Monday, June 18, 2007

To Be Frank

When more Canadians pick the NDP leader over the Liberal leader, you have objective problems:
The Angus Reid polling firm surveyed more than 1,000 Canadians about their attitudes toward the opposition parties and found simmering trouble for Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion and his party.

More respondents – 37 per cent – thought NDP Leader Jack Layton would be a good prime minister, compared with just 25 per cent who preferred Dion.

On the issue that was supposed to be Dion's strength, green scarves and all, we find dismal numbers:
When people were asked to name the top environmental party, 67 per cent chose the Green party, 45 per cent chose the NDP, while just 22 per cent said the Liberals were the best on the environment.

People haven't forgot the past:
Even the old ethics cloud hasn't cleared – New Democrats were seen as honest and ethical by 45 per cent of respondents, while only 24 per cent said they would characterize Liberals that way. Only 28 per cent said the Liberal party had done enough to regain the trust of Canadians after the sponsorship scandal of Jean Chr├ętien's years in power.

Still, and perhaps paradoxically, more people are considering voting Liberal than for the Greens or the NDP, according to the poll.

Those who would definitely or probably vote Liberal total 34 per cent, while only 30 per cent said they would definitely or probably vote NDP. For the Greens, that figure was 25 per cent. The Greens netted only about 5 per cent of the popular vote in the last election

I'm of the mindset that you admit the failings, and through that admission you move forward in a realistic way. With that in mind, my criticisms of Dion aren't a damnation, more a wake up call. Many people argue that Dion is doing relatively well, when compared with other newly elected opposition leaders. I would counter, who was the last Liberal leader to lag FAR behind the NDP leader?

The environment numbers might be a reflection of past Liberal failures. However, if that is the case, it doesn't bode well for Dion, since he was Environment Minister in the past Liberal government. It will be very hard for Dion to distance himself from the legacy, and that circumstance allows for easy criticism from other parties. The poor showing also means that Dion needs other issues to make a mark, to date the environment has been his central, defining issue. The one caveat, the Greens have tremendous credibility on the environment, which means May's endorsement could prove incredibly useful.

Dion is the francophone from Quebec, who ran on the environment. The fact that Dion scores so poorly, the Liberals appear to be in apathetic disarray in Quebec, coupled with the low showing on the environment, paints a pessimistic picture. Right now, the Liberals greatest asset is Harper's failure, which implies we don't control our own destiny. While elections are often referendums on the government, I think that view is too convenient, it allows for a resignation of our own circumstance. Given the government's problems, I believe the Liberals should be doing much better, and the above findings serve as further evidence, that there are serious drags on support.


Blogging Horse said...

The one piece of good news in this for Liberals is still pretty awful. That only 34 per cent would "probably or definately" vote Liberal is hollow comfort for a party that has been used to securing 36-41% of the vote since the early 1990s.

A lot of people are going to blame Dion, and you can expect the knives to be out for him wherever Liberals are sulking this summer.

But consider the low numbers on ethics, trust and the environment. That's certainly not all Dion's fault. That's just scandal and inaction seeping into the pores of Canadians' image of the Liberal Party.

Oxford County Liberals said...

2 words

Online poll

I do not see why some people (including, sad to say, certain reporters) continue to want to give this questionable method of polling any legitimacy whatsoever.

I'm of half a mind to start an Angus-Reid recruitment drive of Liberal readers to join to his forums so they can be interviewed. Next time a poll comes out, voila, you'll see a surge in support for the Liberals. Or, our NDP friends can do the same thing -- we already know some of the Blogging Tories have encouraged their folks to sign up.

This polling is NOT credible and is not much better or accurate then those online polls you see the newspapers doing at their websites.

It is too prone to "freeping".

Steve V said...

I was waiting for that Scott ;) If this poll was done in isolation, then you could have a point (although in the Quebec and Manitoba elections, this online poll was more accurate that other outfits). I put stock in it, simply because it confirms other similar findings. How are these results an outlier? I think we ignore at our own peril.

Gayle said...

