Monday, September 17, 2007

D-Day

I’m of the mindset, that no matter the outcome in tonight’s by-elections, the Liberals have already lost, now just a question of degree. If speculation isn’t your cup of tea, then this isn't the post for you.

Best case scenario, the Liberals pull off a convincing win, which appears unlikely. A solid victory in Outremont allows for some positive spin, although the result is almost a net neutral, given all the bad press and talk of division in the last few days. Having said that, a strong result at least allows a sigh of relief and the bastion is intact, despite formidable opposition and relative uncertainty.

If the Liberals win by a narrow margin, then there is a sense of hollow victory, because after all this was supposed to be a slam dunk riding. All the questions about the Liberals in Quebec and Dion’s leadership remain, there is nothing in that result that will quell speculation about leadership or future prospects. In fact, a narrow win is a testament to vulnerability, where none previously existed. In the aftermath, the Liberals can hardly carry on, business as usual. There will be tough questions about organization, strategy and the lingering doubts about Dion in Quebec remain. The vote total suggests victory, but the underlying themes suggest a fair amount of taint that isn’t easily discounted.

An NDP win represents nothing short of crisis for the Liberals all around. Internal strife aside, there is also the prospect of Harper smelling blood and delivering a hard-line throne speech, meant to force an election, or at the very least expose an impotent official opposition. I see many “unnamed Liberals”, plenty of fodder for the media and academics who want to paint a party in disarray. A guaranteed cycle of bad press and low morale, evaporating any sense of momentum that may have existed. Liberals can debate the finer points, but the broad strokes are entirely negative, you can’t effectively counter-spin the idea of a francophone leader in Quebec, not only getting shutout, but losing ground in his home province. The whispers become more pronounced and people can’t dismiss hard realities. A bad night in Quebec feeds all the negative story lines the Liberals are trying to overcome.

Should be a fascinating night, with a buffet of possibilities for political junkies.

34 comments:

Mark Dowling said...

Steve - let me swim against the tide and say I think the Libs might scrape a win. An NDP win probably depends on every single thing going right - low turnout overall but a proportional share of students as well as Bloquistes looking to embarrass the Liberals.

The problem for Dion is that winning isn't really enough. The damage has been done regardless of any result short of a landslide.

That damage was principally inflicted by Liberals who couldn't wait for the polls to close before running their mouths off to the media, and by hysterics like Cherniak worrying about Fuddle Duddle rather than the prospect of more Dippers nibbling at urban Liberal seats as they are in Toronto and Hamilton already.

Steve V said...

mark

"The problem for Dion is that winning isn't really enough. The damage has been done regardless of any result short of a landslide."

That's the way I see it too. As far swimming against the tide, this last push might be enough to pull it out.

KC said...

Steve - I think you forgot your prozzak (sp?) this morning. Cheer up! Its not all doom and gloom for the LPC regardless of how much some would like us to believe it is. Even if we lose today it is but a minor setback. Its not good, but its not the end of the world.

Steve V said...

Nobody is predicting armageddon, but the "no big whoop" attitude ensures future setbacks.

lance said...

Heh, Steve, you've been fighting that 'no big whoop' attitude since June when you first questioned the strategy in Outremont. Why do you think it will work now?

Antonio predicted this last year. He's vilified now for saying 'I told you so'.

A very telling google search:

"outremont site:farnwide.blogspot.com"

Up until last week every post was of the 'heads up people' variety or the 'I don't understand what they're doing' type. Where is ottlib now with the no worries in Outremont comments?

Regarding your post, yes minimal damage has been done, but given the media circus that's been going on since Friday morning we've a small taste of what a Liberal loss will look like.

This level is what we'll get with a minimal Lib. win.

Liberals across the nation better hope for a landslide.

On the up-side, the media better get its federal election madness out of the system. There won't be one this year. :)

Cheers,
lance

Steve V said...

"On the up-side, the media better get its federal election madness out of the system. There won't be one this year. :)"

I'm not sure about that one. If the Cons win a seat, and the Lib lose or just squeak by, I could see Harper pushing for an election.

Anonymous said...

Interesting - no matter what's going on in Canada - it's all about Quebec.

Quebec owns us.

I'm tired of it.

Steve V said...

anon

I don't mean to split hairs here, but it might have something to do with the fact all the by-elections are in Quebec. A minor point.

northwestern_lad said...

Wow... i'm going to hold onto my celebrations until it's official (what can I say, i'm superstitious, I don't want to jinx it) but there is no Liberal upside here today. Let's face it, if everything was fine in Liberal-land, this seat should have never been in question. The fact that it's not only in question, but the fact that the Liberals are behind 6% to the NDP (NPD en francais :) ) is nothing short of disaster.

