Thursday, July 15, 2010

Now that is what I am talking about

It hit the news yesterday that an environmental group is taking direct aim at Alberta and urging Americans to rethink any plans they may have in visiting Alberta because of the Oil Sands.

I have seen the billboards and I have seen the video and they are one-sided and full of half-truths. In short this group is engaged in propogating propaganda to Americans about the Alberta and the Oil Sands.

Good on them.

It was really quite amusing this morning to see the Alberta Premier complain about the inaccuracies of the message from this group. He actually sounded like a progressive when they respond to inaccuracies and blatant lies told by the political right. It was quite the role reversal considering his own advertizing campaign expounding the Oil Sands is unadulterated propaganda.

I have argued in this space before that progressives have to begin using these kind of tactics if they want to advance their agendas and their causes in the face of fierce opposition from the political right. The political right on this continent developed and perfected the concept of "truthiness" and they have used it to good effect to advance their causes and agendas. They are still using it.

I read a story today about a tea-bagger group in Iowa putting up billboards that put Obama between Hitler and Lenin. It was an obvious attempt draw parallels between the three men. After cries of outrage they did pull it down and made a mea culpa but the fact they even conceived of and then paid for such advertizing speaks volumes.

Propaganda works. It has always been so. The political right on this continent has figured that out and they have used it to good effect. It is heartening to see that some groups from the progressive side of the political spectrum seems to have figured that out as well.

It is unfortunate that we have to go down this path where debate will essentially become nothing more than competing propaganda campaigns but this is a reality as one of the successes of the right has been the general discrediting of intellectuals and intellectual thought. If progressives are going to rebuild that credibility they are going first going to have to push back the political right and discredit some of its "truthiness". Once that happens progressives can then reassert truth into debates.

This advertizing campaign by the environmental group is a start. I only hope that other progressive organizations follow their example and begin to play the political game to win instead of playing it to be fair.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

2B or not 2B

While it is heartening to see the reaction of many to the bone headed decision of the Harper Government to eliminate the long form of the Census it is not so much to see who the reaction is coming from.

It is universally coming from academics, experts, bureaucrats and the media, those folks the Conservatives label the "liberal elite".

I can guarantee that the bleatings of this group is falling upon deaf ears and in fact I would not be surprised if the Conservatives make statements, in the near future, to the effect that they are defending Canadians from intrusiveness of the liberal elites in Canada. My guess, it will come in the form of a request for financial support from the party faithful before the expected fall election.

That would cause the anti-intellectual, knuckle dragging mouth breathers that infest the Conservative Party to shout out a lusty "Ya", while writing cheques, while the rest of the Canadian public would shrug and turn back to their BBQs and the users of the Census long-form data would be left to find the data they need to do their work elsewhere.

Part of the problem for the critics of this decision is they are again using long-winded dissertations on the importance of the data. Certainly, everything they say is based in fact but the Conservatives do not care about facts and Canadians are too busy enjoying their summer to really pay attention.

What the critics have to do is grab the attention of Canadians by showing them how this decision will effect them at personal level. They need to do it in a short and punchy way that allows for the short attention spans of the typical voter.

There are dozens of programs, at all levels of government, that involve writing cheques to Canadians and that use this data in their administration. The critics should identify each and every one of them and make the statement:

"If you receive cheques from any of these programs the decision by the Harper Government on the Census could reduce the amount of that cheque or whether you receive it at all".

Certainly that would be a broad statement but as I have stated in this space before the critics of this government have to stop playing fair and start playing to win. If that means using propaganda then so be it.

Certainly the Conservatives would deny this statement but we all know that the nature of politics is the accusation always receives more play and bigger headlines than the subsequent denial.

This is a party and a government that believes any kind of compromise or conciliation is a form of weakness so this decision is final. However, that does not mean that the critics of this decision cannot make the government regret it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Liberal Majority Government by 2015, at the latest

Governments have life-spans.

At the federal level in this country that life-span is generally 8 years and/or two consecutive elections. It is very rare for a government to last more than eight years or for a government to win more than two successive elections. That is why Jean Chrétien’s feat of winning three straight majority governments and governing for 11 straight years is considered such an extraordinary political achievement.

As the life of a government progresses it is inevitable that Canadians begin looking for a change. That desire usually begins to manifest itself around year 6 of the life of the government or soon after they win a second straight mandate. The Conservatives have won two back-to-back mandates and they have been in government for 5-and-a-half years and we are beginning to see that desire for change. From their polling numbers being in the low 30s to the media reaction to the Fake Lake, which would have been ignored by them two years ago, there are signs that the desire for change is slowly but surely building. The Conservatives are already on borrowed time.

So, how will we get to a Liberal majority by the middle of this decade? Assuming there is an election this fall, as many believe, the following five scenarios are the likeliest outcomes.