"...who was the last Liberal leader to lag FAR behind the NDP leader..."

Who was the last liberal leader to take over a party so coloured by scandal?

Dion has certainly taken a hit by being painted as "not a leader", and that hit was pushed by the anonymous liberals who did a lot of damage. but you have to account for the fact that at the time he became the leader the party was still overcoming a scandal.

Ti-Guy said...

Still, and perhaps paradoxically, more people are considering voting Liberal than for the Greens or the NDP, according to the poll.

Don't you think this is significant? Tell you think traditional Liberal voters vote for the leader of the party (which doesn't happen in our system) or vote for the party and/or its policies?

I don't think this poll should be brushed off, but I'm just wondering how this type of polling really captures what Liberals think when they do vote.

Steve V said...


I'm not disputing that is part of the equation. Actually, that brings me to another point. Dion has a tendency to speak glowingly of the past regime. While you and I can agree the merits, the good things accomplished, that is irrelevant to the general perception that the Liberal government failed in the end. The less Dion talks about the past, the better, because it just reminds everyone of what you have highlighted, among other things.

Steve V said...


I think that result speaks to the Liberal brand. Dion is polling worse than the party, which suggests 30% is the basement for Liberals. The paradox might be translated to winnability, which is why people would gravitate to the only realistic alternative. Having said that, as blogging horse points out, the 34% "probably or definetly" is hardly something to crow about.

Ti-Guy said...

I think that result speaks to the Liberal brand.

There's that word again..."brand." What does it mean?

Steve V said...

People are comfortable voting Liberal, it's a known quantity, natural governing party and all :)

Ti-Guy said...

And this...

Having said that, as blogging horse points out, the 34% "probably or definetly" is hardly something to crow about.

And yet 38% is enough for the CPC to crow about majority territory.

We're talking about politics as if it's a downhill skiing if all of our attention should be directed to the milliseconds dividing the winners and the losers.

I understand the concept of winnability; I'm just not sure it's the conversation a party looking for renewal among grass-roots Liberals (and they do exist) should be encouraging.

Ti-Guy said...

People are comfortable voting Liberal, it's a known quantity, natural governing party and all :)

I really disliked the "natural governing party" slogan. It was loaded with hubris and it struck me as undemocratic.

How about "You Can Do Worse than Vote Liberal." I guarantee that'd strike at the heart of why a lot of people vote Liberal.

...and I'm not joking. ;)

Steve V said...

"You Can Do Worse than Vote Liberal."

I like that better too :)

Anonymous said...

"Dion has a tendency to speak glowingly of the past regime."

The past regime still exists in the Liberal shadow cabinet and the members there seem to be tired. Since the Liberals need to Bloc to force an election, the prospects of them running again sometime in 2009 will become problematic. Most of them will be in their mid-60s and will not be a symbol of Liberal renewal.

Gerard and Martha will help break with the past somewhat. But they are outside of Parliament and there are limits to using Mike Duffy Live in gaining media exposure.

JimBobby said...

Whooee! I reckon Dion needs to get busy this summer. The BBQ circuit should see him at every opportunity.

I heard a rumour he's been takin' English lessons and I heard him on the TV a coupla times lately an' it sounds like the rumours is true. He's doin' a lot better an' gettin' out talkin' to riding associations all summer will help.

This dumbass NASCAR thing opens up a good opportunity for Dion an' you Grits. The LPC oughta sponsor as many non-motorized non-GHG-emitting events as possible. How about a bigass LPC sponsored canoe race on the Rideau? Wheelchair races, ironman competitions, bike races, etc. can all be sponsored to show who really cares about Mother Earth. I wonder how many canoes they could sponsor for the money the Con's is payin' Bourque and CanWest.

Dion's gotta get out to softball games, kid's soccer and summer festivals all across Canada. Harper got the drop on Dion in teh hockey rink. Harper's thinkin' NASCAR is what ordinary Canajuns pay attention to when hockey ain't on. He's wrong. I'll betcha more Canajuns go to kids' soccer than NASCAR. He oughta woo the soccer moms and dads.

