Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Narrative That Can Stick?

If the opposition are looking for a frame that can work to their advantage, one that the media will buy into, one that Canadians will ponder, it's the idea that Parliament can't work under this government. Further to the Wells piece that is making the rounds, I believe the public is receptive to Harper as a roadblock to "good government".

Even if the coming budget does make it through Parliament, which would occur sometime in February, Canadians may well be horrified to realize that this legislation would be the first piece passed in the Commons in 9 MONTHS. That's right, during a coming economic storm, that the government supposedly predicted, our Parliament has been silent for almost a year, under the Harper regime. The nation has effectively ran on auto-pilot during the most crucial period in a generation. Last spring, Parliament largely spinning it's wheels, nothing on the agenda, so thin, MP's were sent home early. Since then, the events are well known, but they speak to complete paralysis, maybe one of the most non-productive parliamentary periods in Canadian history.

It's hard to say now, whether the Conservatives will "wear" the recession, they do have a couple escape valves, namely the global situation as cover. It's hard to say whether the Conservatives will "wear" any deficit, again Canadians can see the same circumstance in other jurisdications, allowing for potential understanding. However, one narrative that seems completely unique to Canada, the theme of "Parliament can't work" with Harper at the helm. Despite a host of issues swirling about, it seems clear that Canadians do place a healthy dose of blame at Harper's feet for the current political crisis. The idea of Harper, the hyper-partisan, continually kicking sand, belligerent and divisive, is cementing itself. That reality provides a counter theme, if Canadians want a government that can function properly, they need to remove the irritant.

Ottawa is a disaster, everyone agrees. The trick is reminding people that all this chaos has occured under Harper's watch, the government sets the tone, pure lunacy to reward dysfunction with another mandate, even sillier a majority. You don't reward bad behavior, you punish it. No matter how this budget drama unfolds, the Liberals can still make the argument that Harper has failed to lead, remind people that a new LOW was reached under his watch. Liberals can make a credible pitch, that if Canadians want a return to relatively civil discourse and productivity, they are the option, Harper has created such a toxic atmosphere, his government can never reclaim the high ground.

Embrace the chaos and dysfunction, and argue that the obvious responsibility rests with the government. I think, beyond all the noise, Canadians are receptive to this argument, they do see Harper as divisive and counter-productive, he can wear that narrative.


Jerry Prager said...

Canadians are also tuning in to international news and learning that despite Jim Prentice's pathetic pleas that Canada be thought of as a world leader of principled' politics, world leaders actually think Canada's government is obstructing effective climate change action. Domestically obstructionist, and internationally obstructionist, the dysfunctional piece of the puzzle is was and ever more shall be Harper, and his Harrisite ministers.

Anonymous said...

Good point, Jerry, and I would add that given given the times in which we're living, Canada's environmental record under Harper should be enough to send the Conservatives packing.

Anonymous said...

Obama will have a $500 billion stimulus package introduced in early January (the new Congress is sworn-in on January 6) to be passed before his inauguration on Jan. 20. Meanwhile, we sit on our hands because our PM can't play well with others. The contrast will be devastating.

janfromthebruce said...

The GG is not going to call another election within a 2 month window - she will go to Iggy and see if he has a viable plan - that plan is the coalition.
And Steve - you are right Harper is divisive but it falls a part if he resigns and put it a new leader. Personally, if you read jailbird "Black" in the National Post, he had this to say about some of Harper's "budget ideas." Conrad Black: Harper and Ignatieff promise a rivalry for the ages: It is conceivable that there was an element of calculation in his suggestion of ceasing to finance political parties, reviewing some of the rigidities of pay equity, and revisiting the right to strike in the public service. These are all respectable policy options, and my impression is that the country was more offended by the absurd opposition response than by Harper’s heavy-handed, yet sneaky and reckless introduction of these thoughts in a financial message. This episode should be out of mind when the budget is presented in January, but Harper can still revive these issues more promisingly, later.

Make no mistake, reviving "those issues" have promise "later" after the window of defeating the govt and going into a coalition is past, and the only recourse is an "election."

Gayle said...

"Iggy refuses to submit budget proposals ..."

So, Harper, the "steady hand on the tiller", cannot manage the economy without Iggy's help?

