Friday, February 27, 2009

On Balance

I've argued about the political danger within Ignatieff's strategy, not so much the thrust, but the degree. Ignatieff is still pretty much a blank slate, but we've now had a few issues present themselves, which begin to give a measure of the man, and from that people are starting to point to patterns. Any fallout from supporting the budget was more wishful thinking, on the part of political opponents. However, it was always part of the equation, that the "pass" wasn't infinite, and the Liberals would face challenges moving forward. The partisan attacks having a better chance of resonating, should we see successive support, over a long period of time, undermining our own credible as opposition. In addition to that fact, the emergence of more areas of convergence present a problem for the Liberals, it is IMPERATIVE that we distinguish ourselves from the Conservatives.

Not to rehash the National Geographic debate, but it is noteworthy, that since my first caution, we've seen the Bloc go hard at the Liberals, and now we see Quebec weather vein Chantal Hebert starting to connect the dots:
Since he has become leader, he has talked a good game about building bridges to a host of natural conservative constituencies but said very little about maintaining those that link the Liberal party to more progressive ones.

On the day when Trudeau was making his modest first entry on the left-hand side of the legislative ledger, his leader was taking pot shots at National Geographic magazine for a graphic depiction of the environmental impact of the Alberta oil sands, and making a pitch to rural Canada.

There is no doubt the Liberals should try to reintroduce themselves to voters in regions like Western and rural Canada, where they no longer have much presence, but the real question is: on what basis?

Ignatieff talks about the need to make up for years of Liberal neglect, but it is really his party's stance on some of the very issues that have distinguished the Liberals from Conservatives over the past decade – like Iraq, climate change and same-sex marriage – that have kept away many of the voters he is so determined to court.

Essentially what I've argued, the courtship of elusive voters, but done in such a one sided fashion, it leaves your other flank wanting. Nobody disputes the desire to "re-introduce", myself I'm 100% behind that goal, both philosophically and politically. However, if Ignatieff doesn't start demonstrating some balance, some articulation to the center-left, he risks framing himself as largely the same as the Conservatives, and his previous "pass" on the budget is now used against, to demonstrate the wider pattern.

It's no coincidence, or surprise, that we are beginning to hear some negative rumblings coming from Quebec, because Ignatieff is voluntarily positioning as though he's somewhat offside with palatable Quebec policy. If Liberals think the "nation" will suffice, and we can just take it all for granted, as we over reach for voters who require a spiritual epiphany to even consider, then I question the wisdom of the entire strategy.

I would take these early hints as valuable, and take some steps to nullify before they gel and a problem develops, which makes the whole strategy nothing more than treading relative water at best, hurting yourself overall at worst. And, PLEASE don't fall for the Liberal model of the 1990's, because you had the benefit of a political perfect storm, the right divided and largely impotent in key portions of the country for YEARS. It's pure folly to believe a re-creation is possible, because the landscape will never be so kind.

Ignatieff should reach out, Canada desperately needs a national unity figure. My concern has nothing to do with the strategy, but the nuance. Liberals don't need to out-Conservative the Conservatives to appeal, and if that's the gameplan, it fails to realize the erosion and understand the need to "distinguish". A truly sound strategy incorporates the hints and adapts, before things are allowed to fester.


Tomm said...


Quebec is as self absorbed as Kanye West. Reaching out to Quebec is just an invitation to get your hand bitten off. Harper, and Dion both have the stumps to prove it.

If Ignatieff needs to balance his policies by talking tougher with the West and reaching out to Quebec, then the Liberals will have learned nothing from the last 5 years.

If the BQ and the PQ both find a solid, publicly supported position in arguing that history "shames" the Quebec people, then we already know the answer to the rest of the questions.

Steve V said...

Ignatieff doesn't need to "talk tough", he just needs the nuance to appeal to different regions simultaneously. You're anti-Quebec tripe shows a very narrow point of view.

Tomm said...


Many Quebecers are embarrassed by the actions and antics of the sovereigntists. It is no shame to point it out.

Steve V said...


You have a very tribal attitude, that pretty much underlies most of your views. I don't find it attractive, nor persuasive. IMHO.

Tomm said...


IMHO, we have to quit bribing minority groups, and regions.

It is far past time to expect everybody to react like adults and part of a nation.

Steve V said...

Well the right wing in Canada is a minority too, so...