He's gotta get his face in the local small town papers. Use King Steve's bad relations with the press to full advantage by being easily accessible.

He maybe needs to come down off the high road long enough to mock Harper and the Cons for their flip-flops and hypocrisy.

One thing I think'd help the LPC would be if guys like Scott Reid paid more attention to the blogs. There's a lot of dedicated supporters with a lot of good ideas but it don't seem like the bigass muckety-mucks in the LPC know anything about the Canajun boogeysphere.


Anonymous said...

JB, at the present time the LPC braintrust is neither trustworthy nor possessed of a brain.

They've been misidentifying their own navel lint for the aspirations of the country for so long that they no longer know that there's a difference.

The house needs to be cleaned out. And yet it won't be. Too much inbreeding has left the village idiots in charge.

There are some fine MPs and some lots of potential on the benches and among the membership but the rot at the top is too pervasive for the party to be able to truly renew itself.

Until something happens to flush the old entrenched power monkeys out of the LPC upper echelons we're stuck with the Cons.

Karen said...

dana, Until something happens to flush the old entrenched power monkeys out of the LPC upper echelons

Who specifically are you referring to? I grow weary of people throwing out accusations/blame without identifying who they are speaking about.

Scott, get me on the list. I'd really like to see and take one of these polls for myself.

Steve, I'm not dismissing it entirely, but there is a concerted effort out there, (not sure why), to bolster Harper's depiction of Dion.

I agree with JB. Dion has to get out there and he has to be covered by the press.

Delacourt? That was a surprise.

Anonymous said...

Who should I invite to sue me knb?

Anonymous said...

People forget how very low in the polls Harper and Chretien were when they were in opposition. Chretien was especially low in Quebec and yet - won.

Also, Layton and Harper have been leaders of their parties for a long time. Dion - only 6 months. Give the man a break.

Too soon to really know I think.

We now know how bad Harper is - so Dion has a chance to move up.

Karen said...

dana, it was an honest question. It's far too facile to throw these things out, but they are meaningless unless there is something that actually backs it up.

Steve V said...

I'm inclined to agree with dana. The old powerbase is still intact, and from what I understand much of Dion's inner circle is old guard. On the other hand, you can't substitute for experience, and given the tight time constraints, you could see why we couldn't afford a learning curve.

Maybe I'm an extremist, but I don't subscribe to careful reform. The Liberal Party essentially needs to blow itself up and start fresh. Watching the Quebec wing operate is embarrassing, it's incestous. People talking about "sitting this one out" until we have a new leader is a glaring example of what is wrong. There is a sense of entitlement and detachment that still exists.

Knb, I was pretty surprised to see that story by Delacourt of all people. If there is one person who has the Conservatives accurately pegged it's her.

ottlib said...


Yet another poll stating that Stephane Dion is not polling well on the "internals" and folks are getting a little ansy.

First of all there is a reason why they are the "internals".

Second, there has been a consistant disconnect between the Dion internals and the party preference. If the internals were as bad as people claim they are for as long as they say they have been we would have seen some erosion of the Party support by now. After all, for Mr. Dion to be as low as these polls claim alot of Liberals would have had to desert him. And since he is the leader of the Liberal Party they would be stuck with him if they supported the Party. Like I say, there is too much of a logical disconnect here for me to put much stock in any of these polls.

Third, the "horse-race" is boring!! For over a year all five parties have been stuck at the same level they are now with a few exceptions. (Mark my words, the Conservatives will rebound in the next set of polls to between 34 and 37%.)

There are only so many ways the media can hype up this snoozer. So they have resorted to focusing on the internals of polls to give the party support numbers some zip and to justify the thousands of dollars they are handing these polling firms.

Indeed, the media is now resorting to polls that exclusively ask questions that are generally internal questions without asking the party support question. As someone who has a personal and professional interest in how polls are conducted I can say that this is something very new.

While I agree that Mr. Dion has to connect with voters I do not agree that it is a result of these polls. It is just a basic requirement of the job.

Steve V said...

