Thursday, September 23, 2010

Backfire

The vote on the gun registry last night was a major loss for the Conservatives and it has made abolishing the gun registry in the future much more difficult.

It is true, as many Conservative defenders have pointed out today, the loss will probably assist the Conservatives in their fund-raising and it will energize their base somewhat. However, those defenders are missing or at least failing to acknowledge the big political downside of last night’s vote. I will address that in a minute.

The really interesting thing about last night’s vote is it has probably guaranteed the survival of the registry for the foreseeable future. It should be around for a long time.

For about a decade the Conservatives have had the advantage in the debate about the registry because they could always point to the AG report about the cost overruns in building it and then claim is was expensive waste of money. That has changed. Proponents of the registry have been able to credibly refute that claim by demonstrating that it costs very little to maintain the registry and more importantly that it is considered to be a vital tool by law enforcement. As well, the statements by the Ecole Polytechnique survivors leading up to the vote has reminded a lot of Canadians of why the registry was created in the first place. Those considerations will not be forgotten by Canadians and opponents of the registry will find them hard to overcome. Finally, Parliament has spoken. For all but the most ardent opponents of the registry the issue is resolved. Like SSM and abortion, revisiting this issue would not be a popular move amongst the electorate. Certainly Canadians are not embracing the registry but they are not clamouring for its dismantling either. They are probably satisfied with the outcome of the vote and would like to put the issue to bed. Incidentally, if the vote had gone the other way they would feel the same way and any party which proposed resurrecting the registry would be met with disapproval.

From a political standpoint we need to call a spade a spade. The Conservatives lost a key vote at the beginning of a Parliamentary session after what they would consider to be a summer-from-Hell. Anybody that believes that will not have an impact on their political fortunes going forward is dreaming.

As well, Mr. Harper’s statements after the vote will not help him. I realize he had to make them to assuage is base. However, those statements will not help him beyond that base and they could actually hurt him. The much documented supporters of the registry (eg. Quebecers) will not be happy with such statements and Mr. Harper would be hard pressed to win an election let alone a majority without these registry supporters. Mr. Harper really is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Abolishing the registry is not a winning ballot question in most of the country so he needs to change the channel quickly but he will also have to deal with some in his base that will demand he make this an election issue. It will be interesting to see if he can square that circle.

Another consideration is what the vote did to his opponents. After a successful summer tour the Liberals followed it up with a demonstration of severe unity on this vote. Every Liberal member showed up and every Liberal member voted with the Party. The punditry in this country will ignore that fact of course but it will not be lost on Liberal partisans. This summer and early fall has allowed Liberals to feel good about themselves again and that cannot be good news for the Conservatives.

On top of that the NDP completely flubbed this vote and that has weakened them. The only way Conservatives can win elections in this country is by having the NDP siphon off enough votes from the Liberals to allow the Conservatives to win. If the NDP wanes the Conservatives lose.

At the time it must have seemed like a good idea to the Conservatives to attempt to kill the registry by means of a Private Members Bill. Kill the registry and avoid too much political blowback in the process, its win-win. Unfortunately for them the exact opposite has happened. The debate and the concluding vote have actually made killing the registry much more difficult and in the process the political fortunes of the Conservatives have been harmed. I cannot believe any Conservative can be happy with that outcome.

7 Comments:

Blogger Michael said...

If it takes the whipping of one PVM vote, and for MPs within the Liberal party to FINALLY respect that as something to feel good about, well, then the bar has been set and remains very low.

No surprise. :D

September 23, 2010 6:42 PM  
Blogger ottlib said...

At several points leading up to the vote, including just days before, the Conservatives targeted rural Opposition MPs with advertizing and robo-dialing phone calls to try to pressure them into voting with the government.

All of that cost money. Did that money come from the pocket of the Conservative MP who sponsored the bill?

Did it come from the Conservative Party coffers?

No, the government paid for it.

I believe that is the first time the government has ever spent as much money, time and effort on a Private Members Bill as they did for this one so save me the claims that this bill was anything but a government bill dressed up as a PMB to try to reduce any political blowback.

The Conservatives tried and failed, strengthing the case for the registry and harming themselves politically in the process.

That is what you should be worried about if you are a Conservative. But if you prefer to focus your concerns elsewhere then I have no problem with that. Whatever gets you through the night.

September 23, 2010 7:03 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

The Tories in those urban ridings campaigned that they would work to abolish the LGR the last two elections if given the chance. They still won in those ridings they now hold. By way of one instance of contrast, Mr. Stoffer increased his vote count every election he was a part of while campaigning on killing the LGR. I wonder how his next election will pan out - if he even stays. David McGuinty sends out a fundraising letter almost the instant that the LGR was saved. Something troubling him and the Liberals, hmmm? ;)

Naw......I really don't have anything to worry about here. :D

September 23, 2010 7:21 PM  
Blogger ottlib said...

Like I said, whatever gets you through the night.

September 23, 2010 7:23 PM  
Blogger Gayle said...

"The really interesting thing about last night’s vote is it has probably guaranteed the survival of the registry for the foreseeable future. It should be around for a long time."

I doubt Harper cares, other than the fact it is a money earner for him.

September 23, 2010 7:27 PM  
Blogger Tomm said...

Ottlib,

This loss wasn't a "loss" for the CPC or a "gain" for the Liberal's. It was a loss for Canada.

What occurred here was political a$$ covering. Allan Rock created a pile of dog vomit to earn votes on the back of a tragedy. The Liberal Party is so busy covering itself with justifications that they have gone to the extent of whipping their votes against a private member's bill.

Just another indication that the Liberal Party we see today is exactly the same party we have seen for the last 20 years.

Canada loses here.

October 11, 2010 11:48 AM  
Blogger marie said...

Hi ottlib, because I respect your posts and read your blog, I believe you will be interested in this message.

I feel that in order to understand the political strategy of the Harper government, one has to watch Passioate Eye, the episode which aired tonight Oct 24 on CBC the passionate eye. And will be aired again on Oct 30th.

The rise and fall of the Machiavellian godfather of dirty tricks political campaign Lee Atwater, a man whose smear techniques helped elect 3 presidential presidents and continues to influence how modern campaigns are waged. (Ronald Reagan, GB senior and GB Junior) A lot of journalists and friends of Atwater were interviewed and are now telling what went on.

The Cons politics sound so very much like the Boogie man King of dirty tricks, (Lee Atwater) and we all know that Harper regarded GB Junior as a friend and supported him and more than likely recommended this divide and conquer politics they used to get elected..

I think that the liberals are being exploited in the same way as Atwater did from those US campaigns and the reports are if Atwater had been healthy , he had a brain tumor and died I believe, President Clinton would not have been elected.

This program is worth the time to view it and see the parallels of the Conss campaign since he was elected.

Regards,

October 25, 2010 3:49 AM  

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