Monday, March 07, 2011


In the last few weeks, many pollsters and pundits have questioned the idea of the Liberals winning an election with the economy as the core issue. Little evidence to suggest much traction, the mood of the country such that Harper probably will hold an advantage on this file. Some advice argues the Liberals are better off to highlight other issues, if they have any hope of eroding Conservative support. When I look at the polls, you do see evidence that Harper scores best on economic management, direction of the country is fairly stable, not exactly the most fertile ground for the opposition. With that fairly objective reality in mind, this latest potential gambit by the Liberals is entirely sound and shrewd:
The Liberal Party is considering a snap confidence motion in the House of Commons that could plunge the country into an election over one of several recent Parliamentary confrontations and a series of affairs that go to the heart of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's pledges for transparent and accountable government.

Should Mr. Milliken rule against the government on a privilege claim from Liberal MP Scott Brison (Kings-Hants, N.S.) on the crime finance details, Mr. Brison would have the opportunity to propose a motion that normally would send the issue to the Commons Procedure and House Affairs Committee for an inquiry and recommendations to the House for possible censure of the government.

But sources said Mr. Brison might instead move a motion that would call for a vote of "no confidence" in the government instead, which could be worded in such a way that it could touch on a series of recent controversies.

This revelation comes on the heels of a Liberal fundraising plea, wherein we stress the lack of transparency and authoritarian nature of this government:

The Ignatieff Liberals have issued a scorching assessment of the Harper Conservatives as an instinctively anti-democratic group that subverts Canada’s governing institutions whenever it suits their interests.

In a fundraising letter that underlines a new theme in their election strategy — entitled Our democracy is on the line — the Liberals warn that given more time and, particularly if given a majority government, the damage to the country’s social fabric and governing principles would be immeasurable. The appeal to party supporters says recent controversies are part of a sustained assault on Canadian institutions.

Assume the Liberals are still content with an election, why not force on the ground of your choosing? I entirely agree with this strategy, while it remains to be seen if transparency, democratic want, etc are electoral gold,-these issues do represent the "soft underbelly" for this government, they are vulnerable, people do have a certain unease. This thrust is particularly relevant because this is the government that rode to office, NOT on the economy, but on their pledge to bring accountability and transparency to Ottawa. A bit of a full circle argument to now see the Liberal opposition using the former rationale against this government.

It is becoming abundantly clear that this budget will avoid the "tough choices" that the deficit demands. As I suggested last fall, the deficit situation is now slightly improved, which means Flaherty doesn't need urgent action, he can massage numbers, offer some token belt tightening, but really a budget that will be entirely palatable to the public. Why give the Conservatives this opportunity, particularly when the central theme will be the economy? No, it is quite wise to attempt a pre-emptive strike, even more attractive when you bring unseemly developments to the fore.

We all know election campaigns become their own animals, but I would be quite comfortable jumping off with the Liberals championing our democratic institutions and a disturbing pattern of secrecy and stonewalling by this government. A question of character, questions that potentially resonate with all the anti-Harper sentiment currently fractured. In other words, the issues surrounding transparency and accountability could be a rallying cry.

If events unfold in such a way that the Liberals are given this opportunity to bring a non confidence motion, I say go for it, no better argument available to start an election campaign. The examples are now endless, you can weave a coherent, consistent, intentional pattern, put together to argue a powerful case.


Jerry Prager said...

If the Libs come out in defense of liberal democracy, explain what it is, and how it evolved in the Post WW2 world as an alternative to corporatism, the ideology of the Conservative Party in the 1920's and 30's, and Harper's ideology now, and if they present a clear, quick program of renewal, then all Mr Harper's obsessive attempts to destroy the Liberal Party, can be seen for what they really are, an attempt to destroy liberal democracy. Canada can't present itself as a champion of international liberal democracy, if the government of Harper is doing it's best to destroy liberal democracy at home. It also plays well into the narrative of what's happening in the States, where Republican Corporatists are trying to undo the deal between labour and liberalism that created liberal democracy in the first place, and triggered a massive pro-democrat mood down south. As for Flaherty, the man lied in the legislature about a 5.8 billion dollar debt in Ontario, he is untrustworthy. And his support of corporatism goes all the way back to the Lack of Common Sense Reaction.

Shiner said...

Just posted on the same thing. Like you, I don't see this as "electoral-gold" without major league policy initiatives. I think they should go all out. In an election with nothing to lose why not hit for the fences, propose remaking the entire federation. Otherwise we're faced with an election started on transparency and quickly morphing into Ignatieff's education policy, the answer to a question nobody has asked.

Tof KW said...

Steve, something to think about that our useless media doesn't pick up on.

