Wednesday, June 17, 2009

So, Ignatieff is playing a long game

With the deal today between Mr. Ignatieff and Mr. Harper we will find ourselves having an election free summer.

Reactions to the deal will be largely predictable.

Conservatives and their apologists in the media will claim Mr. Ignatieff caved, that he is weak for not triggering an election. Of course, they will hope that Canadians will not see the hypocracy and inconsistancy in that message and the fact that about 24 hours ago those same folks were shouting the message from the rooftops that Canadians did not want an election. I am not worried about them. It is not Conservatives that the Liberals have to win over and the media, in general, does not do consistant.

I suspect the NDP will claim that deal proves that the Liberals and the Conservatives are just two sides of the same coin so they are the only alternative to them. As well, they, along with the Bloc, will claim that they are the only real opposition in the House. As to their first argument, the NDP has been saying the Liberals and the Conservatives are the same since the creation of the NDP. It is an argument that falls on deaf ears and it will continue to do so. The second argument is one that is easy to make when your actions do not carry consequences for Canadians. And that is the reality because the NDP have never even had a sniff at national power and the Bloc does not care about it.

Many Liberals will be disappointed and criticize Mr. Ignatieff for this deal. They will argue that:
  • the Conservatives are down in the polls, and they have had a bad few weeks so now is the time to strike,
  • the economy will improve in the next few months and the Conservatives will be able to claim credit for that, and
  • Canadians want to get rid of this government.

To the first point, they have an argument up to a point. However, I would point out that the Liberals have seen their fortunes improve for the first time since 2004. That is five years where the Liberal fortunes were in the dumps. It has been about 5 months that the Liberals have enjoyed their good fortune. In other words, the dynamic we have seen in the last few months is still very fragile. As a result, triggering an election this week would have been fraught with risks. Allowing the current political dynamic to deepen and to broaden over the next few months will reduce that risk and even if the Liberals could have overcome those risks they would have probably only won a minority government.

As to the second point, economic recoveries are very uneven with the little guy usually being the last to see the benefits. I would remind folks that the recovery from the last recession in the 1990's was 18 months old when Kim Campbell was crushed by Jean Chretien. As well, we were on the cusp of the longest and steepest economic expansion in the post-war period when Bob Rae lost his government to Mike Harris. As I stated a couple of posts ago, it is the period immediately after the recession when governments really begin feeling the wrath of voters. During the recession everybody has a sense of being in it together. Businesses are hurting along with ordinary citizens. However, once the recession ends the stock markets climb along with business profits but the ordinary workers are still feeling the pinch of high unemployment and eroding wages and purchasing power. That causes resentment which usually manifests itself as anger against the sitting government. (Incidentally, Dalton McGuinty should be very worried about that dynamic, particularly if the PCPO elects a credible leader.)

Since we have not yet hit that stage in the recession cycle we have not yet seen the floor of Conservative support. As the recession and immediate post recession period unfolds over the next 6-12 months we should see Conservative support erode even more.

To the final point, it is usually very bad for a political party to project their desires on the voters at large. They really appreciate that. It is true that Canadians seem to be turning their backs on this government. It is certainly true of Quebec but we are only seeing the tentative beginnings of such a trend in Ontario and it has not even begun in the West. Given the nature of this government and the short to medium-turn economic outlook it is probably only a matter of time before we see this trend solidfy to the point where there will be nothing the Conservatives can do to prevent a Liberal government and they might not even be able to prevent a big Liberal win.

Of course, politics being politics anything can happen and there is a risk that waiting will actually harm the Liberals. However, Mr. Ignatieff and the Liberal brain trust have decided that on balance, the risk/benefit ratio associated with an election this summer is less favourable than the risk/benefit ratio of waiting a few more months.

I really cannot fault their thinking.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that you sum it up perfectly in your title.

So, Ignatieff is playing a long game
It does seem to be a game with Iggy.
As for hypocrisy, well let's be honest, the Liberals are spinning around that...

How did the "report" on the economic stimulus transform itself into a panel group? By moving the goal posts of course...

Harper, sadly, had the best quotes this week. Iggy was unclear about exactly what he wanted and settled for more vagueness...

So yes, it's a game at the expense of Canadians.

June 17, 2009 9:20 PM  
Blogger ottlib said...

Oh please, get over yourself.

Games at the expense of Canadians.

Here is a news flash for you. There is nothing any government of any stripe can do to effect the course of the recession.

Not Conservative, Liberal, Dipper or the Rhino Party. So an election would change nothing on that score.

As for the rest of it Stephen Harper has not done anything that cannot be reversed. So it can wait.

June 17, 2009 10:39 PM  
Blogger wilson said...

' And that is the reality because the NDP have never even had a sniff at national power and the Bloc does not care about it.'

Not so true ottlib,
the Coalition gave Dippers cabinet seats and Gilles definitely did want in.

Gotta also add into your analysis
that all 3 opps, not just Libs and Dippers, have to agree on bringing down the government.

If Libs are up, both Dippers and Bloc are down, not in the mood for an election.
Plus, after your guy killed the coalition, and just killed the EI 360 coalition idea, they may not be in the mood to give Libs what they want.

The economy will improve, but unemployment will rise until next year,
so with the new Blue ribbon panel, perhaps the unemployed will not be as angry at PMSH as you think.

But mostly, Libs have to have a winning election platform.
In mid-recession, national daycare, kelowna, free university etc. will not fly.

June 18, 2009 12:24 AM  
Blogger BriguyHFX said...

Ottlib, what of Michael's 4 points going into the Harper meeting? They've said nothing about the deficit, the backlog on infrastructure spending, nor the medical isotopes debacle. These are very serious problems, and Michael seems to have forgotten all about them.

At least Dion had some principles. Michael is only about the game, but unfortunately he doesn't actually have game.

June 18, 2009 8:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is nothing any government of any stripe can do to effect the course of the recession.
I agree on that.

Too bad so many wanted to make Harper wear the recession...

June 18, 2009 6:36 PM  

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