Saturday, May 07, 2011

The "Moment"

Two fascinating pieces, detailing how and why the campaign turned. When history looks back on the 2011 election, I do believe the moment in the debate, discussed in these articles, will be the "spark" turning point so to speak.

When Layton delivered the attendance line, I was also yelling at my television for a powerful response, because frankly there were obvious retorts that would have negated the entire attack. In that one moment, we had a sobering recognition, that while we admired our guy, his political instincts were still wanting. The response to Layton was obvious, immediate and yet nothing came, I was immediately disappointed. No one could have foreseen that the NDP would use that exchange to the degree they did, but it is also true that line was a central strategy. Not showing up for work, it's simple, it speaks to people, it resonates in a clear way. One can see why the NDP fancied the attack, but a more skilled response and I think the accusation could have been turned around into a wonderful positive.

Our pollster confirms what many of us thought pre-debate, things were going quite well, the numbers narrowing ever so slightly, we were within range. That the debates were central isn't news, everyone agreed prior that Ignatieff needed a strong performance. I found the contention that Ignatieff didn't do much prep, most of it was done pre-writ, a bit of surprise, because he looked over prepped to me. Instead of a natural flow in the English debate, his answers were choppy, as if he was searching for the line he was supposed to "insert here". Ignatieff was much more at ease in the French debate, but the damage was done, Layton had his line and the NDP shrewdly shoved it down our throats.

I would agree with the "what really sunk Ignatieff" arguments, seems a fair read of what transpired. If one is looking for an election soundbite to encapsulate the campaign, the exchange between Layton and Ignatieff is most suited to be the "moment".


JimBobby said...

So, what we're the obvious retorts? Would any retort have been able to neutralize MI's attendance record in the eyes of workaday Canadian voters?

I agree with your take that this was likely the turning point. Ignatieff is a dead horse. I think all sides can quit flogging him now. Liberals need to start seriously considering who's best to lead the party. Bob Rae? Really? The guy's got more baggage than Air Canada. The CPC slur machine would eat him for lunch.

Steve V said...

People don't really like Ottawa, my immediate response was "while you were in the Ottawa bubble, I was traveling around the country, talking to average Canadians about their ideas, concerns, wants. I wasn't on a beach, I was on the street with the Canadian people". Something like that.

Tof KW said...

JimBobby - I'm no debater and would probably screw up badly if participating in a leadership debate as such. However when Layton delivered that attendance line, I instantaneously thought "While you were showboating in Question Period, I was touring the country and talking with people about their fears, hopes and what they want to see out of Ottawa." I even posted this up here on Steve's blog at the time.

If a putz like me could think of that obvious shot back, then why didn't Ignatieff?

BTW - I even thought at the time that would doom him to loosing, just I didn't see the extent of the damage (but then no one could have predicted that).

JimBobby said...

That's a decent retort but I think that even though people don't like Ottawa or HoC/QP shenanigans, they mostly think that the job of an MP is to be there... at least most of the time. Layton's attendance record was stellar, despite health issues and he managed to resonate with average Canadians better than MI without staying away from the House.

It's been no secret that Iggy has been an albatross for the Liberals. There's a feeling that many Libs wanted an election sooner rather than later just so MI could be legitimately retired and a more voter-acceptable, politically-savvy leader could be installed.

Now, the challenge is not to blow it. When Dion had such a poor showing in 2008, the LPC panicked and installed MI without a leadership race. Take some time and don't rush into what might seem like the obvious next step. Making MI leader seemed so obvious post-2008 demise but turned out to be the worst possible course of action.

Aligning Rae with Chretien isn't going to win many votes. Voters see Chretien as teh guy who presided over Adscam and you can bet Rae, as JC's hand-picked interim leader, will face the scorn of the CPC (and NDP).

Steve V said...

" feeling that many Libs wanted an election sooner rather than later just so MI could be legitimately retired and a more voter-acceptable, politically-savvy leader could be installed."

I never got that sense at all. There was a two election strategy that I subscribed to, but what you mention there, I never heard it.

Robert McClelland said...

While I certainly don't believe every MP should be a career politician, I've been saying for some time that the party leaders need to be. Now you see why that is and why I've been saying the Liberals should have picked Rae instead of Dion or Ignatieff.

The Liberals now need to find a skilled politician who is also a skilled organizer. In other words, they need to find their own Layton or Harper; two career politicians who excel at organizing. I'm not familiar enough with all the liberal choices but I can say I'd be looking into what it would take to convince Dalton to throw his hat in the ring.

Steve V said...


I think a lot of people had that sort of retort readily available, it was an easy one really. My only point, when he failed to hammer back effectively, I thought it said something. It's not even really a criticism, in that Layton and his one liners aren't exactly substantive, but that's the game played and you need the quick jabs. Ignatieff isn't as polished or instinctual as others, this part of the debate defined that.

Steve V said...


I agree, we've had two highly intelligent professors, who both had tons to offer but lacked that political killer instinct, which is almost an inate sense.

Lept said...