I have always thought from the start that Dion was not the man to rebuild the Liberals in Quebec, given his attachment to Separatism and the fact that he was the minister that passed the Clarity Act. If the Liberals really want to rebuild, they need to go in a totally new direction, with someone who has no ties to any of that past. But the sooner they start to realize that and stop blaming others inside the party (I think that infighting is a Liberal tradition), they might be able to fix this ship before we start being able to compare Dion to Kim Campbell.

Red Tory said...

A very good assessment Steve. I especially agree with you that no matter what the outcome (barring a miracle), Dion comes out of this a loser. The media as framed it as a referendum on his leadership and even in the event of a victory, a narrow one will still play into the narrative that the Liberals have (or almost) fumbled a relatively safe seat in the heart of their Quebec stronghold.

Steve V said...

Yes, "Liberals Divert Disaster" is hardly a high-five headline, even if they win.

Mushroom said...

Steve,

After a weekend of haggling over what I was going to say on my blog, I have finally made my assessment of the Quebec by-election. It suggests that we have been slow out of the gate in party renewal and that our rivals have taken advantage of the Bloc's collapse.

Steve V said...

mushroom

One spin I've heard, the Liberals numbers are steady (relative to the last election), but all the Bloc vote has gone NDP. To my mind, it is equally worrying that the soft Bloc voter is shopping around with a "anybody but the Liberals" mentality.

knb said...

I tend to agree with both you and RT, but mostly with his statement on how the media has spun this.

Buying into the spin is a mistake, imo. For instance, in Roberval, a local newspaper did a poll that showed the Lib leading. I'm not suggesting that she'll win, but staking Dion's reputation on the parroting media, is beyond shallow and completely misses the complexity of this particular race.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting the image isn't being built, but there must be a way to fight back with fact, against the media.

ottlib said...

If all of the NDP vote comes from the Bloc and they lose one of the other by-elections then there will be no election this year.

The Bloc will not want to fight an election in those conditions.

So Stephen Harper would have to do something that would be totally unacceptable to both the Liberals and the Bloc, in the throne speech, to force an election. Unfortunately for him, such actions would actually be counterproductive in securing him an election victory. He is sort of in a Catch-22 position in that sense.

So, regardless of tonight's results, we can probably take a fall election off the table and if Liberals keep their heads then they can recover from what has been a bad political week.

However, it has become increasingly evident that the Liberals are losing their heads so regardless of tonight's results, and regardless of its implications for the leadership of the Party, Liberals better get comfortable sitting in the opposition benches. They are going to be there awhile.

Red Tory said...

Ottlib — The hysterics of those who are easily panicked should be heavily discounted, imho. They're not thinking with their heads.

Steve V said...

ottlib

If Harper acts like he has a majority with the throne speech, he can do one of two things- force an election, or bully the opposition and expose them as afraid.

knb

You know I agree with about the media, but what has been interesting the last few days is the academic community is essentially parroting the parameters and stakes. Could be a chicken or the egg scenario, but the opinion has moved beyond the Fife's of the world.

Mushroom said...

"You know I agree with about the media, but what has been interesting the last few days is the academic community is essentially parroting the parameters and stakes."

It is something academics need to pay attention to. The Quebec political scene vis a vis the decline of the sovereigntist movement. The general assessment is that the traditional federalists are not gaining ie. federal and provincial Liberals.

lance said...

Mushroom said, "The general assessment is that the traditional federalists are not gaining ie. federal and provincial Liberals."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't the Conservatives hold just as much right to the title as the Libs? (Federally at least.) That is unless you're talking about centralization rather than federalism.

Cheers,
lance

lance said...

Heh. And after calling s/he out, now I'm completely in agreement w/ Ottlib.

An election this year or even until fall next year does nothing for Harper. For all intents and purpose these three by-elections are giving him a majority. No one is going to want to go.

BQ: need to figure out what they stand for other than leaving.

NDP: assuming a win tonight, they need time to use that to secure their bridgehead. In a general election they won't be able to have every MP visit so they really need to shore up their support.

Libs: Obvious. If not a new leader (doubt it) then Dion is going to drag the term out forever.

The CPC don't want to go because they can get their agenda accomplished without many problems.

Remember, Harper has _always_ (as in never waivered) said Fall 2009.

Cheers,
lance

p.s. Heh. In reading that list above, its funny that we have the potential for two completely different fights. Bloc vs. NDP, CPC vs. Lib. I wonder who is going to be helping who.

Mushroom said...

"but don't the Conservatives hold just as much right to the title as the Libs?"

This is a long story. Harper's Cons are a open book and there is the flirtation of Mulroney's PCs with separatists such as Lucien Bouchard. Meech is a different story, Harper was vehemently against it in his Reform days and Charest supported it.

