Sunday, August 24, 2008

Never Give Your Opponent What He Wants

Yes, Harper has the constitutional right to ask for an election whenever he chooses, despite the horrible optics of ignoring his own LAW. However, rather than just assume the timing of an election is out of the opposition's control, there are tools available to derail Harper's quick vote plans. One angle, that would provide a powerful counter, the still lingering issue of election financing rules.

Currently, there is complete confusion as to what is legal and what is not. How can Canadians go to the polls, when we have a situation where the rules seem a matter of partisan interpretation? The Conservatives argue they did nothing wrong in the last election, "everybody does it", their legal case is "solid", which assumes that they could possibly invoke the same tactics in this election, so long as the current issues aren't resolved. We would enter any new election without the necessary clarity, so muddied that the notions of "fair" and "legal" seem subjective.

What I would propose, the opposition parties unite and issue a joint call for all parties to sit down with Elections Canada and agree on what is mutually acceptable. The NDP is already on record arguing that no election should take place until we have election law clarity. The Bloc, and Liberals, for obvious reasons, would both support the NDP position, which means you could have the spectacle of all three opposition parties singing from the same hymn book, all demanding that everybody understands the election rules, prior to any election call. In fact, it is easy to argue that an election call should be put in a holding pattern until these issues are resolved. In this way, you force the Conservatives hand, unless they are so arrogant to not see the political minefield of entering an election with the spectre of possible "cheating" on the table.

Imagine all the party leaders emerging from their farce of a meeting with Harper, telling reporters that they told the PM that an election now was impossible, given the current "crisis" surrounding election law. If one were to do this, it could be dismissed, but all three, then Harper is completely isolated and any quick move to an election is rife with negative perceptions.

The above is based on a principle, but it's more a tactic. Attempting to delay an election call a few weeks isn't a statement on "readiness" or "fear", but it's important to separate the bravado of "bring it on" with being shrewd. Everyone agrees, that it is too the opposition's advantage to get Harper back in Parliament, where they can pound him. The simple fact that Harper looks set to try and avoid Parliament's return, tells us everything we need to know about our strategy. With that in mind, attempting to delay an election, even if only for a few weeks, should be advantageous for all the opposition parties. Using the uncertainty about election financing rules is one possible avenue to undermine the Harper plan.


Anonymous said...

I agree, now if they would just do it! We can't give Harper the satisfaction of an election , with the "in and out" of the Cons still lingering.

Anonymous said...


Interesting thought.

Its a new spin on the old problem. However, the BQ, the LPC, and the NDP have all but been slobbering over Marc Mayrand's ring and being all obsequious.

It's a little difficult for them now to pretend that they don't understand the election rules.


Steve V said...

"It's a little difficult for them now to pretend that they don't understand the election rules."

Tomm, you missed the point entirely. It's the Cons who don't seem to understand the rules.

wilson said...

Let's hold off an election until the Green Shift $8M law suit is resolved.
How can Dion campaign with the illegal use of the name 'Green Shift' ??

JimBobby said...

How can Dion campaign with the illegal use of the name 'Green Shift' ??

Let's hold off on judging something "illegal" until the courts have decided.


Steve V said...

Good comparison wilson, stealing an election vs copyright infringement.

Jesse said...

Good post, mate.

RuralSandi said...

One way around it - Dion can busy-busy up his schedule and say he is available for a meeting, but won't be until a date after parliament resumes.

Layton and the rest could do the same.

Busy, busy times....Harper uses that quite often to get out of situations - AIDS Conference, meeting with people like Nobel prize winners, etc.

Steve V said...


I thought of that too, there is no date set, Dion should fill up his calendar. Consult with the other leaders, and AT THE LEAST, wait until after the by-elections.

ace said...

The NDP would never go for this--they've consistently avoided attacking the cons over scandals for fear of strengthening the libs.

Anonymous said...

I think that all three opposition leaders should issue a joint statement that Canada is a democracy, not a dictatorship and that only a majority non-confidence vote in Parliament can cause a dissolution and election before the fixed election date in Oct. 2009.

I think that NDP and BQ would still be perfectly consistent with their previously held position of they say that they will vote non-confidence but that process matters and that the process in Canada for having an early election is the House of Common voting non-confidence.

Gayle said...

The last thing any party needs at this point is to come across as though they are afraid of an election - and you can bet that is how Harper will spin it unless it is done right.

