Monday, July 18, 2011

"Honeymoons"

Eric lays out the historical picture to demonstrate why the NDP's honeymoon in Quebec may persist longer than Harper's rhetoric assumes. I largely agree with the analysis, but my opinion looks at the NDP circumstance from another perspective, but perhaps equally as daunting for the Liberal "renewal" prospects.

You'll note in the G and M piece, that the examples largely center around one common denominator, that being power. Unlike most "honeymoon" scenarios, the NDP holds no real power, there is no reign, no era, and ultimately no real accountability. In my view, the fact the NDP doesn't hold the levers of power only lessens the chance that they will quickly disappear in Quebec. There are some obvious exceptions, particularly in Quebec, but the NDP are in a very advantageous position in Quebec, they can fight against an unpopular Conservative government, without behing held to any real standard because they reside in opposition. People understand the NDP can't deliver much, given their current role in Parliament, a majority is actually preferrable to the past minorities. With that common sense rationale self evident, I'm hard pressed to see how a "kick the bums out" mentality develops in Quebec?

The only way the NDP collapse in Quebec is if they come across as amateurish and unprofessional. Should the NDP continue to champion Quebec issues- which they've already signalled will be a high priority- then these type of "honeymoon" conversations need to be looked at in a different light. Within a majority Parliament, dominated by another party, there will simply be few occasions wherein the NDP will receive blame that could lead to Quebecers turning in dramatic fashion. In other words, why would the honeymoon end, what issue would trigger a seismic change in Quebec, how can a powerless party so offend its demographic? Of course, NDP support is quite shallow in Quebec, it isn't entrenched, traditional, some deep unshakeable affinity, but it also enjoys probable calm seas ahead due to circumstance. You have a mostly dead in the water Conservative government, a tired and tarnished Liberal Party and a completely decimated separatist option, so Quebec will remain fertile for the NDP, probability assumes this election isn't a one off.

There are no absolutes here, but for Liberals, I think it best not to adopt the flippant mentality that Harper articulated and instead realize that this "honeymoon" scenario has built in advantages that are formidable. At the moment, I'm hard pressed to find any "triggers" that could lead to short term NDP implosion, apart from self inflicted wounds. I'm not suggesting the NDP can't erode, but there is a certain arrogance that assumes they will quickly disappear from the Quebec political scene.

10 comments:

Paul said...

This is going to be an interesting term in politics because now, Harper (no matter how much you love or hate him) has proven you don't need Quebec to win a majority. Old habits die hard so it will be interesting to see how all parties treat Quebec over the next four or five years.

Dylan said...

My question is whether or not the NDP's QC support will hold when Jack steps down? He will most likely lead the party into 2015; but beyond that? I think if there emerges another CPC majority we're looking at ALL possible avenues for changing the political game in Canada and that means a lot of work and new leadership. Is Jack up to the task and will QC be with him for it?

Will the Bloc come back? Maybe. Probably not now that Fran├žois Legault is building something at the provincial level that may resonate with many QC Dippers in the HoC. Will the rest of Canada look at the QC NDP and accept them in their constituencies? Will they turn to LPC representation as a result? I think the biggest threat to the success of the NDP in the next election is how the soft-sovereigntist caucus is viewed outside of Quebec.

After May 2 there was a "holy shit" moment for a lot of centrists -- many of whom are not staunch Liberals -- who are not willing or prepared to write off the LPC as dead. In fact, the CPC might not WANT the LPC to die completely. Consider SUN Media which critized Harper's fiscal policies by characterizing him as "spending like a Liberal." It's not, spending like a New Democrat. Or spending like a socialist.

Turning THAT tide will be difficult. The NDP may never have the CPC's sights set on them; since stealing middle-aged voters who have traditionally voted Liberal is probably a lot easier than trying to convert a staunch Dipper from urban Ontario or a flippant QC nationalist who is bored with their current options.

I have a feeling it's about to get worse: politically, culturally, economically, before our politicians get better.

CK said...

I also read Eric Grenier's column in the G & M, and found your post interesting as well.

I'm on the fence at this time. I say there are too many unknown variables at this time to form an opinion or even make a prediction. I could try, but I would reserve the right to change my mind as I know circumstances would change.

First, I have to say, never rule sovereignty out. The PQ may be down, for now, but never say it's out. They've been down before, only to get back up again. If Harper does treat Quebec as second class citizens, I can see the sovereignty movement getting its' act together. This time, some progressive minded Anglos who don't have the stomach for Harper, may well vote yes this time around too.

As for the NDP, why do I get this eerie feeling history is repeating itself? And not in a good way for them? Why do I get the feeling that this is going to be the left version of RN Thompson and Real Caouette-(later)Fabien Roy all over again?