Hi from one of the new orange ridings in Québec - even with the polls suggesting a change, we thought 'never here' but we have ended up with a very interesting young community activist.Firstly, in reference to the new electees, I would like to quote from an email I received from Dennis Drainville, the Anglican Bishop of Québec - I believe he was going to send it to the Globe and Mail as well:

“In response to the ridiculous implications and statements about the lack of experience of the newly elected NDP MPs, I suggest you read the Canada Election Act. You will find that, if you are an elector who is a Canadian citizen and you are 18 and over, you are deemed qualified to be nominated for election to the House of Commons.

I might also add that the New Democrats have been unfairly targeted by many journalists. As someone who has been involved for more than 30 years in the electoral process, I can tell you that every party has run inexperienced candidates in ridings where a win for that party is virtually impossible. The nature of the NDP sweep in Quebec has only emphasized this practice.

The implication that these young people won’t care or can’t do a good job is offensive. It basically calls into question the integrity and capacity of these people, and it discounts one of the most important foundations of our democratic system; that all citizens have the right to offer themselves in an election.

The people in the ridings who elected these young people knew they were young and inexperienced. They voted for change. Isn’t it terrible when the people truly express their political will?"

Secondly, don't underestimate how badly the Liberal 'brand' has been affected by the present government here - I have never seen the party so universally vilified: and with reason: we live in Normandeau's riding: as vice premiere (etc etc) she has done much for the area but when we see the arrogant way in which concerns about Shale gas and uranium exploration are dismissed by her and her government, coupled with the constant odour of corruption, no wonder the population stayed away from the Liberal Party. There is genuine concern about what Harper will do to Canada and an awareness that the Bloc has probably had its day (for today!).
Thirdly, last night we organized a gay potluck of likely members of the community in the region. An initiative to respond to what is expected to be 'change by stealth' on the level of social issues. In an area with a very small population base we attracted twenty odd people who agreed that yes, a network is essential for many reasons but especially to be militant in response to the coming 'horrors'. Most were happy with the orange tint to Québec and most also felt that if Harper pushes too hard, then the response will be a far stronger separatist movement here.

Steve V said...

Hey Lept, nice to hear from you again. Great insights.

Lept said...

Just a temporary return!
I 'published' too soon: what I meant to say as a conclusion is that the solution has to be much more than the usual blaming of 'Iggy' - or whoever; turning to the type of bullshit deal with Rae that you mention or especially the type of messiah anointing that Justin Trudeau ridiculed recently.
Huge and MEANINGFUL change needs to happen - in Québec at least - for the Liberals to be even remotely interesting again.

Steve V said...

Agree, and this isn't a "blame Iggy" sentiment here, just acknowledging a historic moment. We need to get much, much deeper than the leadership question, and that's why I want to put it on the back burner entirely.

Dame said...

The new leader has to be with Fire in his belt Fire fire and endless show of crazy devotion... feeling the absolute rightess for the cause ...

/In the Fidel's way..../

sharonapple88 said...

The implication that these young people won’t care or can’t do a good job is offensive. It basically calls into question the integrity and capacity of these people, and it discounts one of the most important foundations of our democratic system; that all citizens have the right to offer themselves in an election.

No indeed. They might be good, they might be bad. It's hard to judge because there was so little interaction with the candidates.

With the McGill MPs, the NDP seemed to go out of their way to hide them. One of them, Liu, noted via facebook that the NDP asked her not to conduct interviews the weekend before the vote (or around the time she became a viable candidate.) A local newspaper, Trait d'Union, tried to get in touch with Charmaine Borg and failed.

Oddly enough, Charmaine Borg was interviewed earlier by McGill about her work on Mulclair's campaign, so it wasn't impossible to get in touch with her.

I don't blame the young candidates for any of this. I don't like what the NDP's conduct, just as I'm not a fan of the way Conservatives hide their candidates from media interviews or debates. There's something deeply cynical about this that I don't like. The candidates themelves, I don't have much of an opinion on.

As for the Quebec liberals, they've been independent from the federal party since 1955. Maybe we should ask them to change their name at this point. ;)

sharonapple88 said...

Whomever the new leader turns out to be, they better get practicing on rhetorical techniques -- read up on George Lakoff's works. Possibly, they should spend hours in mock debates.

Lept said...

Last comment: which should be compulsory reading for all your commenters - fascinating suvey in Le Devoir today: gives a glimpse into the reasons for the population of Québec voting the way they did:
Le Devoir Survey

Even could support your argument, SeveV!

Möbius said...

To RT/BL folks like, increased corporate taxes, only to be spent on another government program, were a huge mistake.

Merger with NDP? Good luck with that.

Möbius said...

"The new leader has to be with Fire in his belt Fire fire and endless show of crazy devotion... feeling the absolute rightess for the cause ..."

Can you translate this into English?

Jerry Prager said...

It's not just the sound bite, it was Ignatieff's body language, he staggered back in his awkward way and look like a friend had just made him out to be a fool, which is why had no retort.
Jim Karyganis said that the party needed a leader who knew that politics was a blood sport.

Jerry Prager said...

Might have missed it, but surprised you have congratulated Stephane Dion for his re-election. Bet Mrs. Dion didn't feel much sorrow when Iggy went down.
Give Dion the interim leadership. It was Green voters who helped the liberal survivors to take or retain their seats. (we're any taken ?)