Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Does Harper Really Have A Choice?

More digestion of the Conservatives purposeful "framing" of the next election- a majority or a coalition. While I believe some of the arguments have merit, I also think the main impetus for this "stark contrast" presentation isn't really addressed.

I think the main reasoning, behind the "stark choice" theme, is primarily a self interest consideration. The next election will be Stephen Harper's fourth as leader of the Conservatives. Harper has kept the conservative coalition together, no surprise, power tends to bind like glue. However, should Harper fail to get a majority in the next election, the obvious questioning of his leadership will begin, people will ponder the post-Harper era, wonder why he can't get over the hump.

Odds are higher that the Conservatives will receive less seats than more in the next election. Any result that brings a more fragile minority, the clock starts ticking on Harper, questions are raised. In reality, this next election is make it or break it for Harper. Should the government receive a slightly smaller mandate, Harper is weakened, people will openly wonder if he packs it in. In addition, you can expect the fully united Conservative coalition to fracture, as pretenders jockey for position.

I understand that the Conservatives see the "coalition" as a divisive issue that works in their favour. The highest polling the Conservatives have seen occurred during the coalition threat; they've never achieved anything close prior or before. For that reason, you can see why majority dreaming Conservatives want to re-create that formula. That said, underneath this motivation is a very simple calculation for Harper- it's now or never, do it or be doomed. Even if the Conservatives were to win the next election, should it be a smaller caucus, there will invariably be a "dame luck" feel to Harper. Of that, I have no doubt, and this consideration is part of the "stark contrast" rationale.

28 comments:

Skinny Dipper said...

As I have commented on other blog posts, this has been a good week for Ignatieff and the Liberals. They have weakened Jack Layton and the NDP. This will help in framing the next election as a battle between the Conservatives and Liberals. Also, with the Liberals attacking the NDP, it negates Harper's assertion that it's a choice between a Conservative majority or Liberal/NDP/Bloc coalition. The Liberals are starting to show that they can stand on their own two feet. Also yesterday, Ignatieff mentioned Harper's autocratic style. the Liberals can certainly frame the next election as a choice between one-man Harper's autocratic rule and the Liberal team led by Michael Ignatieff.

Steve V said...

I don't see the coalition attack working the way it did with Dion and company. We are somewhat wiser about what it means, we have similar examples in compatible countries, any debate will be marginally more intelligent. I can't blame the Cons, it probably is their best shot, but I don't see the same impact. This isn't 2008, and all the circumstances within.

Marc Bernard said...

Now is the time for a pre-emptive strike then - the Liberals need to step up and say, "No coalition. No way, no how."

Instead of reacting to an attack, start one for a change.

Skinny Dipper said...

All Michael Ignatieff and Liberals have to do is state that they want as many seats as possible. Now is not the time for coalition talk.

Steve V said...

I think the Libs just say what they've said, don't get bogged down in the Cons preferred terrain. A succinct answer, move on.

Tof KW said...

Steve's bang on here, the Grits should stick with their stated goals on this matter, to win as many seats as possible in the next election.

Back to your original post, Harper is wrong of course and the voters have more options than 'a majority or a coalition'. And Canadians will decide which they prefer Mr Harper thank you very much, and not by your 'list'. There are in fact 6 possible scenarios.

Options available:

1 - CPC Majority: chances of this happening are about as likely as the Habs winning the cup this season, in other words possible but unlikely. Better if Halak was still in net, likewise better if Harper didn't have 5 years worth of baggage behind him.

2 - Lib Majority: chances of this happening are about as likely as the Leafs winning the cup this season, in other words dang near impossible.

3 - CPC Minority: chances of this happening are very good. The only question really is how many seats would Harper lose once the votes are cast - and the realizations of the post-Harper era within the CPC are born at that point.

4 - Lib Minority: chances of this happening are fair at present time; due to Harper getting a lot of bad press lately coupled with Iggy receiving better reviews. This dynamic on an election trail + Ignatieff running a solid campaign could be enough for the LPC to carve out a strong enough minority (the 130-140 seat range) to govern without the need of any formal coalition.

