Thursday, May 27, 2010

Actually, The Polls Do Matter

I tend to get a little concerned, when people dismiss the polls. Obviously, from a partisan perspective, the natural instinct is to fluff it off, cling to another result which better suits your fancy, or go for the easiest of denials wherein the future is the magic elixir. While I agree entirely, an election can turn it around, this is a fluid process, I also think it imperative to actually deal with the issues at hand. You see, if one grabs comfort blankets, they tend not to address certain realities, which ultimately leads to further, cemented problems. As a matter of fact, you could argue we find ourselves in this place, exactly because of the mindset that better days are always around the corner.

Two polls today, both with similar results, both with the same type of trendline. Actually, apart from the Ignatieff honeymoon- which really spoke to a voter desire for something new an different- the Liberals have rarely done well in a sustainable way. I am not entirely pessimistic, but that is only tempered by a hope that the Liberals understand the grave circumstance- the high probabilities rather faint hopes- and "mix it up" so to speak in a fundamental way.

The problem isn't really Ignatieff, it's an identity crisis. While the party has made strides to develop policy, which is entirely desirable, it's been done so in such a haphazard way that no positive narrative has evolved. We lack coherence, we lack the ability to react immediately and effectively, we lack focus. You come out of Montreal, inspired and renewed, seeing a process, but then it is derailed immediately as we fall into the SAME trap of chasing mostly meaningless, little upside, side issues. The end result, no traction, and more lost time addressing the fundamental identity crisis, which is the real reason we never capitalize. You can throw dirt at the government, but if you're not a credible alternative, any gains are fleeting, and the Conservatives never pay the full price for their problems. Couple this glaring fact with an electorate that is sick to death of conventional, gotcha politics, and you spin your wheels going nowhere.

I welcome the policy in spirit, but to date little has been down to define Ignatieff and the Liberal brand. Anybody who thinks a tight framed election- wherein issues change hour to hour, day to day- can change an identity in a seismic way is simply fooling themselves. Oh, you might get lucky, but in terms of sound strategy, it's almost a laughable "out".

The Liberals will finally prosper, when we make a concerted, firing on all cylinders, focus like a laser, assault on the status quo. Voters crave a new manifestation, a party that breaks from normal affairs. Nobody is going to embrace change, when the alternative resembles "same shit, different pile". You can sense the voter indifference, the apathy, which is why it so maddening to watch the Liberals fail to address real erosion and just carry on in almost boring, predictable fashion. If we really want to lose, then keep telling ourselves the polls don't matter, because that lack of urgent attention will ensure our ultimate defeat. Actually, the polls do matter, and right now they are sending a very clear, sober message to the Liberal Party of Canada.

Two cents.


rgl said...

Steve, I have to agree with everything you have said here. Do we have the "will" to be different from the CPC? Do we have the will and the tools at hand to define exactly what being Liberal is all about. At this time, we don't. It is about leadership and putting a face on change as well. Are we willing to admit this and admit that we were wrong and need to start all over again in terms of leadership? By leadership, I don't simply mean Ignatieff though he is indeed part of what must change. So many of us see this need except for the collective leadership that is steering the Liberal ship which is now lost at sea.

Marc Bernard said...

I think it's time to come up with another "Red Book". [Maybe the "Red Book of Courage"?]

Lay it out - here's what we stand for. Here's what we're going to do. Here's what you can expect.

And then challenge the Conservatives to do the same. They certainly have no track record of ever putting forward an actual plan that has come into effect.

Scott Tribe said...

The stock Liberal Party response to that, Bernard, is "we don't want to release our platform before the next election - it will get distorted/destroyed like the Green Shift did".

I think personally, it would be a lot different releasing an entire platform; it's harder to focus an attack on then on one thing, but then again, I'm not the powers that be.

Steve V said...

I don't think we need a platform, we do however need to stay focused on a particular theme, in a sustained way. This madness of releasing a plank here and there, and virtually forgetting it the day after we release, as we chase the next gotcha moment, is a real part of the problem.

