Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Liberals, the Habs fans of the Canadian Political Scene

I am a fan of the Montreal Canadiens and I spend some time on various fora on the web discussing the team. One of the things that stands out for me when I visit these sites is there are a significant number of Habs fans that brutally criticise the team regardless of what is happening on the ice. In addition they are constantly harping on the GM and coach to do something. You know, some will constantly complain that Bob Gainey still has not swung that trade where the Canadiens exchange a 7th defencemen, a case of used water bottles and a bag of pucks for Crosby and Malkin.

This line of thought occured to me after I read the story that Mr. Dion has hinted he may not bring down the government over the budget and the reaction of many Liberal bloggers to that news. By and large, it is very negative, full of angst and frustration as Scott Tribe so accurately describes it.

The arguments are all the same. It shows weakness. It shows a lack of resolve. They all wonder what it will take for Stephane Dion to step up and show some guts.

First of all deciding to trigger an election is not done on a whim. A great deal of political calculation goes into it and alot of information goes into that calculation. The guys and gals on the inside have access to all of that information and they are all seasoned political operatives. So I do find it amusing when folks who have access to much less information so earnestly criticise Mr. Dion for not going for it.

Second, Mr. Harper desperately wants an election. He has gone so far as to try to convince Canadians that the Senate not passing his crime bill before his deadline is an indication that his government no longer has the confidence of the House. When someone wants something go desperately the obvious question is why. As most agree, it is not because the conditions are ideal for Mr. Harper. In fact the conventional wisdom is because he believes it is the best that it is going to be and it can only get worse going forward. So with that in mind why would the Liberals give Mr. Harper his election?

Or to put it another way. It is generally bad political strategy to give your political opponent what he wants, particularly when he demonstrates he wants it so desperately.

Third, most of the books on strategy that I have read, and I have read many, state that, unless forced to, you should not enter into battle with your opponent until the conditions are such that your chances of success outweigh that of your opponent's.

That is not the case right now. If we were to have an election right now it would be a crap shoot. It could go either way. There are no do overs in politics so if we have an election and Stephen Harper wins we are stuck with him for at least two additional years.

It is not often that an opposition party is in the driver's seat with regard to election timing in this country so the Liberals would be prime idiots to squander that advantage with a premature election call. It is better to wait until the conditions are a little more favourable to them.

Those very same books on strategy state that it is not weakness to retreat in the face of your opponent if the conditions for battle are not in your favour. Indeed it is good strategy because it will give you greater opportunity in the future to wrong foot your opponent and fight the battle at the time and place of your choosing.

Of course, if the budget does pass then we can expect the usual suspects in the media to spin it to the Liberals disadvantage. Who cares. I find most of the pundits to be wannabe political strategists anyway and the only reason why they are writing about political strategy instead of developing it is because they lack any actual political strategic ability.

With the exception of some Liberals, Canadians are not clamouring for an election or a change in government. So Liberals have to be careful they do not mistake their desires with that of the electorate because in most cases nothing good ever comes from that.

Many Liberals believe Mr. Dion is weak so I cannot understand why they would want him to trigger an election where he would have to defend his decision during the first two or three days, thus putting him at a disadvantage from the beginning. It is much better to wait until conditions improve and then use their advantage of being the party that controls the timing of the next election to much more advantageous effect.


Blogger Lizt. said...

I agree, there is far too much going on involving Harper's government, that it is better to get it all cleared up.
Harper would love to shove things under the rug...far too eager to do so. Let him sweat, I say.

February 19, 2008 10:23 PM  
Blogger calgarygrit said...

5 goal comeback tonight baby!

February 19, 2008 10:54 PM  
Blogger anonymous said...

What about the ideology of the Liberal Party ?

If the Liberal party does not stand up for it's ideology in face of bills going against it's ideology, the Liberal Party as we now know it will no longer exist. This could isolate the party's base.

It's better to lose another election than to jeopardize the ideology of the party.

A election loss wouldn't be good for Stephaine Dion though- he'd probably lose the leadership of the party.

February 22, 2008 9:22 PM  

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