In 2005 Paul Martin was the unquestionable choice for best steward of Canada's economy. I'll argue that he was a big reason the Grits lasted as long as they did regardless of the sponsorship scandal, and how they managed to retain 104 seats after the 2006 election. Regardless of the 'throw the bums out' feeling across the country, Martin scored high on the economy, and Harper ...well not so much.

The 2006 election question was not about the economy, it was about honest and transparent government.

Harper is very vulnerable on this front, as his hypocrisy stinks to high heaven now.

I don't give a flying fig about polls, whenever the writ is dropped it is very much a replay of the 2006 election, with Harper playing the part of Paul Martin this time.

I also bring up my point again that the LPC would be wise to release policy on this now, start with pledging to enact the two major recommendations of the Gomery Commission that Harper neglected to put in his Accountability Act. Also lift McGuinty's tough advertising guidelines for government ad buys.

This would show the Libs are well over Adscam, and place the Reformatards on the defensive.

Steve V said...

"The 2006 election question was not about the economy, it was about honest and transparent government."

Yes, I alluded to this in the post, Harper didn't come to office on the economy, he came on perceived ethics.


Word is that we have a democratic reform package ready to go for the election. As long as it isn't lip service, timid bullshit, it could help, along with these issues, spark something in this country. Again, if it's a bland reform package it will be met with a YAWN, but if it dares, well...

Tof KW said...

If the Libs come out in defense of liberal democracy, explain what it is, and how it evolved in the Post WW2 world as an alternative to corporatism...

Holy crap, entire novels would be required to explain corporatism. How the hell does this fit on a bumper sticker.

Swing voters / undecided have the attention span of fruit flies. Keep it simple - leave the long, drawn out arguments for the political junkies like us.

Morakon said...

If this is the plan it's time to start talking up the Liberal Open Government Initiative.

Steve V said...

If we are going to an election, I would release the reform package just prior to this confidence vote.

Anonymous said...

The 2006 election was about 40 million of Canadian taxpayer money being transfered to Liberal candidates, it was about a new Liberal leader we ALL had hopes for being so wishy washy and looking so desperate. The vast majority of voters have seen secrecy and lies in every Lib and Con govt for 30 years now, so, with a strong economy your asking voters to change govt with the only result being a stronger economy or a poorer one, hardly an issue to call an election on. My guess is, that this election is being pushed to finally have a proper Liberal leadership race and to start over and be ready for power in 4 years, because, nothing else makes sense.

Steve V said...

I think people are resigned to the fact the polls are just ebbing and flowing, nothing fundamental is going to change until we have an election. Nobody is paying attention, the economy is improving, so I'm not sure this notion of waiting for optimal conditions hold. This is why the Lib stance looks somewhat crazy I suppose, but I sense, and I feel this as well, that people are just ready to mix it up, somewhat confident that Iggy will surprise.

Tof KW said...

The 2006 election was about 40 million of Canadian taxpayer money being transfered to Liberal candidates...

This is a number Reformatards like throwing around. Problem is it's bullshit. Del Mastro, Poilievre and other assorted asshat MPs have kept after the Auditor General about this allegation, and she's shut the door on them each time. Last she told them to stop using her office for partisan purposes.

There was a formal AG investigation and audit, a federal inquiry, several court cases, and the LPC lost power for years as punishment. It's over!!! The question now is why the Harper government became worse than any previous Liberal government, when they promised to be more transparent and accountable.

But by all means, please try to re-fight the election of 2006. Libs should dredge up Airbus too, just to make things really stupid.

Kirk said...

I agree completely Steve and have been mulling over the same idea myself.

Also, for the Conservatives, the election campaign has already began with both their own ads and the Economic Action Plan ads. Why give the Conservatives any longer to campaign with both their own money and government money?

With the media unwilling to call a spade a spade with the in-and-out fraud it would be best for the Liberals to push that issue in a campaign where even CTV might have to ask questions about forged invoices.

However, this is going to take a perfect campaign.

Steve V said...

Odds are long regardless, but this is more fertile ground than "they brought us into deficit". I would argue most people, outside of the borg, have some issues with the way this gov't conducts itself. The bullying Harper is his most obvious achilles heel, so why not start a campaign attacking them on this file, particularly when there are so many concrete examples available. Even the press, on this score, is onside, so you might find a receptive conduit and/or attack ads using media past headlines readily available.

Anonymous said...

"But by all means, please try to re-fight the election of 2006..."
You brought it up not me. Paul Martin went on the airwaves to announce how seriously he took Adscam, he said his party made serious mistakes and people from his party would pay. I'm not revisiting 2006, but, what I am saying is if your going to go after a govt for cheating and lying you really need a confession and a few people in jail first, otherwise, its the same old garbage that goes on in every govt.
How can you honestly expect to win an election on "yes you did" "no we didnt" and at the same time the Canadian economy is the envy of the world? And yes I know how much credit should go to Martin/Chretien, but, thats not the way politics works...govts in power get credit and blame for current situations, its just the way it is.