"Give the man a break."

I'm not crucifing the man, just pointing to the obvious flaws. Everyone uses the historical precedent of others, and I would submit that there is an analogy there, but it is dangerous to hang your hat on that reality. If it wasn't for the sponsorship scandal I truly believe Harper would have been defeated again and would be turfed at this point.

There is an element of "newness" at play, no question, but I think people make a serious error in fluffing off criticism within that assumption.

Steve V said...

"Yet another poll stating that Stephane Dion is not polling well on the "internals" and folks are getting a little ansy."

Ottlib, with all due respect, there is a time and a place to get "ansy".

During the leadership, I hesitated on Dion for the following reasons:

- his environmental record was such that he could never carry the banner as he proclaimed. The counters were to strong, and he would be held accountable for the Liberals poor performance.

-despite being a Quebecer, Dion has serious problems within that province. Dion is not unknown, in fact he might be too known, at a time when the party needs a fresh perspective. What is the point of electing another francophone, who has giant hurdles in Quebec?

-Dion has been an able, steady, honest soldier, but he has never been a natural leader. Dion's greatest moments where op-eds, and he lacked the intangibles to inspire people in a broad sense. An intellectual academic with great qualities doesn't necessarily translate to natural leader.

Those were my concerns, articulated last fall. Now, I am wrong a great deal, but the three concerns I posed have all shown themselves to be achilles heels. I'm ansy, and I'm waiting to be proven wrong.

BTW, I'm just expressing my opinion, I'm not trying to piss people off. Despite my concerns, I genuinely like Dion.

Steve V said...

Just one more point on historical precedents. When is the last time, a Conservative wane in the polls hasn't been accompanied by a corresponding jump in the Liberal numbers? There is a story there.

Karen said...

Steve, I think I understand what you are saying, but there is the reality of "tone from the top".

In my past, I've held various fairly senior management positions. When promoted, obviously you inherit a group that have been led by someone else, that undoubtedly is different you. It's you who set's the direction and tone however. When you have too many "this is the way we've always it" people around you and you disagree with that, you make it a point to focus on them and either get them on board or move them out.

I know that is a rather simplistic view of this situation, as it's far more complex, but I think it is wrong to diminish the "tone at the top" impact and wrong to determine that people cannot change and "renew" themselves.

Watching Dion in QP today, I did not see a worried man, a nervous man, nor one who lacks confidence in the people around him. Based on his biography, he is a man that listens to both dissent and acceptance. Most importantly, he is not a man that is easily led.

If you read how emphatic he was about the Clarity Act this weekend, I think you gain a sense of that. Presumably, the brain trust would have him keep that quiet, he won't.

ottlib: Indeed, the media is now resorting to polls that exclusively ask questions that are generally internal questions without asking the party support question.

Could you expand on that a bit? I find it really interesting.

Steve V said...


Excellent points! Just to play the contrarian again (I'm in the mood :)), you mentioned Dion's speech on the Clarity Act. I read a few brief quotes and I liked what I heard. However, the other side of that, nobody bothered to show up, relatively speaking and the audience wasn
t described as overly enthusiastic. Was that speech a success then?

Karen said...

I read the same about the crowd Steve and to be honest, I don't know. That was one report.

I suspect if it was a smashing success, we'll see the speech and reaction posted on their site. If it was not, perhaps just the text, at which point we can make up our own minds.

I'm holding out on whether it was a success or not, until I have more than one report. To me, success will look like, Liberals in Quebec, echoing his view. That is not a short jaunt, but rather a long road. If he achieves the half way point, that will be a very good sign.

ottlib said...


I never get ansy about polls when no election is imminent anyway. They are only going to change one way or the other.

As I stated in my last comment there is a disconnect between Mr. Dion's personal numbers and the party numbers. It is an axiom in polling that the two cannot remain disconnected for long yet it has lasted almost six months this time around. Something is not right.

All of those Liberal supporters who do not think he is a leader or do not want him as PM would have turned away from the Party by now. Instead they have hung in there. Why? Are they expecting Mr. Dion to step down? Are they expecting him to get better? With both Ms. May and Mr. Layton doing rather well it is not like they do not have anywhere else to go.