A lot of what happens to the NDP in Quebec, of course, would hinge on the results of next provincial election, which is supposed to be held only in late 2012-13, but even though Charest denies it up and down, rumour has it that he will call a snap election when the National Assembly resumes in the Fall.

Come next election, 2015, I don't think the NDP will be winning as many seats.

I do see somewhat of a comeback for the Bloc.

Liberals, hard to say, but they're not off to a good start.

I have a feeling we may see some mergers later down the road, not necessarily out of desire, but out of necessity.

Steve V said...

"My question is whether or not the NDP's QC support will hold when Jack steps down?"

You could argue with Mulcair waiting in the wings, it may just solidify.


"I say there are too many unknown variables at this time to form an opinion or even make a prediction."

Agreed. My only point here, this isn't a "honeymoon" in the traditional sense, since the NDP is in opposition. I believe that an advantage, because the NDP can't disappoint, at least not in a practical sense.

CK said...

Dylan, I wonder if Layton is still going to even lead the party to 2015. Given most of the NDP's seats are in La Belle Province, Tom Mulcair has an added argument for taking over the party. Even before May 2, I always had a suspicion Mulcair not only wanted to, but was trying to take over the party.

Right now, Mulcair has his hands full, teaching MP school to the new Quebec MPs, so we'll hear little from him for the summer. However, Mulcair will expect something return for his trouble.

As for Legault's manifesto, his coalition, which is not yet a political party, is center-right, not something the Quebec caucus of the NDP would find appealing, I can assure you. Very pro-corporation, pro-privatized health care and neutering of trade unions, also paying teachers according to performance; something that's already got the teachers' unions bristling.

DL said...

I suppose that the obvious case study that the NDP wants to avoid in Quebec is what happened to the ADQ in 2007-2008 - going from 4 seats to official opposition with 48 seats and then back down to 7 seats (or what happened to the Manitoba Liberals under Sharon Carstairs). But the big difference is that the ADQ had its big jump in a minority government situation and Charest called a snap election 18 months later long before they were able to consolidate anything and they were crushed. The NDP has four years of being opposition to a majority Tory government to consolidate and to get their caucus totally up to speed. Also, for all the talk about "Vegas girl" etc...most commentators say that there is quite a bit of talent in the NDP Quebec caucus - way more than among the dim bulbs who got swept in with Mario Dumont in 2007. I have a feeling the BQ will fold and won't even compete in 2015 and I wouldn't be surprised if one or two of their current four MPs end up running as new Democrats in the next election.

CK said...

But the big difference is that the ADQ had its big jump in a minority government situation and Charest called a snap election 18 months later long before they were able to consolidate anything and they were crushed.

Uh, that's not quite how it happened. Mario Dumont has only himself to blame for the ADQ's demise. The voters gave him official opp to see what he and the ADQ would do. Would they be a gov't in waiting? Clearly, this was not the case. Dumont was not premier material and he ran the party like a petulant child. Hell, Dumont was so arrogant, that he was ready vote down Charest's first minority budget without even reading it and couldn't really give any valid reason why he wouldn't support it or givee any wish list of concessions he'd have liked to have seen in order for him to have considered supporting that budget. Nada. All he said was 'it was his job to oppose the budget, no matter what'. We could've gone back to the polls that soon. It was thanks to the 3rd place PQ we didn't. Luckily, they were smarting from their disaster, they were leaderless after resignation of Andre Boisclair, and broke; no apetite for another election so soon. That, is but one example of how Dumont's petulance and arrogance drove his party down that fateful year. Charest, being the opportunist he was, saw that window of opportunity and grabbed it. Didn't hurt Pauline Marois that much neither.

Greg said...

Harper's comment never did make much sense. He is referring to Bob Rae's government in Ontario and other NDP provincial governments. Sure, the bloom comes off the rose eventually for any government. But, the NDP is not going to be the provincial government in Quebec, so I agree with Steve, why end the romance when it is a guilt free affair?

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

I have a feeling the BQ will fold and won't even compete in 2015 and I wouldn't be surprised if one or two of their current four MPs end up running as new Democrats in the next election.

It'll be interesting to see if that happens. At the start of parliament, there seems to be a bit of tension between the Bloc and NDP. Anyway, even if there are Bloc MPs who'd want to switch parties, there's a real question of whether the NDP would want them. In the last election, the Conservatives ran ads attacking the NDP for signing the 2008 coalition agreement with the Bloc. The Conservatives would love to smear the NDP as the new Bloc. (This isn't to say that the Bloc MPs aren't any good at their jobs. It was a Bloc MP who brought up the matter of the orphan clause during the postal filibuster.)

Anyway, the NDPs apparent plans in the province don't involve working with the Bloc (or the Liberals for that matter).

The NDP may end up staying longer in Quebec. The Conservative's current attitude towards the NDP and Quebec seems to be an extention of their indifferent campaign in the last election. The Conservatives are just too laid back when it comes to the province.