Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sink Or Swim

The Gerry Nichols column denotes the difference between philosophy and partisanship. I believe political subsidies are a good thing in Canada, the reforms Chretien enacted took organized money out of the process and the relatively small expenditures allowed politicians to focus more on their jobs than soliciting handouts. Compared with the American system, that sees representatives spending exorbitant amounts of time on fundraising, distracted from their primary jobs, I'll take Canada's subsidy regime every time.

However, there is another side to this argument, which Nichols makes, representing the purest conservatism. It's an interesting column because it provides a disconnect between an ideological bias and a purposeful partisan strategy, disguised as ideological bent. There is no question Harper is moving on subsidies to cripple the Liberals. There is also little doubt that if not for political advantage, Harper wouldn't be moving quickly to end these subsidies, their priority reveals true intent. But, this is the reality that we now face in Canada, so rather than lament, it's time to accept the new rules and see if the Liberals can defy Harper's clear intent.

The Liberals face the double whammy of a reduced Parliamentary budget because of their third party standing. Staff are already being cut, resources are limited, it's a lean proposition. Now with party subsidies poised to end- probably some staggered extinction- the Liberals will bleed further, and it is actually QUITE serious. For the NDP, reality is blunted, because they have increased resources as opposition, better positioned to absorb the impact.

One thing is quite clear, the new rules will force the Liberals to revolutionize themselves. Whether we are capable of this transformation remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that Harper's elimination of subsidies will force an entire new Liberal mindset. I'm not sure the reality has quite set in, maybe it will take a few months, but the bottom line is the former Liberal hierarchy is dead, the only chance for survival is a grassroots inspired entity. It's pretty simple really, either the Liberals appeal to the grassroots in a profound way that forces them to empty their wallets or it dies slowly, deluding itself of the true task at hand. Today's Liberal Party is already a past tense, I'm just not sure everyone grasps the gravity, we're still in "rallying" phase, which is admirable on some level. When the checks stop rolling in and we're down to the sheer basics, confronted with a hulking machine on the other side, then it starts to get real.

I'm going to take a restrained positive attitude, because these new rules also offer a reasonable opportunity. I mean really, when we get down to it, if a party can't appeal to people in a way that forces donations, it really does speak to a lack of resonance, relevance, it really is any indictment of failed messaging. On the other hand, it means there is a co-relation between fundraising and fundamentals, if we start to raise money in decent amounts, it will suggest we are actually rebuilding the proper way, people are responding to our message. In essence, the new rules will be a weather wane, they will tell the tale, whether or not the Liberals finally get it, whether or not we are done with vanilla presentations and are actually appealing rather than relying on the rejection of others. It's a daunting task, but a healthy one, we will sink or swim based on our own merits. The election results mean resonance is now our primary goal, the subsidy cuts only guarantee that laser-like focus, because there is simply no dissuading ourselves with fuzzy futuristic scenarios, our survival starts and ends within Liberal borders.

13 comments:

Marpman said...

Disappointing to see Canada moving towards an American-style system where often the winning candidate is the person who can raise the most money, flooding the airwaves with negative, attack advertising.
I would have liked to see changes in our electoral system which banned out-of-election advertising and placed strict limits on funding.
However, as you reflect this is the political reality of the moment. So, we as 'Liberals' need to buck up and support the message. I am looking forward to the rebuilding process and I am hoping to play a part...

Steve V said...

I'd like to see out of election advertising banned, but that would blunt Harper's advantage, because it's pre-writ where the money advantage really does damage.

Marpman said...

after reading his column I would have to disagree with his premise. I believe that giving a party a per-vote subsidy in effect has two advantages:
1) my vote counts
2) my money supports who I vote for
I would prefer we eliminate political contributions altogether, in favour of a subsidy system.
Regardless, the Liberal party will have to find ingenious ways of getting their message out and building a base, grassroots movement. This has been sorely lacking of late. Defining what it means to be a Liberal is critical. I think rebuilding our base support in Quebec will be key...the NDP cannot hold those seats, especially in the manner in which they were won, so that will be in play next time around.

Steve V said...

I agree, I liked the notion that no matter which riding, how distant the possibility of winning, at least with this subsidy your vote was still an endorsement for a political party in a way that actually mattered.

Owen Gray said...

It is do or die time for the Liberals. But, as you say, this may be just what the party needs.

There is still the problem of between election advertising and the Conservative attack machine, which is not going away with a majority government.

All opposition parties are going to have to develop a strategy for dealing with the Harper War Room.

It may be simply giving back more of the same -- which would be tragic, because the Conservatives have already done so much to debase Canadian democracy.

Steve V said...

"There is still the problem of between election advertising and the Conservative attack machine, which is not going away with a majority government."

It's a massive advantage, look what Harper did in the pre-writ the last two elections. These huge buys opened up large gaps in the days prior to the election call. As well, the Cons have gov't advertising, when combined it's a daunting hill.

Tof KW said...

I hate to say so, but I don't think that's possible any longer to effectively counter Harper's war room.

MPs can be really sharp in Question Period, and you can give strong performances on the news & political programs. But Harper dominates any out-of-writ political advertising, has a subservient media, controls the house, the senate and soon the supreme court. Thousands of CPC political appointees are spread throughout the system, and the public service has been stifled.

This country has never seen anything like this before. Even the Chretien Liberals during their strongest days never enjoyed all these advantages.

Layton and the NDP are a joke, and the Grits are too weakened to challenge for government in 2015. I just can't see any remedy sort of Harper causing his own end.

Steve V said...

KW

I agree. The only caveat, if we do the right things, over the years we can narrow this advantage. It's going to be a long process and there are no guarantees.

Jerry Prager said...

I recall Ignatieff at the Guelph market last days of the election talking about the hope he felt despite polls because the party was being funded by members at much increased records, more than 2006 and 2008 combined.
Bring on the revolution.
Liberalism redefined is exactly what we need.

sharonapple88 said...

I'd like to see out of election advertising banned, but that would blunt Harper's advantage, because it's pre-writ where the money advantage really does damage.

They get a big head-start on the campaign this way. It's important to punch-back in politics, and it's difficult in this situation.

To add to the wishlist, I wish political ads would have to adhere to some sort of standard. Right now they don't fall under The Canadian Code of Advertising Standards. (A bit more on this
here.) Basically, they're free to mislead. Here's one solution offered, on the situation: a disclaimer on all political ads.

Marpman said...

the move from the support of political parties via a per-vote mechanism of financing also disadvantages the poor.
People who are disadvantaged financially cannot afford to spend money on parties who will advocate for their interests. The result is that the people who can afford to pay will be heard.

sharonapple88 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sharonapple88 said...

People who are disadvantaged financially cannot afford to spend money on parties who will advocate for their interests. The result is that the people who can afford to pay will be heard.

This is an important point. I don't know what else to but talk about the issue and write letters -- newspaper, MPs. It might do no good, but this is a point of view that needs to be heard in the debate on the per-vote financing of political parties.