Shiner said...

I agree with gwilliamjr. The 2006 election wasn't about democratic values, it was a combination of a very specific transgression and a load of bad, but popular, policy. And blindly loyal westerners of course.

Anonymous said...

Westerners are allowed to be blindly loyal, as is Fortress Toronto and Montreal, as are NDP and Green voters. The trick for the other partys is to convince them not to be so blindly loyal.

Tof KW said...

You brought it up not me.

No, I said this will be a replay of the 2006 election in terms of the situation, with Harper now playing the part of Paul Martin.

Ignatieff, Rae, Brison, Kennedy, Trudeau, etc had as much to do with Adscam; as Harper, MacKay, Day, Cannon, etc had to do with Airbus.

Simply put, the CPC yelling Adscam in 2011 does not have the same resonance it did in 2006.

Also there are people in jail from the sponsorship scandal. You're just pissed no one from the LPC was ever involved in the wrong doing.

However fake 'nvoices', very real CPC officials now being charged in breaking election laws, Oda forging and lying about it to Parliament, Clement lying about StasCan, Harper bribing dying MPs for their vote, etc is all a pattern and Harper wears it.

Yelling 'Adscam' is just an admission you have nothing to defend the Reformatard's corrupt actions.

WesternGrit said...

Even the media lines are so biased: "could plunge the country into an election". They use the word "plunge" as if an election is such a bad thing. Discredit it before it occurs.

We need an election - NOW.

I agree with other posters - we want some VERY CLEAR policy ideas announced just prior. And they CANNOT be varying shades of grey from "standard gov't policy". Take this shot at changing our democracy - to make it more democratic.

Open forums with Cabinet Ministers are great - but lets see fundamental changes:

1) Properly regulate campaign spending - with tight caps that ALL parties can attain - FORCE MPs and hopefuls out on the hustings to actually debate and engage the public. Taking away advertising to a large extent will help us do that. We can win intelligent debates - ad wars are anyone's game (or rather, he with the most money's). Even the general public will agree with LESS ADVERTISING interfering with their hockey game.

2) Fix media influence by stopping media cross-ownership. There is no reason a company like Shaw should own TV stations, radio stations, production companies, Movie Central/Superchannel, AND the means to distribute it in a monopoly-like atmosphere (see Michael Moore's recent Madison speech for more insight on this point).

3) Give the average voters something: I like the plan for paid post-secondary education. BUT - we need a framework to ensure it is a promise kept.

As far as a bumper sticker??? A Canadian flag background, with "Democracy NOW!!!" emblazoned across it. When people see thousands of these, they'll ask what it's about - and our team will tell everyone what. You create the buzz, THEN explain... not ramble out an explanation. Slogans first.

Anonymous said...

It was a comment on the wisdom of forcing an election TWK, thats it. Adscam was serious, it was a blow to the Liberals, its hurting them still, but, it was Jean Chretien and many senior libs who advised Martin to ride it out, and, let the RCMP handle it...why?...because it would die out, that good governance and a good economy could withstand the Adscam scandal. I am a firm believer that had Paul Martin listened to that advice he'd still be PM and he would have grown into the job. If it was sound advice in 2005 why is it not sound advice now? Ironic, the strategy that killed the Martin govt is the same strategy being used to force an election that will probably give Harper a you know why Tobin, Manley, Rock and Kinsella all bailed.

Steve V said...

W Grit

Good stuff.

Joel said...

We want an election now like a hole in our heads. What's an election cost, $100 million?
There won't be an election soon. Why? Too many MP's, especially from K-bec, are approaching their pension window.

Sean Cummings said...

Kinsella says they're on crack if they do, and I agree.

Omar said...

Who the fuck cares what Warren Kinsella thinks? I certainly don't. This self-professed grand electoral wizard whose only claim to bloody fame is the supposed quarterbacking of winning a couple of federal elections on the the back of a divided right. Wow. My grandmother could have been running those war rooms and had victory. I wish this guy would just shut the fuck up.

Tof KW said...

I'm with Omar, Kinsella's way over-rated. Now if he would have lead Dion's campaign to a minority victory in '08, then I'd consider him a master.

Tof KW said...

Further, it's no secret that Kinsella doesn't like Ignatieff that much. So I don't think Iggy's team should take advice from him.

Paul said...

"Further, it's no secret that Kinsella doesn't like Ignatieff that much."

If you look at Ignatieff's popularity ratings neither does anyone else. I'm not sure the point of a Liberal generated election. To easy to spin it into "power for the sake of power".
Besides, outside of Quebec the Conservatives are polling at like what 46 percent?
The Liberal Party needs to take a long look at policy before they go anywhere...

Jerry Prager said...