1a) Liberal Minority government: If the Liberals win the government in the fall Stephen Harper is gone from politics and all of a sudden it is the Conservatives that would be in disarray. They would be the Official Opposition Party suffering through questions of leadership, dealing with fundraising issues as donations become fragmented between the various leadership candidates, and dealing with questions about party unity as a leadership race inevitably opens up rifts between the candidates and their various camps within the party. These problems would not be resolved and the new leader would not have enough time to get his act together in time for the next election which would probably be 18-24 months after the 2010 election.

We also cannot forget about the possibility that the loss of the-discipline-of-power might cause a rift to develop along the old Tory/Reform Party fault line within that party which would highlight and amplify any questions about party unity and could do long-term damage to the Conservatives.

This scenario could also see the replacement of one or more of the other federal party leaders, which would break the current political logjam and leave Michael Ignatieff as one of the “seasoned” federal leaders going into the election after the next one.

We cannot forget some of the questionable funding decisions from the stimulus program and the G-20 summit that would probably come out during that period and there might even be some revelations from the Afghan detainee documents.

Finally, the media would fall over itself to curry favour with the new government. The corporate bosses that run our MSM are always looking for something from the government and being overly critical of the party in power is not conducive to successful lobbying efforts. So we would see a much more positive media environment for the Liberals while a not so good one for the Conservatives.

Combine all of the above and it is very likely that we would see a Liberal majority government after the election following the next one, probably in 2011 or 2012.

1b) Conservative minority government and Stephen Harper resigns as leader of the Conservatives: In this situation the Conservatives would be going through the process described in 1a) plus attempting to govern at the same time. That never works. It just provides voters with more incentive to make a change.

I am making no assumptions about how Stephen Harper leaves his job (ie. Is he pushed?) but it would have an impact on Conservative fortunes during a subsequent election.

The new leader would also have to deal with the Harper record, which could include some rather damning reports from the AG when she reports on the stimulus and G-20 spending.

1c) Conservative minority government and Stephen Harper stays on: The Conservatives would be saddled with the problem they face now but more magnified. They would be in the same position that Paul Martin found himself in after the 2004 election. They would be in government but Canadians would grow increasingly disenchanted with them and Stephen Harper so that at the next opportunity they would make a change.

Again, I am making no assumptions about how Stephen Harper hangs on to his job or how firm his hold would be on it.

Finally, if Stephen Harper reacts to any AG reports critical of the stimulus and G-20 spending as he usually responds to criticism he will just be reinforcing the desire for change.

For both 1b and 1c we would see a change in the media narrative as it becomes somewhat more positive to the Liberals and somewhat more negative to the Conservatives. The corporate bosses of our MSM would not want to offend the Conservatives too much but they would also want to make some inroads with the Liberals as it would be apparent to them that a change of government is inevitable and imminent.

The likely result of the next election after 2010 for 1b and 1c is a Liberal victory, likely by a very large margin. That election would probably occur in late 2011 or early 2012.

2) Liberal majority government: In this situation the Liberals beat my assumption by 5 years and not much more needs to be said.

3) Conservative majority government: This situation would provide the Liberals with the opportunity to renew itself without the constant pressure of being ready for an election. They would be able to fundraise, develop policy, renew the party and, if they desire, change leaders in a more orderly manner. As an added bonus, the prospect of not even being able to compete for power for another four years would cause all of the current crop of hangers on and hacks to leave the party. Most of these people are only involved because they believe they will be rewarded with lucrative jobs when the Liberals win the government so they would desert because very few of them would want to put their careers on hold for four years.

As for the Conservatives, by the time the next election comes along in 2014 they would be beyond stale and the desire for change would be quite high. This is assuming having unshackled power does not bring out the baser instincts of the Conservatives and/or Stephen Harper does something to keep them under control. If this assumption is incorrect then that desire for change becomes very intense which would probably increase the margin of victory for the Liberals in 2014 and potentially greatly damage the Conservative Brand. As well, this government acts in a dictatorial manner in a minority situation so it can only be imagined how it would act with a majority. Mike Harris and Brian Mulroney ran their governments in that fashion and you just need to look at what happened to them and their governments after their last elections to see how that would turn out for the Conservatives.

In all probability Stephen Harper would leave at some point during a majority mandate forcing the Conservatives to choose a new leader before the 2014 election. That would leave a new leader trying to defend the record of his predecessor and leading an old government. You only need to look at the fate of Ernie Eves, Paul Martin, Kim Campbell and John Turner to see what usually happens in those situations.

For all of these scenarios I do not make any assumptions about unforeseen events, such a natural disasters, economic downturns or economic upturns. These kinds of events could have an impact but that impact would only delay or accelerate the inevitable it would change it.

We will see the end of the political limbo that we have been living under for the past half decade or so after the next election. At that point the Liberals will be on the road to forming a majority government before the middle of this decade.