Marc Bernard said...

The bigger problem with having no platform and chasing the theme of the day is that you're not the one dictating anything.

Yes, the Green Shift was distorted and destroyed, but anything will get distorted by the "not a leader" attack guys.

I still think it's better to be up front about what a Liberal government would do for Canada, because that's the question on everyone's mind - if Harper is so bad, what's the alternative? The problem is, nobody knows...

The Mound of Sound said...

Steve, I think the LPC is stuck in the wilderness until it can find a leader who resonates with the voting public. It can happen in politics that the public passes judgment and moves on long before the rejected pol is willing to let go. I just cannot see any way back for Michael Ignatieff. Much as the Liberals fear it, maybe the best thing for the party would be an early election. That might shake them loose from this ongoing atrophy.

Steve V said...

I think the leader is the least of our problems. It's the easy out, just change leaders and all will be well again. Been there, done that.

Steve V said...

Here's a sort of side issue, which speaks to a larger problem. Just saw Kennedy deliver another blistering and effective attack in QP. Why is he still sitting on the backbench? You want to project a new image, how about surrounding the leader with people that haven't been around since the ice age?

The Mound of Sound said...

You've got a point. Pearson understood the critical importance of bringing fresh talent to revitalize the party. That's how we got the two most successful Liberal prime ministers in the post war era.

RuralSandi said...

I'm not looking for excuses, but people react to "money". The security costs for the G20 just may resonate.

Was the poll done prior to the costs being made public?

Everyone wants to give up so easily. If an opposition leader (Liberal) doesn't look like he's in majority territory in a few months, they panic and want to get rid of him. This is exactly what Harper wants. He'll demean any leader of the Liberal party and I'm sure has his attack binder ready for every and all possible new leader. In the end, it look like the Liberals have no confidence and are scrambling and running every time Harper barks.

Certain blogger/commenters have been against Ignatieff since day one (i.e.MoS) and use any opportunity to scream get rid on him.

Enough already

And, everyone, including the media, forget that Harper didn't lay out his policy and plans until the election of 2005-6 was underway, making one announcement each day and that Harper didn't resonate then with voters and was at 25% in the polls.

Relax - or Harper's beating you

Steve V said...


Come on, nobody is giving up. Clinging to a failed strategy is the real enemy here.

I think the Libs should hammer the Cons on this G8 boondoogle, but if you think that's the road to the promised land, just like every other "scandalous" activity, it's more wishful thinking. People already don't like Harper, that's not really a problem. It's the alternative that doesn't maximize voter sentiment towards the gov't of the day.

Rallying around the Liberal flag serves no one, in fact at this point it's like sipping tea on the titantic, and it's been listing for YEARS now.

Steve V said...


You also send a non verbal cue to the media, that this isn't your grandfather's Liberal party. I don't care about past protocols, stepping on some veteran toes, the simple fact is we need a new presentation, and that is never achieved surrounding yourself with old imagery. I'd also add, there exists a certain caution, based on to much experience, which handicaps any outside the box thinking- people see it as reckless, when really it's an absolute necessity. Rock the boat for cripes sake, not like the safe road is bearing fruit.

The Mound of Sound said...

Sandi, your take on me is simply untrue. The fact is that I argued with the Dionistas and disgruntled progressives when Iggy took over that everyone needed to give him a chance to prove himself. I did that. It was his ridiculous policy on Gaza, his betrothal to Athabasca, his support for the militarization of Canadian foreign policy, his overt rebuke of the Green Shift and the fact that when Harper prorogued Parliament at the onset of a looming economic disaster, Ignatieff chose to while away the time writing a book on his mother's family rather than tackling the global meltdown issue. When Parliament returned Iggy had no Liberal budget alternative leaving him no option but to support Harper's laughable Pinata Budget. He's certainly the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada but, then again, Gordon Campbell is the leader of the Libs in BC.

Steve V said...

And please, please, please none of this "look at Harper" stuff. That actually speaks to my point, of hoping you luck into some election snafu that revives your long odds. Might happen, but it isn't shrewd or particularly realistic.