5 - Coalition LPC + NDP Minority: chances of this happening are very good, at least as likely as a CPC Minority win. Nothing more really needs to be said, as Harper's been using this in an attempt to spike his poll numbers to late-Dec 2008 levels. The problem for him is the shock value is over, so that argument will not have the traction it once carried.

6 - Coalition LPC + NDP Majority: I consider this a possibility if the LPC wins a minority after the vote and wishes to strengthen their government after an exhaustive chain of consecutive minorities. A special math is required here, example LPC-125, CPC-103, BQ-48, NDP-30, Ind-2. The LPC + NDP number would be 155, just enough for a majority. I don’t consider this likely, but this is a possibility.

Other wild outcomes:

7 – NDP election win: sorry dippers but this is as likely as aliens landing in my backyard tonight.

8 – Harper’s still PM in 2013 and the PQ wins the next Quebec election. The PQ+BQ successfully win a referendum and split from Canada …and I would join them.

kirbycairo said...

Didn't T of KW forget the de facto coalition of the Liberals and Cons that has been trailing on for years now. I mean how many times can an opposition party vote for nearly everything that the government puts forward and still maintain its status as an opposition? I understand they are caught between a rock and Harp-place but you just can't keep spinning this narrative forever. I think that history will provide that what weakened the Liberals in the last few years of the decade was their own inability to stand up to the Cons. If Dion had moved against Harper from the very beginning we would have a very different political landscape today, and one with a much stronger Liberal Party.

Tof KW said...

I sense someone is bitter here. Upset with Layton's predicament there kirbycairo? Welcome to what the Libs must have been feeling for the past 4+ years.

For what it's worth I didn't forget that, it would be covered under my #3 scenario. Or my #8 depending on my frustrations with politics lately.

Steve V said...

I'm with kirby, elections every month, that's what Canadians so CLEARLY desire! My goodness.

Steve V said...

KW

Good run down.

Glenn said...

No doubt it would be one dream scenario for the Liberals for Harper to be ousted by his own party because of yet another Conservative minority. But it is only a dream scenario because it won't happen. Why? Because even *with* a reduced minority, the reality of the Bloc holding a strangle-hold lock on the majority of seats in Quebec coupled with an undivided Conservative party assures that Harper won't be going anywhere any time soon. Those two aspects of our national political scene virtually guarantee that minority governments are the new norm, at least for now. The Conservative party knows this, and it is thus unlikely that they will make Harper pay a leadership price for it, unless the Opposition gets together and forces the issue; which probably won't happen because the Liberals won't want to confirm the coalition narrative that Harper is ranting about.

So knowing the above realities, why would the Conservative party get rid of Harper when he keeps winning and is likely to win again? The Liberals are being kept out of power, the Tories have been implementing their agenda unopposed (even with Liberal enabling by confidence support or abstentions), and the political landscape is still very slowly but surely being terraformed (*ugh*) to their liking.

Again, with the political realities being what I've stated above, the NDP has a good chance of holding the balance of power in the event of a reduced Conservative minority. *They* don't care one whit about Harper's "narrative". Sooner or later if the Liberals ever want to get any closer to government, and to finally get rid of Harper, they are going to have to reconcile themselves to those facts. Until they do, it is unlikely they will even form a minority government. Where are their seats going to come from to do so? Quebec is a non-starter because of the Bloc. Even if the Conservatives lose every single seat there, it won't matter becuse it won't be enough. The Atlantic provinces already vote Liberal. The West is a write-off. The only place they can really grow is Ontario, and that would take a shift of epic proportions, which isn't likely to happen either. Eventually the Liberals are going to have to learn to share if they want to get rid of Harper and get any closer to government.

Steve V said...

You raise some valid points, no question. I would argue that if Harper fails again, it will largely be a Quebec consideration. The cementing negativism about his leadership will cause some to question. I also think it a bit unrealistic to not think some in the party would start jockeying for position. Once the media gets whiff of any division, then it will amplify.

Harper is framing this as a majority question, by his own definition, not achieving is a failure.

Tof KW said...

Glenn, a few things for you to consider...

So knowing the above realities, why would the Conservative party get rid of Harper when he keeps winning and is likely to win again?