As for Warren Kinsella, he is a liberal corporatist, and supports a coalition only because Chretien does, his own municipal habits are to trash democrats and elevate conservatives like John Tory and right wing opportunists like Rocco Rossi, he loves QMI and other right wing mouth pieces, and his blog during the Dion election, when not sulking over Chretien and Martin, was entirely negative; he has been deadly silent on G20 because he works for McGuinty.
Basically he's a right wing anarchist, a Jesuit-trained punk, who seems to hold very few genuinely liberal philosophical points of view, his views on Israel are almost as shallow as Harper's; however entertaining he can sometimes be, I think of him as a corporatist court jester, pretending to bite the hand that feeds him.

Jerry Prager said...

But you have to beat Harper by going deep on the democracy issue, and that includes joining the revolution that start in Madison Wisconsin against corporatism.

Jerry Prager said...

In Warren's defense, his blogged position on Ignatieff is that he wasn't happy with the way some of his friends were treated when they were dumped from communications.
From my perspective they were worth keeping. Whatever means might have been employed.

Steve V said...

Ummm, Warren does know a thing or two about a thing or two... I think you always have to consider the opinion of those who have actually "been there".

I think where the divide occurs, some think we aren't in shape to win, while others think we'll never be in shape, so what's the difference. Hard to argue with the "saner heads" crowd, but I firmly believe we are in a static situation, so timing is now irrelevant. Just my opinion, wiser and smarter people are free to disagree, but that's my calculus.

JimmE said...

I think you're right Steve and even if Dippers happen to be trapped in a traffic jam & can't make a vote that night. The drama of "do we have an election?" may get folks attention & question WTF is up & perhaps reconsider why they would support the present PM; Mr K notwithstanding. Some of the oily shine will come off the present PM just before a budget vote, making Dipper support less likely. Heck, I think PET said "better that Canada go out with a bang rather than a whimper".

Steve V said...

We've already done the "whimper" route, and that didn't exactly go well. Imagine us supporting another budget, how can Iggy differentiate himself when he's propping these guys up?

CK said...

I must say that I'm on the fense with this one.

My initial reaction was "He crazy..."(Ignatieff), but then, after some thought, again, the Bloc and the NDP have to go along with this. I definitely see the Bloc joining the Liberals on this--they want an election ASAP, preferably as close to Pauline Marois's leadership review of the Parti-Quebecois come April 15.

I'm not so sure of the NDP, given Layton's health these days. I don't care how his spin doctors spin this, it will be a long a painful recovery. I'm speaking from my mother's own experience with hip surgery not that long ago and she didn't have cancer or other health issues to deal with. It's a long and often painful recovery--good days and bad days. And she was only 58 at the time of her surgery. Only sayin' that Layton's health will play a large role in what happens in the near future.

Also, other than Layton's sudden need for a referendum on banning the senate, have we really heard a lot of noise coming from that corner lately, regarding in and out, Jason Kenney and his letterhead and of course, Bev Oda ^Not??

I'm wondering if Ignatieff had this in mind? Yanno, making himself look like he's taking Harper to task, knowing that the odds of Harper surviving this particular confidence vote would be pretty good?

Just a theory.

Sean Cummings said...

Wow - Kinsella haters.

How many winning election campaigns have those who commented run?

Oh, none. He's earned his wings guys. If he says it's nuts then in my view it is.

CK said...

In case anyone is interested.

Omar said...

Making an immature and unprofessional public comment about crack addiction in regards to what the LPC might or might not do in regards to their political strategy is lowbrow and quite frankly embarrassing. I don't care what Kinsella's CV reflects, on the outside looking in is the best place for this legendary wings earner.

ottlib said...

On WK, when he was working for Mr. Ignatieff and a bad poll came out he either ignored it or pooh-poohed its significance.

Now that he does not work for Mr. Ignatieff he makes a big deal of them.

We are seeing the same thing with regard to the polling of Ontario voters regarding the McGuinty Liberals. He works for them so any bad news poll is not really a problem in his opinion.

Why is this?

It could be that when he is working for someone he is the loyal operative who will spin anything to the advantage of his employer. However, when he is not working for them he is more objective.

Conversely, he could be someone who uses his formidable political skill against those who he believes have slighted him or his employers.

Which is it? Only WK really knows.

As for the non-confidence motion I agree with Steve. It is shrewd.

At the very least it sends a clear signal to the political and chattering classes in this country that the Liberals are ready for an election.

At most it causes an election to be called on an issue more advantageous to the Liberals.

And somewhere in the middle it puts Jack Layton into a bind. He could finesse voting for a budget that throws him a bone but it would be much harder to vote against a motion that condemns the Conservatives as crooked.

If the Liberals really want to make his life difficult they could borrow from the non-confidence motion he tabled in 2005 that lead to the 2006 election. Throwing his own words back to him would be poetic justice really.