Steve V said...

"All of those Liberal supporters who do not think he is a leader or do not want him as PM would have turned away from the Party by now.'

Ottlib, I'm curious what you think about the "sitting this one out" stuff we keep hearing from the Quebec wing? Given the reaction after the convention, I take the stories seriously, this mentality that Liberals can afford to wait, lose and then get rid of Dion.

ottlib said...


It has been the conventional practice in polling to ask the party support question. It is usually the question that the poll sponsor is paying for. (The money question) All of the other questions, the so called internals, dealing with leadership and who would make the best PM are supplementary questions that are used to help explain the estimates for the money question.

The poll that steve quotes in this post deals with who the respondents think would make the better PM. It does not come out and ask the party support question. They only asked whether the respondent would still support an opposition party despite their opinion of the leader.

That is a reversal of normal polling practice. Very few polls do not ask the party support question and those that do not are dealing with opinions on issues, such as health care or something as opposed to party or leader support.

I believe that Strategic Council came out with a similar poll in the last week or so. It asked questions having to do with leadership and such but no question on party support.

I believe the reason why they are doing this is because the party-support numbers have been stagnant for over a year. And to make matters worse they have been stagnant and close together. Booorrring!!

The personal numbers on the other hand are much farther apart so they are easier to spin in entertaining ways. So we are seeing media outlets changing the money questions in their polls from the party support question to the internals. That is, they are just skipping the party support question and going straight to the ones that are supposed to explain the results of that question.

I think that is another reason why I am not too concerned about these polls. On their own these questions are of limited usefulness in explaining what is going on with the electorate.

Now before some wag out there accuses me of putting forward a media conspiracy against the Liberals or something I am not suggesting that at all. What I am suggesting is these media outlets pay good money for polls so that it will give them content. If the poll does not provide quality media content because the results are boring then these outlets will just change the parameters of the poll. We have been seeing that more and more lately and I expect it to continue until the party support numbers actually begin to show a sustained movement away from the current stagnation.

ottlib said...


I have not given it too much thought because there is not much I can do about it.

There is no doubt that some Quebec Liberals are not happy with Mr. Dion but the same was said about Mr. Martin, Mr. Chretien, Mr. Turner, Mr. Trudeau, etc.

Every new Liberal leader has to rebuild their Quebec organization from scratch because Quebec Liberals tend to support the leader over the party so when a new leader is chosen they bugger off.

Witness Mr. Lapierre and several other prominent Quebec Liberals after Mr. Martin's departure. And other prominent Quebec Liberals after Mr. Chretien's departure.

Mr. Dion is going to have to be like all of those who came before him. It will take time and patience but he will eventually get it done.

Steve V said...

"because Quebec Liberals tend to support the leader over the party so when a new leader is chosen they bugger off."

I don't claim any intimate knowledge, but the general vibe seems to be a very "insider", closed feel. With the poor fortunes, now would be the perfect time to really shake things up in Quebec. I haven't really heard much, it seems very stagnant.

Anonymous said...


Dion's weakness in Quebec needs to be taken into consideration that the provincials are equally weak.

Trudeau, Chretien, and Martin had the advantage of having politicians such as Claude Ryan, Daniel Johnson, and Jean Charest to help boost the Liberal fortunes there. Bourassa had a good relation with Mulroney, but some cabinet ministers such as Lise Bacon had influence in Ottawa through Jean Lapierre.

Now, Charest is discredited and Dumont is much closer to Harper ideologically. The Quebec Liberals are making two-tier medicine a major policy platform, a no-no to their federal counterparts. This reeling of the Quebec centre left has contributed to Dion's weakness there severely.

Steve V said...

"Dion's weakness in Quebec needs to be taken into consideration that the provincials are equally weak."

That's a fair point, although I don't think that tells the entire picture. In fact, Charest has tied his horse to Harper, you can barely find any relationship with the federal Liberals at this point.