I dunno, maybe because putting in Bernard Lord or Jim Prentice as leader would give them a greater shot at winning a majority than sticking with ol' Firewall Harper? There is no way Harper can get it done now, not with the baggage he carries. And don't kid yourself, the Conservatives know a majority is necessary for the simple reason that a stable government is required to draft a budget that really addresses the structural deficit this country now possesses.

...the NDP has a good chance of holding the balance of power in the event of a reduced Conservative minority.

Perhaps, but ask anyone who's dealt with Harper about co-operation just how well that worked out for them. From Joe Clark, to Peter MacKay, to Dion, to Ignatieff to (currently) Layton. I don't see a lot of success there on Layton receiving even token breadcrumbs for helping Harper pass any bills.

Eventually the Liberals are going to have to learn to share if they want to get rid of Harper and get any closer to government.

At present even full co-operation between the Libs & NDP would not be able to unseat Harper, not without the Bloc. And we all know
how that would play out.

The best option is to wait for Harper to make another miscalculation (it will happen, just watch) that could hopefully result in an election call. Only after the votes are cast can co-operation between the Libs & NDP be considered. And even if Harper still wins a reduced minority, it will still be considered a failure for the rank and file CPC membership ...for reasons Steve has pointed out here.

Glenn said...

Steve, that is *precisely* what I said. In fact, I believe that is the *only* consideration. Nowhere else is the field likely to be in such flux for them. However, what I said before still stands. Even with a reduced minority, even if they lose every single seat in Quebec, Harper isn't going anywhere immediatley after the next election because the party has accepted that minorities are a likely norm now. I doubt that they will punish him having come to terms with that. Oh sure, this is probably going to be Harper's last kick of the can, even if he does win. So of course he is going to put all of his chips in for a majority, so to speak. Even so, Harper's next will will be his last; he knows that. He's been doing this for a while, and even he has a shelf life. At that point,
I agree, there will be jockeying for a leadership run by various candidates. However, that potential division that you spoke of won't be a factor, seeing as Harper will be going out on his own terms. Even if he fails to get a majority, with minorites being the norm now, having won three governments will be considered a significant accomplishment, alongside of the fact that he had a hand in subduing a once Liberal juggernaut. Harper will be able to write his own swan song.

Glenn said...

I dunno, maybe because putting in Bernard Lord or Jim Prentice as leader would give them a greater shot at winning a majority than sticking with ol' Firewall Harper?

That is going to happen eventually anyway. As I've illustrated to Steve, that will be on Harper's terms. Whatever, at least he'll be gone eventually.

And don't kid yourself, the Conservatives know a majority is necessary for the simple reason that a stable government is required to draft a budget that really addresses the structural deficit this country now possesses.

Why? It's not as if they Liberals have not supported Harper's agenda all this time anyway, so it is not as if they've *needed* a majority. A coalition majority between the NDP and the Liberals can still accomplish that.


Perhaps, but ask anyone who's dealt with Harper about co-operation just how well that worked out for them. From Joe Clark, to Peter MacKay, to Dion, to Ignatieff to (currently) Layton. I don't see a lot of success there on Layton receiving even token breadcrumbs for helping Harper pass any bills.

I was referring to cooperation between the Liberals and the NDP if they can reach a majority together after an election.

At present even full co-operation between the Libs & NDP would not be able to unseat Harper, not without the Bloc. And we all know how that would play out.

I'm not referring to unseating him, exactly. Obviously it will take all three Opposition parties to do that anyway. What I was referring to was upfront cooperation between the Liberals and the NDP. There is nothing wrong with coming out before an election and getting that established. Sooner or later we're going to have put any perceived concerns regarding that aside if we are to prevent Harper from forming even one more government.

The best option is to wait for Harper to make another miscalculation (it will happen, just watch) that could hopefully result in an election call.

How many of Harper's "miscalculations" can Canada really afford? Why even wait?

Only after the votes are cast can co-operation between the Libs & NDP be considered.

Which will play *right* into Harper's narrative about the "hidden coalition agenda". If he is going to play that game anyway, why not just be upfront about it from the get go? It's the option that has the best chance to get rid of Harper anyway.

Glenn said...

I dunno, maybe because putting in Bernard Lord or Jim Prentice as leader would give them a greater shot at winning a majority than sticking with ol' Firewall Harper?