Gayle said...

What Jan said...

Mark Richard Francis said...

Narratives almost always have to be built over time. There are five narratives which work, in no particular order:

1. Harper is a parliamentary obstructionist

2. Harper lacks empathy

3. Harper places Party over Country (hyper-partisanship)

4. Harper is incompetent

5. Harper is a hypocrite

All narratives take time to build, and discipline in communication from all involved. This is one reason why Harper is so strict with his people's communications and policies. He wants a consistent narrative. I'm not advocating the same tactics, as his tactics are what need to be targeted as evidence, but we do need to learn from them.

Steve V said...


This narrative has been floated before, particularly with regard to Committee work, the handbook, etc. This latest installment got the attention of Canadians, it's not "inside the beltway" stuff, so if we all sing the same the tune, it will resonate. Canadians already see it on their own accord, it's our job to make sure we hammer the point home.

Steve V said...

"So, Harper, the "steady hand on the tiller", cannot manage the economy without Iggy's help?"

So, I guess if Iggy is required for a budget, that's an admission that Harper is unfit for office? Interesting argument, but then these people are nonsensical at the best of times.

Robert McClelland said...

As a conservative I'm am quite happy that Harper has managed to block the lib/left/socialist/feminazi/separatist/pro-terror/tax and spend agenda with his superior intellect.

You're not going to sell a leftwing narrative to the right.

JimmE said...

Steve, I pointed out here (& elsewhere) in the lead-up to the last election the present PM has almost no accomplishments to speak of. Unless of corse one considers the fire sale of Canadian corporate assets in the Income Trust flip-flop an accomplishment.
One of your gentle readers took issue with this POV & was kind enough to link a list of all the wonders of Reform/Alliance/Conservative governance in the past two years. Thing is, with very few exceptions, all of these so-called accomplishments have been budget items (overpayment for too many heavy lift air transports for CAF for example) or order in council / administrative orders/ policy changes. Most bills of this present Prime Minister are left to die on the order paper.
What you point out, & should be part of the talking points is not just the fact that one cannot trust this current PM, but he does not trust, nor can he work with an elected parliament. The Senate canard is yet one more example that in fact he has disdain for democracy; altering the form & function of our government is far too serious a matter to leave to the small opinion of a person who's an Ayn Rand disciple.

Gayle said...

wilson - as in all minority governments, the opposition's "say" will come when he presents his speech from the throne and his budget.

As for what the LPC wants, I think it is pretty clear that economic stimulus must be in the budget.

As for meeting with the premiers - surely you are not suggesting it is Iggy's job as leader of the opposition to convene a first ministers conference? How does that make sense???

Stop trying to suggest Iggy has to do Harper's job. Harper won the election - let him do his own work.

Gayle said...

Oh Wilson - at what point are you going to admit Harper won more seats because the LPC bled votes to the NDP and the Greens, and NOT because Harper is gaining in popularity?

RuralSandi said...

Oh Wilson - you are so naive.

It's Harper's responsibility to come up with a budget, present it to the oppositions parties to go over. They, in turn, could suggest amendments prior to voting on it.

Too difficult for you to understand?

burlivespipe said...

Re-inforcing this narrative is definitely part of the attack plan. It isn't because it is fiction, either, or an out-right hyperbolic exaggeration, both of which were used in denigrating Dion. However, I think it behooves us here to be part of the solution, just as the CONs have armed their supporters.
I'd like to challenge everyone here who agrees with Steve's theory to step away from the blog for a moment and write a letter (email) to your local papers (then copy and paste to the dailies and nationals) about Harper being the 'dis' in 'functional'... The CONs have their army working the talk show lines, emailing the local papers etc, with their illogical tripe. It's time answer it with some well-formed, straight-from-the-heart phrasing. Harper's CONs can't be rewarded for paralyzing parliament, creating a unity crisis out of a political one, for breaking their own laws to squeeze the electorate, and most of all neglecting the needs of Canadians in an economic turmoil just to play their political games.
Pass it on.

Steve V said...

wilson=garbage can

Done. And, I don't bother reading.

Steve V said...


I've taken to the air waves, and I even have my OWN talking points :)