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.


Blogger CanadianSense said...

Are you ignoring the Perfect Storm the Liberals enjoyed?

The collapse of the NDP and non existent Green popular vote during the 13 dark years?

Did you forget how the social conservatives * voted for the Liberals and have now left enmasse and in 2008 were blamed by some for the worst defeat in Liberal history?

Trust on issues, PC have the same problem in Ontario that the federal Liberals have.

July 11, 2010 11:41 AM  
Blogger Northern PoV said...

We can all enjoy a little speculative fiction and your rosy scenarios are comforting.
Scenario #2 just ain't in the cards at the moment. There are always new cards being dealt, sure, but at the moment we got boat-anchor Iggy tied to our legs who seems to turf his good cards and play his bad ones. And I would also discount 1a for the same reasons.

1b is a non-starter - Harper likes being PM and has had plenty of success using a minority gov't to implement his "hidden agenda" under the noses of somnolent Canadians.

So whether it's a Con majority or minority - they will continue to "move Canada to the right" via decree, appointment, intimidation, media support and suppression of scientific evidence whenever it exposes their mendacious intent.

sigh - wish I had your optimism

July 11, 2010 12:07 PM  
Blogger ottlib said...


What you describe has happened many times in Canadian history. For example, Brian Mulroney enjoyed the benefits of it as did Joe Clark to a lesser extent.

In both cases once progressives decided they had had enough of a Conservative government they returned to the only other party Canadians trust to govern, the Liberals.

That dynamic has not changed so we will see it again, by 2015 at the latest.

July 11, 2010 3:56 PM  
Blogger ottlib said...


With regard to Iggy, everybody said the same thing about Stephen Harper. They all said he could not bring down Paul the Deficit Slayer.

We all know how that turned out.

Stephen Harper's first term was nothing but him being Mr. Angry but then just before the 2008 election he put on a sweater vest and most Canadians forgot how he since before 2004 and bought the new act.

Never assume that Canadians have the same impression of a political leader as the chattering classes do. Never assume that it will not change. Which means you cannot discount any of the scenarios I have outlined.

July 11, 2010 4:07 PM  
Blogger Liberal Justice said...

It's partly because of negativity and division from the likes of people like Northern PoV that we can't bring Harper down. We need to be 100% united in order to replace this regime. I have no doubt that Ignatieff is going to eat Harper for breakfast in the next election. Let's not attack him, let's support him!

July 11, 2010 10:04 PM  
Blogger marie said...

Great post ottlib.

I aways go to your site because you have a great sense of politics and are mostly right on.

Keep the posts coming and I really hope you are right about 2014. Sooner would be better than later so we can rid ourselves of the sneaky seedy dictator currently in the PMO with his dead beat MP's.

July 12, 2010 6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


July 13, 2010 2:37 AM  

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