KC said...

On the issue of polling I agree that it is stupid to completely discount polling but the way in which they are used by the media/blogges is at times ridiculous. Statistically significant changes that are consistent across the various polls tell us something about where the country is headed. Reporting on statistically insignificant changes as if an actual change in the electorate has occured is just silly though.

JimmE said...

Nice post Steve, also nice contrast to the post featured on Mr K's site
( )
Let me reinforce your point that the LPC needs a central theme beyond WE'RE NOT THE EVIL PM. To Iggy's credit he has been speaking about the Charter of late but as you say, this lacks focus. Where are the 5 most sexy things from Montreal? Why are we not almost sick of hearing about them?
As for the GATCHA! stuff. This is part of the water one swims in in politics - you can't dwell on it, but nor can you ignore it. The answer is to have a Rat Pack to do the dirty work keep the Leader & the front bench out of the fray.

Steve V said...


You have to go after the government, and a level of gotcha is part of the game. I'll give an example. After the thinker's conference, there was this spirit of "keeping the flame" alive, which Ignatieff articulated as well. By the next Friday, everyone was so caught up in Ottawa speak, that Montreal was already lost, seemed like months ago. THAT symbolizes the problem to me.

RuralSandi said...

I have to give in - newness vs experience.

I like Ralph Goodale, but he is old school. It's these old school guys that are behind Rae and I wonder if Iggy is being too careful here.

When I see the Con ladies bunch, Martha Hall Finley sure can run rings around them. And, look at Coady - very smart. Jennings is smart, but a little too partisan. If she'd just settle down a little and go on her well informed facts she'd be better off.

Kennedy, Brison, Holland (the goon squad guy) are good.

Steve V said...

Goodale is great, but it's about what's good for the team, forget about stepping on egos. What is best for the Liberal Party is to give the new faces more exposure, a bigger role in caucus. I'd put Martha, Gerard, Trudeau, Coady all around Ignatieff. Nobody watches, but the symbolism, if accompanied by a fresh vision, would help get the Liberals another look from voters. There is alot of seniority protocol CRAP within the party which is a handicap to being a force for change.

Jerry Prager said...

The Liberal Party needs a revolution, a democratic one, until the natural governing party power brokers surrender to new democracy liberalism this party is going nowhere, and neither is Canada, either you're a kinder gentler corporatist party (ie a party of bullshit) or you're a philosophically committed party determined to bring about a nation governed by the ethical principle of greatest equal liberty. Shit or get off the pot time. You either believe in democracy or you don't.

lance said...

Don't be too eager to toss Goodale, when he's done that seat is CPC.

Steve V said...

Who said anything about tossing him? Sheesh.

Steve V said...


Can't disagree with you.

RuralSandi said...

Goodale needs to stay where he is for now - because of his knowledge of parliamentary issues - but the rest need change. Goodale, for the party's sake could be a good teacher for the newbies.

Steve - By the way, I didn't mean that you were talking about changing leaders, but comments all over the place are leaning that way. I do suspect, however, that Con trolls, spies, etc. may be doing a lot of this.

James Bow said...

I suggested this over at WK's site, and I'll suggest it here: you need one policy, that addresses voter discontent, and distinguishes the Liberal brand, while at the same time highlighting the problems of the Conservatives.

It's time for Ignatieff to say "a Liberal government has heard the people of Canada and, if elected, we will implement all of the openness and accountability provisions the Conservatives promised to enact during the 2006 election, but have spectacularly failed to do. This includes giving the Parliamentary Budget Office a workable budget, and finally setting up a chair for the appointments committee that all parties can live with."

It's fairly easy to understand, and hard to distort. It gives people something to vote for. And it reminds voters that the promises the Conservatives made that helped them come to power in 2006 have not been fulfilled; that in terms of openness and accountability, the Conservatives have been practically the exact opposite of what Canadians voted for in 2006.

Steve V said...


Changing leaders is insanity.


Great suggestion.