That is going to happen eventually anyway. As I've illustrated to Steve, that will be on Harper's terms. Whatever, at least he'll be gone eventually.

And don't kid yourself, the Conservatives know a majority is necessary for the simple reason that a stable government is required to draft a budget that really addresses the structural deficit this country now possesses.

Why? It's not as if they Liberals have not supported Harper's agenda all this time anyway, so it is not as if they've *needed* a majority. A coalition majority between the NDP and the Liberals can still accomplish that.


Perhaps, but ask anyone who's dealt with Harper about co-operation just how well that worked out for them. From Joe Clark, to Peter MacKay, to Dion, to Ignatieff to (currently) Layton. I don't see a lot of success there on Layton receiving even token breadcrumbs for helping Harper pass any bills.

I was referring to cooperation between the Liberals and the NDP if they can reach a majority together after an election.

At present even full co-operation between the Libs & NDP would not be able to unseat Harper, not without the Bloc. And we all know how that would play out.

I'm not referring to unseating him, exactly. Obviously it will take all three Opposition parties to do that anyway. What I was referring to was upfront cooperation between the Liberals and the NDP. There is nothing wrong with coming out before an election and getting that established. Sooner or later we're going to have put any perceived concerns regarding that aside if we are to prevent Harper from forming even one more government.

The best option is to wait for Harper to make another miscalculation (it will happen, just watch) that could hopefully result in an election call.

How many of Harper's "miscalculations" can Canada really afford? Why even wait?

Only after the votes are cast can co-operation between the Libs & NDP be considered.

Which will play *right* into Harper's narrative about the "hidden coalition agenda". If he is going to play that game anyway, why not just be upfront about it from the get go? It's the option that has the best chance to get rid of Harper anyway.

Steve V said...

Glenn

You seem to have a short memory. Lets go back to the Iggy honeymoon. Don't you remember whispers even then about Harper's leadership? I think you overstate just how united this party is, and how easily it could fracture. If Harper gets shut out in Quebec, if he is seen as "dead" in the province, I guarantee you that wing of the party will not sit there and be happy they have a minority.

We've seen people win majorities get elbowed out, to think it can't happen with a reduced minority, after four tries, is a bit to flippant.

ij said...

TofKW

I will join you joining Quebec in your #8 scenario. They will be a more democratic country than the ROC under Harper!

ottlib said...

Glenn:

Your argument is based on two questionable assumptions.

1) The Bloc are unassailable in Quebec.

2) A seismic shift would need to take place in Ontario.

This decade began with Jean Chretien of all people surprising everybody and taking almost half of the seats in Quebec, reducing the Bloc to the lowest seats they had held in over a decade.

The Martin Liberals actually lead the Bloc by a wide margin and were expected to reduce their seat count even more. Then Adscam broke and breathed new life into the Bloc.

The Harper Conservatives were neck-and-neck with the Bloc between 2006 and 2008, looking like they were going to break through in that province, at the expense of the Bloc, until Stephen Harper went on the attack against the arts and suggested throwing 14-year-olds in prison.

I am not certain how the gun registry debate will finally conclude but it is going to generate a great deal of heat and light leading up to a vote. That could make Quebec a two-horse race again, with the Liberals being the de-facto federalist option. If that happens the Liberals are almost guaranteed to substantially increase their seat count in Quebec as the federalist vote, in general, and the Liberal vote in particular is very efficient in that province.

With regard to Ontario there are about 25 swing ridings in that province. If a sizable number of them switch from Conservative to Liberal things get very interesting. As well, if the gun registry debate costs the NDP seats to the Liberals things become even more interesting.

If both of these things happen the Liberals win government and Stephen Harper is gone.

If only one happens then the Conservatives probably stay in power but Conservatives will probably realize that Stephen Harper's growth potential has peeked and he will need to be replaced.

Steve V said...

"If only one happens then the Conservatives probably stay in power but Conservatives will probably realize that Stephen Harper's growth potential has peeked and he will need to be replaced."

If we even return to 2006 like numbers, the heat will be on Harper. I also suspect he may lose his drive at that point, realizing he is past his best before date.

ottlib said...

Steve:

To answer your question, no.

The Conservative government is old and tired.

Economic reality will prevent it from trying to buy votes.