My summary is this. During the last two referendums, the leaders of the NO side are Trudeau, Claude Ryan, Chretien, and Daniel Johnson. Many Quebec Conservative voters Harper is attracting now may have voted YES in either two of them. Their grievances (and this apply to some NDP supporters in Quebec) is that they feel alienated with this "you are with Canada or against Canada" attitude portrayed by the Liberals.

Mushroom said...

Lance,

Dippers will be quite confident in going, especially with a Mulcair win. Seeing the Grits reeling may lead to gains in places like Saskatoon (Carol Skelton's seat), Edmonton Strachona, and BC. Also if Harper won 10 in Quebec due to a surge in the last weeks of the 2006 campaign means that the Dippers will be expecting about 3 to 6 seats in Quebec due to the implosion of the Bloc.

Gayle said...

NDP could win Edmonton Strathcona, but it will have nothing to do with the Quebec by-elections. They barely get a mention in our media here.

Linda Duncan came second last time - next time more liberal voters will vote for her for the simple reason that we want Jaffer gone.

lance said...

Rahim Jaffer? Why? He's a star, IMO, definitely going places.

It's hard to say whether the NDP would be able to translate success in Que. to success in the West. Especially when the CPC will more than likely be able to claim success too.

Plus, there are what, 3 or 4 more by-elections to go, one of them being Merasty's SK. riding. (That'll be a fun one, very close last time.)

Cheers,
lance

Mushroom said...

"Rahim Jaffer? Why? He's a star, IMO, definitely going places."

Thought so, possibly the most talented of the visible minority CPC MPs (which unfortunately does not mean that much when your colleagues are Nina Grewal and Inky Mark). However, Harper's Edmonton contingent seems weak compared to the Calgary powerhouse.

Vote splitting saved Rahim in 2006 when the Cons were duplicating their 1988 efforts. If what the Dippers learned in Outremont is that the same campaign can be waged in Strathcona, the most liberal riding in Alberta and possibly the Prairies.

Gayle, I was discouraged to contribute to any future campaigns there by certain liberals for fear that I will support running a low-cost paper tiger campaign so that Linda gets in :(

Gayle said...

Jaffer is not a rising star. He has beneffited from vote splitting in at least the last two elections. I know a number of people who vote for the candidate most likely to unseat him, which is why there is so much posturing between the liberals and NDP over who can actually do that.

Edmonton Strathcona is probably the most NDP riding in Alberta. Edmonton Centre is liberal. The candidate there is Jim Wachowich and I should think he has a good chance of taking that riding back for the liberals.

Frank Frink said...

If Mulcair wins in Outremont it's hardly indicative of an NDP upswing in Quebec. Think of it much in the same way that Phil Edmonston was elected in 1990.

Miles Lunn said...

No doubt a loss will be bad news, but we might still be able to vote against the throne speech without triggering an election if the Bloc Quebecois loses Roberval-Lac Saint Jean to the Conservatives as I suspect the Bloc Quebecois might think twice about going to an election as well. That being said, I still believe we will pull it off tonight.

Mushroom said...

Frank,

Edmonston was a protest vote against Mulroney's Tories. Note that the Dippers were reeling after Dave Barrett's failed leadership campaign. Andrey McLaughlin got in but the Dippers were merely papering over the cracks of Western discontent over Meech.

In 2007, Layton is running as the native son from Hudson, PQ. This will help the Dippers somewhat although the results are difficult to forsee.

Steve V said...

I don't think Muclair is an Edmonston, more like a potential heir apparent to Layton.

Miles Lunn said...

Steve V - I don't think Mulclair will be the next leader since he is simply not left wing enough for most Dipper party members. He was a member of the Charest government who in most respects was to the right of the federal Liberals and he also supports bulk water exports, which the NDP and even the Liberals don't. If anything he is a Third Way type socialist much like Bob Rae, Gary Doer, and Roy Romanow, while like European socialist leaders such as Tony Blair, Gerhard Schroeder, Romano Prodi, and Zapatero. So while he would be the perfect leader to make the NDP more electable, as Bob Rae once pointed out, the NDP is more interested in sticking to its ideology even if it always loses.

Steve V said...

miles

Point taken, but you did mention 3 former Premiers.

Miles Lunn said...

Steve V - The difference is those three premiers actually won and in addition I think the Saskatchewan and Manitoba NDP are in part more centrist due to the fact the Liberal party is quite weak there so many who vote Liberal federally probably vote NDP provincially, which maybe the main reason.

Mushroom said...

If Mulcair wins and holds on, the odds of him being leader of the united left increases. But in the personality politics prominent under the dreaded first past the post system, Mulcair may be a bit too dry.