Sunday, June 17, 2007

Grading The Parties

Red Tory has a leadership report card poll, to coincide with the looming summer break. I would like to add a scorecard for the various parties, as they stand now. The general thesis, nobody should be happy:

Conservatives- D

You spend billions of dollars, in complete betrayal of the notion of fiscal conservatism, all in the name of a drive towards majority, and you end up with your support waning badly. I have never seen a government so consumed with re-election get so little for their trouble. A complete failure in convincing Canadians that Harper deserves a majority.

Even worse, the government has fumbled so badly in the budget aftermath, that a general perception is developing that these people are mean-spirited, divisive bullies, whose competence is in question. Harper has not only failed to connect with Canadians, he seems to be alienating great swaths of the electorate with his demeanor.

Liberals- D

The Liberals greatest asset to date is Tory ineptitude, and you could argue the Conservatives savior has been Liberal ineffectiveness. Despite a lengthy leadership, which was supposed to re-invent the party, it is still quite a challenge to understand where exactly the Liberals are headed under Dion. We're not Harper seems to be the rallying cry, but that notion is about as inspiring as the Conservatives penchant for Liberal bashing.

While the polls show a solid foundation, I subscribe to the idea that the Liberals have failed to capitalize on Harper's missteps. If not for Dion's uneven performance to date, coupled with a lack of focus, we would probably be looking at Liberal numbers touching 40%. While the Conservatives have fallen back, the Liberals have been stagnant for months, which is a curious historical circumstance. In fact, and this is just a hunch, I believe the Conservatives would be even lower, if not for hesitation with the Liberals, and lack of an alternative for many swing voters.


If it was simply a question of polls, then the NDP would get a D as well, but there has been a few areas where NDP supporters can crow about success. The NDP has been fairly effective in parliament, given their numbers and Layton deserves credit for getting the Clean Air Act to committee. In my mind, despite the fact that the revisions are dead, that coup by the NDP was probably the most significant event in this parliament. That committee has also been instrumental in bringing the opposition together, finding a commonality and focusing on the real "enemy".

The NDP has serious problems, not the least of which is the Green Party surge and their own concerning poll numbers. One caveat, recruiting Former Quebec Liberal environment minister Thomas Mulcair to run as an NDP candidate in a fall by-election may prove to be a major story for the NDP in Quebec.

While the NDP has problems, at least you know where they stand on issues, good or bad. The best thing the NDP has done recently is distance themselves from any idea of collusion with the Conservatives, and they are finally starting to hammer the government like ideology would demand.

Green Party-B

A few bumps in the road, but you have to give May credit for keeping the Green Party in the conversation. Despite having no official voice in parliament, May has managed to draw attention from the national media, which is quite the accomplishment.

The Greens are consistently hovering around 10% in the polls, and are challenging the NDP in a couple provinces. Still seen as an environmental party, there does appear to be some progress in expanding the Greens draw. If you are a Green supporter, there is plenty of room for optimism.

Duceppe made a serious error with the PQ leadership, but the fact of the matter, it hasn't hurt the Bloc in the polls. People don't agree with Conservative policy, the Liberals appear completely out of touch, which keeps the Bloc in the game, when actions should suggest otherwise.

Status quo for the Bloc, no momentum, but still relevant, hence the fair grade.

One fact appears clear, Canadians aren't particularly impressed with anyone at the moment. A general apathy, some disgust and a lack of inspiration all speak to the general failure of our political parties to resonate with Canadians. With that reality in mind, it is hard to give anyone a particularly glowing review. Agree or disagree?


Anonymous said...

I don't think you can compare just yet. Dion - went through an election, a leadership race and right back into parliament session. He hasn't really had time to regroup and get his party stablilized - the other parties have had years and years to put themselves together.

I think a better indication would be after the summer break.

To me, having this contest is stupid right now. Very stupid.

Steve V said...


Fair enough on Dion, I'm just commenting on the now, you are extrapolating to the future. Stupidity aside ;)

Anonymous said...

Hm...Harper and Chretien were both rated really low when they were in opposition.

I'm not sure if this means anything right now for Dion.

I guess this could indicate to Dion where he needs to improve, but I don't recall any leader of the opposition doing well when in opposition.

northwestern_lad said...

Not fair to Dion??? Please let me pull out my world's smallest violin and play a sad tune for him. The fact is that Dion has been in the house for over a decade. It's not like he's only been there for a few months.