They have made a series of questionable decision just during this summer alone and they have been mired in controversy since the 2008 election.

Even their bread and butter issues such as crime and punishment are not the issues they once were. Ironically, their attack on the Census just highlighted how out of touch they are with reality on a whole host of issues.

All the Conservatives have left is the "fear a coalition" card and it is not a very good one.

First of all, he will have to implicate the Bloc in any campaign against it and that will just turn off Quebecers as it did in 2008. Funny thing about Quebecers, they seem to believe all of their MPs are equal regardless of their national unity preferences.

Second, the coalition of 2008 was growing out of a crisis situation just after an election. Although the Conservative argument that the Opposition was planning a "coup" was completely wrong, in the context of that time if did seem like a plausible argument to many.

In the context of an election campaign the impacts of those arguments would be greatly reduced.

I agree with you that this is the last go round for Mr. Harper. If he fails to win a majority government he is gone. Since I believe he destroyed any chance of a majority government when he prorogued Parliament just after the 2008 election there is only one question the Conservatives will have to answer after the next election. Does Stephen Harper leave on his own accord or is he pushed?

Issachar said...

"However, should Harper fail to get a majority in the next election, the obvious questioning of his leadership will begin, people will ponder the post-Harper era, wonder why he can't over the hump."

This would be more convincing if I hadn't repeatedly read precisely the same thing before the last election. That doesn't mean you're wrong, but I've heard that before and it was completely wrong.

.
Personally I'd be more interested in hearing *specifically* what Mr. Ignatieff would do in office rather than moaning about Stephen Harper. We've had more substance as of late, but I'd like to see more still.

Steve V said...

On the substance front, no worries, all that thinking and such, the platform is there and it has meat. I don't think we should release to much more, just keep the focus on Harper until we have to.

As for hearing this before, well the Libs had probably their worst election in history. That was the storyline, Harper looked strong in a relative sense, we were in disarray, no worries. Funny thing though, let's say we merely return to pre-2008 numbers, suddenly Harper has lost a pile of seats, back to one of the most fragile minorities in history. Can he survive that? I don't think he can. I think Ignatieff would get to fight another day if we get back over 100 seats. Without any drama on the Liberal side, I suspect it moves to the Conservatives, and I'm sure a few "unnamed" progressive conservatives would start the ball rolling. I think Harper would step aside while PM, I really do. Not immediately, but before another vote. IMHO.

Issachar said...

@Steve V

Michael Ignatieff most certainly should be kept as leader after the next election in any case. (Barring a catastrophic outcome such as the NDP becoming the official opposition to the Conservatives.) The false belief that all the Liberals need is the right leader is a detriment in my mind. The problems the Liberal party have had were not helped by St├ęphane Dion's mediocre leadership skills, but they were not of his creation. The Liberals need to stick with Mr. Ignatieff and convince Canadians to vote for a Liberal government, not just the newest leader of the week if they want my vote.

I voted Conservative last time around and my vote as the Liberals to have if they come up with the right platform and candidate. I think that's true of a lot of people who voted Conservative. Of course I think the reverse is true for a great many people who voted Liberal. :P

You might be right on Mr. Harper's post-election outlook, I don't know. Still, hoping the Conservatives will do something to tear themselves apart before or after the next election doesn't seem like a good plan. (It hasn't worked so far.)

I disagree about releasing the platform details though. A detailed platform can either be stolen or criticized. A vague platform can be criticized and picked apart as easily or more easily than a specific one and it makes it quite easy to charge someone with standing for everything and nothing.

Having the Conservatives steal the policy is it's own kind of success. The Reform party put balanced budgets on the agenda. The Liberals quickly adopted it as their own and balanced the budget under Jean Chr├ętien. Sure the Reform party never made government, but one of their primary policies became a Canadian standard. Not a bad "loss".

Steve V said...

Appreciate the comments.

