Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Big Blue Machine, ooooooooh scary

Judging by the reaction from the Liberal blogsphere today regarding the proposal to cut off all public funds to political parties you would think that Mr. Harper has declared martial law or something else equally heinous. We are hearing accusations of threats to democracy and labels like Vlad Harper being thrown around.

What silliness.


If you do not believe me just ask Mr. Turner, Ms. Campbell, Mr. Eves, Mr. Martin and Mr. Peterson. They all lost despite heading big, rich and slick political organizations while facing poorer and less organized opponents. For that matter you can ask Mr. Harper since he had the most money and the best organization in the last election and it only bought him an extra 20 seats and a second minority government.

What Liberals are forgetting are the voters. They will eventually grow tired of the current government regardless of how much money they have or how organized they are.

Indeed, that could already be happening. Mr. Harper is not very well liked by Canadians to begin with and he will be fighting his fourth election during the next go round. Not even Jean Chretien risked a fourth election. He will be leading a party that is not well trusted and that has very thin talent. And he will be leading this government during what is shaping up to be a recession that is at least worse than the one in the mid-80s (which helped lead to John Turner's loss) and perhaps as bad or worse than the recession of the early 90s (which helped lead to the demise of the Federal PC Party and directly destroyed the Rae government in Ontario).

So what should the Liberals do about the proposal to cut off public funding for political parties?

Well in the immortal words of James Carvell: "IT'S THE ECONOMY STUPID"

The Liberals should ignore the proposal and they should be facilitating voter fatigue towards the Conservatives by focusing on

  • the fact the Conservatives have brought the country's finances into deficit BEFORE implementing a stimulus package. Yes, yes I know the economic update states we will have a slim surplus this year but this is Jim Flaherty. He cannot be trusted on this issue.
  • the fact the Conservatives are sitting on their hands with regard to providing Canadians with assistance during this economic downturn. Not that a stimulus package will do anything to prevent a recession or end one and any benefits it might have, if any, will be fleeting. However, this is politics, not reality, so the Liberals should be hammering the Conservatives on this.
  • hammering the government every time there is a bit a bad economic news, no matter how minor. Yes, yes, some would say that the Liberals are trying to take advantage of the bad economic times for political advantage. To which I say, well duh! And your point is what exactly?
  • demanding what the Conservatives intend to do about the economy. Demanding answers and a plan. Accusing the Conservatives of hiding things from Canadians when they refuse to provide that plan.
  • demanding what the Conservatives are going to do to keep any deficit at least manageable. Demanding what the Conservatives plan to cut and accusing the Conservatives of hiding things from Canadians when they refuse to answer.
  • improving their fundraising. It has been a problem for awhile and now they have an added incentive to make it better. Indeed, they say that necessity is the mother of invention so I would say they now have a great need. So invent!!!

I am certain that Stephen Harper would like nothing better than the spectacle of the Liberals and the other opposition parties bleating about losing government funding during an economic downturn. It would serve nicely to change the channel from the above and give him the ability to claim the high road.

The Liberals should not vote to bring down this government and they should not seriously suggest they want to lead a coalition government. Not with that coalition in this economic climate. Force Stephen Harper to wear this recession and to come up with ways to help Canadians through it. I can tell you that helping Canadians in tough economic times in not in his DNA. He would very much prefer to let this shake itself out with the minimum of input from his government. That lack of conviction will lead to him doing things that are not helpful, maybe even harmful, and wind up having his government painted as being incompetent during an economic crisis. (The kiss of death for any government, even ones with lots of money). In fact, we are already seeing this approach.

When this economic update comes up for debate the Liberals should propose some amendments. I have noticed alot a good ideas but I would reject any thought of trying to keep any public funds going to the parties, even if it were being phased out over time. I really like the idea of an amendment to bring the spending limit down. That would really put the Conservatives into a bit of a bind. To risk bringing down their own government over an issue like that would not be a good idea.

When it comes to any confidence votes regarding this update the Liberals should make certain that 15 of their members have urgent business elsewhere. That will allow them to vote against the measure without bringing down the government. That includes any amendments that they propose. That is the silver lining of the Conservatives being only a dozen seats short of a majority. The goal of the Liberals in the short term should be to keep the Conservatives on the hook for the economy. Allow them to stew in the cauldron for awhile and allow the full weight of their economic incompetence to set in with Canadians.

Of course many in the Liberal blogsphere will howl with outrage at that suggestion bringing up the past Liberal practice of abstaining during the last session of Parliament. To which I say the political dynamic has changed. To claim that the Liberal abstentions had anything but a minimal impact on the last election is dubious to say the least but such a claim in the current economic climate is nonsensical. Very few Canadians pay close attention to the minute workings of the parties in the House of Commons when the economy is booming they will pay even less during a recession.

The Liberals need to keep their eyes firmly on the big picture. They cannot allow themselves to be distracted by the Conservatives. Even this early the Conservatives are demonstrating that they care more about symbolic gestures and lofty rhetoric. This will only work for so long and then they will have to actually make real decisions and take real actions, all of which will piss off a great many voters, regardless of what they are.


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