The mark for the Liberals was right on because they kept on supporting this government for a year in their own self interest because they didn't have a leader. They helped to set the table for this minority government acting like a majority by proping them up for months to avoid an election sans chef.

I agree about the Thomas Muclair comment. The NDP has never had much success in Quebec, and having a big name candidate will be a big test of if the NDP can win in Quebec. I'll be watching that one closely

ottlib said...

I would give the Conservatives an F and the Liberals a C-.

Conservatives: It is now obvious that their plan was to have a Spring election and that plan failed. Considering their chief opponent was disorganized for most of the past year that failure is damning.

Combine that with the fact the Conservatives have not actually governed and you have a failing grade.

Liberals: Despite being disorganized for most of the last year they have managed to hold on to their support. Even during the Conservative honeymoon and the immediate post-budget period their support did not fall. That is a huge accomplishment if you ask me considering the mood of the electorate during and immediately after the last election and the absense of a leader.

However, as you say Steve, they have not been able to exploit the Conservative troubles to increase their support. Although, I do believe their very effective handling of the Afghan detainee affair contributed to prevented what might have been a rough election this Spring. The Liberals still have some work to do.

I agree with you with regard to the grades that you gave the remaining parties.

Steve V said...


You're right, given the fact that the entire strategy was predicated on a spring election, they have failed. I choose D because they have been somewhat successful in framing the Liberals.

Karen said...

However, as you say Steve, they have not been able to exploit the Conservative troubles to increase their support.

While I agree with that to a certain extent, I think it's overstated. They have not really had an opportunity to make their case to Canadians. I mean, aside from we who watch QP, how often to you see Dion in the press? How often do Canadians have a chance to really hear the views of the Liberal party?

I think there has been a lot of work done in the party that is not likely visible to us yet. When Liberals are out, making their case, I think you'll see a shift. If you have Rae, Ignatieff, Kennedy, Hall-Findly and Dion, (and others of course) all singing from the same song sheet, and there still is no movement, then I say we have a problem.

We got a lift in the polls when they were front and centre and being listened to by the public and at that time, they were working against each other. Working together can only be good news, especially armed with all the ammo the con's have given them.

Susan said...

I have felt for some time, and continue to, that for now Dion is holding back so that the cons can't steal his policies and can't twist and make ugly everything he says. He's also making sure his policies are very well thought out, consistent with each other and focused on the long-term well-being of the country - the 'big ideas' the last At Issue panel were looking for.

My concern lies with the traditional support for the Liberals by big business. How is Dion going to address their concerns and stay faithful to his fundamental policies or is he just not going cater to them and suffer the consequences?

This concern ties in with another, which is the fundraising - how can anyone raise money with a $1100 per person limit and all the other restrictions and still successfully run an election campaign?

And finally, the fickleness of the media worries me - they've been turning on a dime lately. Right now they do seem to be as insulted by Harper et al as the rest of us, but will they turn again just when Dion is moving to centre stage?

One thing though, we need an election soon, Mr. H. is already messing up a lot of our bureaucratic systems - gutting Environment Canada, weakening all the departments that fulfill watch dog functions, and privatising HRSDC functions, for just a few examples.

Steve V said...


If Dion is holding back, I think that a mistake. Scott Reid recently argued, and I agree, that it was time to release some policy, or risk Dion being defined by others. While traditionally you wait until the campaign, you do have to be pragmatic. Also, the attack ads against Dion are completely unprecedented, so operating in the "normal" environment doesn't quite fit.


I agree that alot of work has been done, although other parties are working as well, so we can't see the Liberals in isolation. I'm just commenting on the now, to date, and I read this this morning which speaks to the problems:

"I believe in Quebec institutions, I believe in them a lot. I have always defended them, and I will always defend them."

The statement was one of the few to elicit an enthusiastic standing ovation in an otherwise lacklustre reception from supporters.

While many party stalwarts were present in the audience, others who have often been present in the past were nowhere to be seen, and there appeared to be far fewer in attendance than there had been just one year ago in the same venue.

With the exception of the leader's speech and a thumbnail report from spokespeople from policy workshops, the party took the exceptional step yesterday of closing all other discussions to the media, including policy workshops on everything from the environment to social justice to regional issues.

Consequently, reporters were not present to hear what many said was an impassioned speech by Papineau candidate Justin Trudeau on the need to address environmental problems as soon as possible.

Nor were they there when party officials swiftly - and some said rudely - shut down a call by some members of the Quebec wing to hold a policy convention this fall, as provided for in the party's constitution."