Glenn said...

slsproOttlib, Ignatieff is not Da Little Guy. Ignatieff is hardly what the Martin juggernaut was supposed to be. There are so many other reasons why he is not going to duplicate that success in Quebec that we could be here all day; that is a non-starter. Cauchon won't help Ignatieff *that* much. The chances that Harper will keep what he's got in Quebec (perhaps even a little less) are a *lot* better than a total Conservative meltdown coupled with a massive Liberal surge. Even *with* the mistakes Harper has made (14 year olds in prison/cuts to the arts) he still managed to keep what he had that last time out. Harper making mistakes like *that* in Quebec aren't likely to happen again. And soft nationalists are not going to vote for Ignatieff in those numbers you need, which is what it would takle for him to grow there. He's probably not going to grow much beyond what he's got there either (if at all). And even if he did a little, it wouldn't even be close to making a dent into the overall scheme of things.

As for how the gun registry will play out, exciting as it is right now, that will end up being a non-starter as well. No one is talking election right now. Either way the vote in September goes, this issue will fade away by the time an election finally rolls around.

Yes, there are swing ridings in Ontario. Is a massive "swing" in Liberal favour likely to happen? Doubtful. Sure, some could swing Liberal; that hardly means that some might not swing the other way either. And if a sizeable amount of those ridings swing Conservative, things could get "interesting" there as well. As far as the registry costing the NDP, it might cost them, but that will be in urban ridings that already elect Liberal MPs. I can tell you that being in an NDP rural riding where Liberal presence is lacking (like in so many rural ridings), the NDP vote because of the registry is going to stay put.

Two many things have to gel for the Liberals to win even a minority. Minorities are arguably the norm in Canada now. The Conservative party is hardly likely to punish Harper for an inevitability that is out of his control; expecially if he is able to keep the Liberals away from power while continuing to keep chugging away with his agenda, even with continual Liberal support. Of course, a majority for him is preferrable. However he obviously doesn't need a majority to keep doing what he wants. Its not as if the Official Opposition have been able to stop him. The one notable exception was when all the opposition parties got together by putting pen to paper and stopping a wholly Conservative budget. You know where I am going with that, right? Its really the only wat to stop Harper so that he doesn't even get one more chance.

Glenn said...

Ottlib, Ignatieff is not Da Little Guy. Ignatieff is hardly what the Martin juggernaut was supposed to be. There are so many other reasons why he is not going to duplicate that success in Quebec that we could be here all day; that is a non-starter. Cauchon won't help Ignatieff *that* much. The chances that Harper will keep what he's got in Quebec (perhaps even a little less) are a *lot* better than a total Conservative meltdown coupled with a massive Liberal surge. Even *with* the mistakes Harper has made (14 year olds in prison/cuts to the arts) he still managed to keep what he had that last time out. Harper making mistakes like *that* in Quebec aren't likely to happen again. And soft nationalists are not going to vote for Ignatieff in those numbers you need, which is what it would takle for him to grow there. He's probably not going to grow much beyond what he's got there either (if at all). And even if he did a little, it wouldn't even be close to making a dent into the overall scheme of things.

As for how the gun registry will play out, exciting as it is right now, that will end up being a non-starter as well. No one is talking election right now. Either way the vote in September goes, this issue will fade away by the time an election finally rolls around.

Yes, there are swing ridings in Ontario. Is a massive "swing" in Liberal favour likely to happen? Doubtful. Sure, some could swing Liberal; that hardly means that some might not swing the other way either. And if a sizeable amount of those ridings swing Conservative, things could get "interesting" there as well. As far as the registry costing the NDP, it might cost them, but that will be in urban ridings that already elect Liberal MPs. I can tell you that being in an NDP rural riding where Liberal presence is lacking (like in so many rural ridings), the NDP vote because of the registry is going to stay put.

Two many things have to gel for the Liberals to win even a minority. Minorities are arguably the norm in Canada now. The Conservative party is hardly likely to punish Harper for an inevitability that is out of his control; expecially if he is able to keep the Liberals away from power while continuing to keep chugging away with his agenda, even with continual Liberal support. Of course, a majority for him is preferrable. However he obviously doesn't need a majority to keep doing what he wants. Its not as if the Official Opposition have been able to stop him. The one notable exception was when all the opposition parties got together by putting pen to paper and stopping a wholly Conservative budget. You know where i am going with that, right? It is really the only way to stop Harper from getting even another chance to keep screwing things up.

Jerry Prager said...

O when the long knives come out for this fucker there will be dancing on the streets. If you read your Bible Mr. Harper you'd know you reap what you sow.