaking the law after continuously breaching the Access to Information Act, not to mention offering "financial considerations" for Cadman's vote, the in and out scandal, calling a snap election, ignoring MPCC demands for documents, etc.

Culture of deceit, indeed.

Steve V said...

I find it hilarious, all this "we're so pleased" stuff coming out of every Conservative orfice. The compromises that I've heard today have been on the table for MONTHS from the opposition.

Jerry Prager said...

I would counter Adscam with Action Plan Adscam, 42 million promotional budget designed to keep conservative media in business despite the market forces that have otherwise bankrupted right wing media in this country. Instead of a couple of corrupt bagmen, we have a corrupt party pouring taxpayer dollars into propaganda to help out their friends.

RuralSandi said...

Speaking of the declared $42 million for the Ec Action Plan (some say it's probably a lot more) - can parliament request/demand an emergency audit by the Aud General?

Northern PoV said...

The "I'm so pleased" stuff is from the good-cops who are tasked with pretending to compromise. It is stage 1 of the disinformation campaign. Stevie is talking tough, well cause he is Stevie after all and his "follow the law" canard is a rapidly following stage 2.
Hey it wasn't the top story on CTV news last night (Shows at least some of the media has his backside.) and the PM didn't even bother to listen to the Speaker so that proves no one cares about arcane political stuff.

Iggy is sounding like a rerun of his EI fiasco last year ...My bet is that Harper will push a nonsense solution down Iggy's throat.

Tof KW said...

We'll see Northern PoV. Compromise to submit to the will of Parliament is the only rational solution I can see for Harper (the SCC would throw any case back & an election is too risky) but you have a point. I'm reading things into his "follow the law" comments as well, though I'm not certain of the angle yet.

Tof KW said...

BTW - top story on CBCNCBS (...whatever the hell the acronym is these days) is the Habs, and might I say rightfully so :)