Look at how so many libloggers have slammed Layton for appearing to back down from his demand for an election when he said he wants to give parliament a chance to work.

That is why I think you have hit it on the nose here Steve. That was one of my first thoughts when this threat of an election was made. If the opposition leaders do this then Harper could be in trouble as it will highlight one of the issues he is trying to bury.

That said, I agree with ace who said Layton may have trouble with this - on one hand he wants to appear to oppose Harper, on the other he does not want to give the LPC any leverage.

Steve V said...

"Look at how so many libloggers have slammed Layton for appearing to back down from his demand for an election when he said he wants to give parliament a chance to work."

I read that as an indication that Layton understands its better to get Harper back in Parliament first, not as "backing down". It's a tactical point, and one that means he might be amenable to joining together on a common front.

Gayle said...

I agree Steve, but there were a number of bloggers who suggested otherwise.

Steve V said...

I know, which is almost comical coming from our side :)

Möbius said...

Let's hold off on judging something "illegal" until the courts have decided.

I agree, it may be immoral and "technically" not illegal, but let's let the courts decide.

Steve V said...


But, that doesn't speak to the Conservatives using the same in an out tactics in this election. It's a dodge to say "let the courts decide", as it stands now, nobody is sure what is acceptable.

knb said...

Well done Steve. I think it would be really effective.

I'm a little uncertain about the timing though. I know the Con's have to make their final submissions by the end of this month, and then Mayrand has until the end of October. Is a judgement rendered immediately following that?

If so, then the timing is good. If it drags on past that point, I'm not so sure. I know the Con's can drag things out with an appeal, but if their case is ruled against and they try that, it'll only make them look worse.

Steve V said...


I'm not sure we need to wait until the courts decide, who's kidding who it could take FOREVER. What I would like to see is a push for a common understanding on what is acceptable in the coming election. It is almost outrageous, and something that could surely be exploited, to have another election, if EC believes the Cons won't play fair. Is there anything more fundamental to democracy?

The Cons could agree to amend their tactics, in lieu of the uncertain court proceedings, and to save face, ask that the opposition also agrees to not "do the same thing", even though it's a joke. I mean, if we drill down on this issue, the opposition is perfectly justified in REFUSING to go to the polls until we have clarity, and I doubt anyone outside of partisan Tories would argue with the logic.

knb said...

I mean, if we drill down on this issue, the opposition is perfectly justified in REFUSING to go to the polls until we have clarity

Absolutely. That's the strength and the beauty of your argument. Anyone who has followed this realises that and for those who haven't, the recent witnesses provided some pretty clear quotes, (innocently), as to what they were really doing.

Hmm, I wonder if they have hit You Tube yet?

As to how long it could take, outside of an appeal I'm seeking some more clarity on that at the moment. If I find out I'll let you know.

Given how well versed Mayrand is here, I'm not sure he'll need until the end of October.

Anyway, I know that's not the point.

I think it's a strong idea.

Gayle said...

Actually, I think the EA empowers EC to decide. What the CPC are doing with their court action is seeking a judicial review of that decision (like an appeal). I would suggest that until that review is completed, the final word goes to EC, which has already ruled the CPC conduct violates the Act.

I think there is nothing wrong with the opposition demanding the CPC comply with the ruling by EC before an election is called.

Steve V said...

Bingo Gayle! And, in that way, we don't have to wait for the court ruling, we just want clarification, or a pledge by the Cons to follow EC's decision until they are "vindicated". Cough.

knb said...

Oh! Thanks Gayle. I've known this wasn't a straight forward case but I couldn't wrap my head around the ruling component.

And I think you are bang on with your conclusion.

It will lead to further discrediting of EC by the Con's, but if they couple that with attacking the Senate as primary issues, the opposition has a lot to run with in terms of being on a mission to destroy our institutions.

Agenda?...Hidden no more!

knb said...


LOL. I suspect that might be Poilievre's buzz word though.

Anonymous said...

FYI: I could be wrong, but I think I was told that in the UK Parliament can only be dissolved when it is actually in session. If that were the case in Canada Harper would not be allowed to ask for a dissolution before Sept. 15 when the house is actually sitting. That may just be a convention and not an actual law though.

burlivespipe said...

Harper, who's own gov't voted non-confidence in EC, now so desperately wants to test his gang onto before the accountability and performance of the EC.
Win, and no doubt they'll be like the lackies in Canada's food safety who are eagerly towing the party line. Lose, and the CONs can bring out their vintage 'whine'...