Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Conservatives are becoming desperate, Part 2

If we needed further proof of this we need look no further than the CTV website which is running a story about how the Conservatives will be running attack ads against Stephane Dion next Sunday.

Attack ads can be effective, otherwise politicians would not resort to them. However, they are a high risk proposition and the fact the Conservatives want to resort to them now is telling.

I give a possible reason for this desperation in my previous post but I think this new strategy indicates another factor in Conservative thinking. They do not expect to get much political mileage out of the budget.

Considering that it will be an election budget full of spending commitments and tax cuts it is interesting that they feel the need to use attack ads leading up to it.

On a technical note if someone out there would be kind enough to give me instructions on how to insert links into the text of my posts that would be great. I have figured out how to link other sites in my posts but all I get are the URLs and you know how long some of them can be. I have tried figuring it out for myself but to no avail. Thanks folks.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Conservatives are becoming desperate

That is only reason I can think of as to why Stephen Harper turned an official government apology to Mr. Arar into a partisan event.

I am not too pleased by what he did but Maxwell House and BCer in Toronto pretty much reflect my reaction so I have nothing to add in that sense.

However, something else that struck me about Mr. Harper's statement is how politically risky it is.

Invariably when a PM issues an official government apology to a person or a people it is a good news story that lasts about 12 hours. Most people read, see or hear it, they say "good, nice job PM", and then forget about it.

Considering the story of the apology broke last night and this morning the actual apology today is already a non-story. By taking the partisan swipe today Mr. Harper has extended the story for at least one more day but he has taken a great risk that it will spin out of his control.

The story of the apology itself is spent so there are really only two angles the MSM can take on this. They will either take up the angle Mr. Harper put on it or they will take up the angle of how he made an official government apology a partisan event, possibly digging up some of his and his caucus's statements about Mr. Arar when they were in opposition. Right now it is even money in which direction the MSM will jump.

If they jump in the second direction I mentioned it will be bad for the Conservatives and Mr. Harper personally. Right now Mr. Harper still enjoys good approval ratings even as his party's support sinks amongst Canadians. His little stunt today runs the risk of sending his personal approval ratings in the same direction as his party's and it risks further eroding that party support.

So the question becomes, why did Mr. Harper take such a big political risk today?

I think you just have to look at the poll in the Globe and Mail today to find a great deal of the answer. As I already stated the Conservatives are trending downwards with regard to popular support. Then in today's Globe we hear that the environment and climate change are the most important issues to Canadians. In addition, the same poll reveals that the Conservatives are dead last amongst the national parties with regard to who Canadians think are best suited to deal with these issues and that is after all of those nice environmental programs were announced last week.

So the Conservatives and Mr. Harper find themselves in the position of going into an imminent election where the most likely ballot question will be about the environment and climate change and where they are considered the least credible party to deal with these issues.

As well, the Conservatives know they have nothing to offer Canadians on these issues and they know that they will not change the perception of Canadians regarding the lack of credibility on these issues in just a couple of months. They know that is going to put a drag on their efforts to regain political support.

So they have to resort to the only thing they can do to neutralize this disadvantage, namely take every opportunity to strike at your political opponents. The Liberals did it under Mr. Martin. We all know that they did so because they were desperate, but it was all they had, and we all know how 'successful' was the strategy.

Conservatives are very fond of making the statement that the Conservatives have accomplished more in 1 year than the Liberals did in 13. It is a dubious claim. However, it took the Liberals 13 years to reach the level of desperation that the Conservatives seem to have reached in only 13 months.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

It will not be the end of the world

I have read some of the reaction to the musings about letting Mr. Coté et. al. back into the Liberal fold and I am most intrigued by those who say it would be disasterous for the Party.

Let's be clear that these three and any others that were banned for life because of their roles in the sponsorship scandal should remained banned for life. What they did was unconscionable. However, if by some miracle they actually do become Liberals again it will not be a big deal from a political point of view.

The reasons (in no particular order):

1) The sponsorship scandal was not as big a political disaster as conventional wisdom makes it. Look at the results of the last election. The revelations of the Gomery Inquiry were fresh in the minds of Canadians. The Liberals ran a hopeless and hapless election campaign and they were sideswiped by the announcement of the RCMP Income Trust investigation. By all rights, the Liberals should have been crushed. Instead they held the Conservatives to a very slim minority and they only came up 6 points short of the Conservatives in the popular vote.

One year later the flame of anger of the sponsorship scandal has all but burnt out so its impact will be even less. Yes it will cause the usual suspects to get their backs up again but most people have moved on and it will not be the ballot question except for the most ardent Liberal haters.

2) The current government rejected most of the recommendations of the inquiry called to investigate the sponsorship scandal. It is difficult for them to re-ignite the fire in people if it is demonstrated that they did not even care enough about what happened during Adscam to take the suggested measures to prevent a repeat of it. Indeed, it makes them look hypocritical.

3) The Accountability Act is supposed to prevent people like Mr. Cote and Mr. Gagliano from doing their dirty deeds again. So if the Conservatives push this too hard they actually undermine the credibility of their centre-piece legislation.

4) The Conservatives are now the government with their own ethics record to defend. Everytime they bring up sponsorship, Liberals can mention how the Conservatives broke Election Financing laws and how the man who issued the report stating that suddenly and surprisingly resigned. There is probably no connection but the optics are bad, just as bad as the optics of welcoming Mr. Cote, et. al, back into the Liberal fold. As well, Liberals can mention the scores of patronage appointments made by the Conservatives just days before the Accountability Act came into effect, thus breaking the spirit of their centre-piece legislation. Finally, all of these are more recent than the sponsorship scandal.