You will remember Dion had a very hard time selling tickets to his big Montreal fundraiser. This circumstance is amazing, when you consider Liberals choose a francophone. I'm not suggesting Liberals can't turn it around, but every sign available speaks to very troubling predicament. I'm actually worried about the fall by-election, because if the NDP actually makes a strong case, the Liberal brand is more vulnerable than ever. I'd rather not look on the brightside here, because frankly, I think we become more comfortable than we should. The situation is desperate, and we need to act accordingly IMHO :)

Red Tory said...

Steve — Thanks for the link.

Overall a pretty fair assessment I’d say although I’m inclined to agree with KNB that the Liberals have had more expedient priorities in terms of keeping the Conservatives off-balance and off-message, as well as reacting to threats of an election that have seemed impending at times. This hasn’t really enabled them to position themselves for the future and set out their vision as a coherent whole except in the most general sort of way, although we have seen bits and pieces of it coming together as Dion targets different constituencies.

Steve V said...


We are starting to see bits and pieces from Dion, although nothing that really grabs to date- I suspect it will improve. Keeping the Conservatives off balance has really been easy, what with the daily material provided. Having said that, Dion has looked better in QP, more comfortable and confident.

Karen said...

Steve, I hear you and read the article too, but I stand by what I said. At this moment in time being the criteria, I just cannot imagine them being in a different place at the moment.

Policy release, at this point in time, I'm of two minds.

I think general policy themes would be a good idea. Not empty rhetoric mind you, solid themes and vision, but actual policy details to me at this point makes no sense. Not the least of which is that Canadians aren't listening...but the con's are. Announcing policy at this point is tantamount to writing the disingenous con ad's. The con's are more concerned about taking Dion down, than they are about raising themselves.

Did you see QP today? Hill scoffed and laughed at the thought of Dion and it was disgusting. That I heard Taber laughing too, told me something, not that she is a big worry as it relates to credibility, but it seems to be the hottest "sport" in Ottawa right now.

Steve V said...

"Did you see QP today? Hill scoffed and laughed at the thought of Dion and it was disgusting. That I heard Taber laughing too, told me something, not that she is a big worry as it relates to credibility, but it seems to be the hottest "sport" in Ottawa right now."

I saw Hill today, it's all they have left. The fact Taber joins in, as journalists all seem to do is unfortunate.

Remember during the leadership? Dion received puff piece after puff piece, because they like the underdog. I mistakenly bought into the notion that Dion would enjoy a good relationship with the press. However, the media has accepted the Conservative attack ads as fact and embraced the premise. It's not just the public impression, the ads served to allow open mocking of Dion. It has become sport, and the question then moves to how does Dion change the tone? One thing I've noticed, Dion doesn't do many interviews of late. I think Dion should put himself out there more, it can't hurt.

IslandLiberal said...

I have never seen a government so consumed with re-election get so little for their trouble.

In fairness, I think the last year or so of Paul Martin's government comes pretty close.

The Bloc's score seems a bit high to me; isn't the consensus that they're sliding into irrelevance?

Steve V said...

island liberal

Fair point on Martin, although he was in desperation mode.

The Bloc is holding fast in the polls and with a possible PQ resurgence, it would appear little damage done.

burlivespipe said...

Very shrewd analysis, Steve. I agree that Muclair represents the best and likely only chance to spark an NdP breakthrough and that it would be foolish to underestimate him; however, I also believe we should give them the cool shoulder and not shout about how 'a vote for les pnd is a wasted vote.' That only incites anger and gets those volunteers into overdrive.

By the way, feel free to check out my own poll at

Anonymous said...

A very enlightening post, F&W. Thank you. As an ordinary person who hasn't taken a more than survival-mode interest in politics for years, the events of this past 2 years have found me avidly watching HoC, CPAC, news/opinion panels, reading newspapers and obscure journals like Hansard. Blogs such as yours have been invaluable.
I just want to say that in my limited political conversations and forays into bringing up political subjects at appropriate times, I am finding that people think that Dion has some great ideas. They think he is sincere and will bring forth some positive change for Canada, the environment and the world.
At Commercial Drive Day today there was a lot of talk about what sort of Canada the people are wanting vs. what we are getting. While the Liberal party has some skeletons to clear out of its closets, and the MJ Party was handing out free memberships, many people were more worried about the current government's direction, especially our war efforts vs. nation-building and peacekeeping. NDP or Liberal was the general theme.
Just the jive from the Drive.

L. emersonia

Steve V said...


lol, I voted for Gecko :)


Thanks for the "vibe on the street" :)