5) It will probably be a sad coincidence that the next election campaign will take place at the same time as the expected spring offensive of the Taliban in Afghanistan. If it does come to pass and Canadian service men and women lose their lives that will push the last vestiges of the sponsorship scandal out of the Canadian consciousness. As well, even if there are no Canadian casualties, daily reports of their struggles will be much more compelling to Canadians than a refried sponsorship scandal.

6) The environment appears to be shaping up to be the issue of the next election. Canadians feel a real sense of urgency that something needs to be done about GHG emissions and that will probably not subside much in the next few months. It is this issue and the Afghan mission that will probably be the ballot questions for most Canadians in the next election.

7) In the very short term Canadians will be more transfixed by the Pickton trial what is happening with the Official Opposition.

Letting these folks back into the Liberal Party is wrong on a matter of principle. They violated the trust of Canadians and of Liberals. They do not deserve the priviledge of belonging to the Liberal Party.

However, the political impact of such a move would be minimal.

Sometimes the Liberal Party can just be plain stupid

As a Liberal I read with dismay that the Liberal Party is considering allowing three men implicated in the sponsorship scandal back into the Party.

That is just stupid and wrong.

I read some of the arguments defending such ideas from Mr. Dion, Mr. Coderre, Madame Jennings and others. They are cogent and logical and they are the result of the sense of fairness and justice that most Liberals have, but THEY ARE BESIDE THE POINT.

These men were participants in gross abuse of the public trust. There level of participation is still open to question but not the fact they were participants. They have proven that they cannot be trusted so it is reasonable that part of their penalty for that be their banning from participating in a specific political party. If they believe such a penalty is too harsh or unfair, too bad, they only have to look in the mirror to see who is to blame for their predicament.

So what I suggest to all members of the Liberal Party is you contact your riding association president and voice your opposition to these men being allowed back into the Liberal fold. CC the National Liberal Headquarters when you do so.

As well, Jason Cherniak, if you happen to read this blog, as a member of the team that got Mr. Dion elected as Party Leader I would ask you to contact some of your colleagues who may still be working for Mr. Dion and have them give him a swift kick in the ass.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Random meanderings

Just some thoughts on some of the things that have been happening in the last few days.

Cabinet Shuffle: The primary purpose of Mr. Harper's first cabinet was to consolidate the Conservative victory and to create the conditions for a majority government.

It failed.

The evidence of that can be seen in the polls (more on them in a minute) and in the fact that Stephen Harper had to substantially shuffle his first cabinet just 10 months after naming it.

Will this cabinet succeed where the first one failed? That remains to be seen. However, if the primary purpose of this cabinet is still the creation of the conditions for a majority government, instead of governing, then I do not see it having much more success.

Canadians demand good governance along with good government and if a government fails to provide either one it tends to be unsuccessful at the ballot box. Or in other words, if we see more of the same from this government but with different faces in different places Canadians will not be impressed.

Mr. Khan's defection: This event was totally predictable and so is the reaction to it so I will leave others to it.

However, I find the timing of it to be intriguing. All of the key players in this little play agree that it was Mr. Dion's ultimatum that finally convinced Mr. Khan to make his move. It would be interesting to know Mr. Dion's logic behind it.

Was he trying to interfere with the coverage of the cabinet shuffle? Was he just trying to limit the negative fallout of Mr. Khan's defection by controlling the timing of it instead of letting Mr. Harper pick the moment? Is there some other explanation?

Saddam's execution: I cannot say I am sorry he is dead but at the same time the way he was executed has left a rather sour taste in my mouth. In addition, the fact that all of the other trials have now been cancelled leaves me wondering if we will ever know the full extent of his crimes and those of his accomplises both in Iraq and in the West.

Timing of the next federal election: Alot of speculation on this and the only person who really knows is Stephen Harper as he is in control of when, at least for now. My guess is he will want to have an election as soon as possible after the budget and well before the campaign season begins in Afghanistan. News reports of slain Canadian soldiers during an election will certainly not help him achieve his objective. So I suspect E-day will be sometime in early to mid April.

Who will win the next election: I have heard many predictions on this where people have boldly stated that one particular outcome is more likely than the other. Well folks, I say if you have those powers you can tell me what the next winning numbers will be in the lottery and which stocks to invest my winnings in.

Here is my bold prediction. The Bloc Quebecois will fail to form a majority government.

Currently the Liberals have a slim advantage over their opponents. Since last January their support has held steady between 30-33%, with the predictable exception of the post convention bounce. That would seem to indicate that their support is solid and it provides a stable foundation to build upon. In addition, their brief flirtation with 40+% mark after the convention and the general goodwill Canadians seemed to have towards Mr. Dion demonstrates that a significant number of Canadians find supporting the Liberals to be acceptable again. That has not been the case for over a year. It was only fleeting but it is an indication that Canadians are probably willing to listen to Liberals again.

The Conservatives enjoyed a nice honeymoon but their support has been falling steadily since the summer. They have gone from support in the low 40s to become tied with the Liberals and at one point they were even below them. They have since rebounded somewhat but certainly not enough to make any Conservative with half a brain feel comfortable. The Conservatives are showing the same volatility in support the Liberals endured leading up to the last election and we all know how that one turned out. Conservative support is soft and unstable and they have to be as concerned about losing support as they are about gaining it. Of course, the fact that they were in the 40s at one point demonstrates that a significant number of Canadians find supporting them acceptable as well, although it has been awhile since that was true and it is still an open question as to whether it will be true again.

So, with that in mind I can only say that it is anybody's game right now. How this will all play out is anybody's guess but it should be interesting to watch.