Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Conservatives are not unassailable

With the release of some "bad news" polls recently I have been seeing some doom and gloom amongst some Liberals. They seem to believe that the Liberals cannot win the next election.


First of all do not worry about the polls because they are not predictive. If they were, John Turner, Kim Campbell, Ernie Eves, and Paul Martin would have all won majority governments. Sitting governments always do better than the Opposition in between elections but that often hides an underlying weakness that only manifests itself during an election. As well, do not actually look at the polls themselves but at the reactions of the various players on the Canadian political scene to these polls. Neither the Liberals or the Conservatives appear to be reacting as they should be considering what the public polls are saying. I find there is more enthusiasm for an election amongst the Liberals than the Conservatives, which is strange considering what the public polls are saying. Then there is the media. The last time the public polls were saying the Conservatives were leading by the current margins they were all saying that Stephen Harper would engineer his own defeat to go for his majority. We have not seen that reaction this time. They are not saying boo about it this time.

Second, as I have stated in this space before governments have life cycles and they tend to permanently lose support as the life of the government progresses. It is a function of the government having to piss people off in the course of governing and the fact people eventually get tired of a government and begin looking for a change. I recently went on a business trip to Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary. When the people I was meeting with found out I was from Ottawa many of my private consersations did turn to politics and of the dozen or so people that I talked to about it none of them had anything good to say about the current government in general and Stephen Harper in particular. It was surprising really. If people in Edmonton and Calgary are stating they are not liking Stephen Harper very much it stands to reason that such an attitude would be much more widespread in areas of the country that are not the Conservative Party bedrock. By no means are my observations "scientific" and these folks are not likely to vote Liberal in any case but it still significant and it could be an indication that the Conservatives have passed that point in the life of a government when they are vulnerable to the desire for change amongst the electorate hitting critical mass.

Third, the Conservatives have been dogged by controversy and scandal since the 2008 election. The Oda Affair and the charges laid in the "In-and-Out" scheme are just the latest. By themselves they do not do significant damage but taken together they tend to add up and a government tends to die a death of a thousand cuts because of them. As well, they are election campaign gold for Opposition Parties.

Fourth, the Conservatives are on the wrong side of several issues right now and that could hurt them during an election. From corporate tax cuts, to F-35s, to prisons the Conservatives have taken positions that could cost them significant support during an election and despite their seemingly big lead it would not take much of a shift away from them to the Liberals to put them on the Opposition benches.

Fifth, Michael Ignatieff appears to be enjoying himself on his tours of the country. I know many have dismissed these tours but they are allowing Mr. Ignatieff to gain much needed experience in retail politics, which was sorely lacking in Mr. Dion during the last go round. Mr. Ignatieff spent his life communicating with people and we all know that being a good communicator can make a big difference in election campaigns. Just look to JFK, Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan to see that in action. If Mr. Ignatieff combines his communications skills with an enhanced ability to play the retail political game he will be hard to beat.

The Conservatives are vulnerable and they are certainly not unbeatable. Of course, it would take a good campaign by the Liberals and it is still an open question if they can come up with such a campaign. However, as it stands now the next election will be a crap shoot for the government and there is a strong possibility they could come up snake-eyes when it is all over.


Blogger Tomm said...

It is a minority parliament. Every time the Tories table a money bill, they can be beaten. The oppositon parties just have to ask themselves one question...

"do you feel lucky... well, do you...?"

Apologies to Harry Callahan.

February 27, 2011 2:05 AM  
Blogger CanadianSense said...

1. You are correct anything can happen. Campaigns matter.
2. Your examples and life cycles make sense except the CPC are gaining and growing according to those Polls and democratic contests called elections. The CPC won in 2006 and are stronger now while their opponents is weaker.
(Balance sheets +by election results)
3. Your manufactured controversy has not been rewarded at the polls or the balance sheets. It makes little sense to pretend they are working outside the already converted.
4. The CPC are on the "wrong side" of the issues and you repeat the Liberal war room talking points? (See 1-3)
5. Having fun, stating your guy has the most talent or skill won't matter. Life is full of examples of wasted intellect, best model losing to better marketing. (Beta vs VHS)
6. Anything can happen but betting the farm on the CPC are going to punch a baby on the campaign trail is unrealistic.

Read the polling in the region for the last four years and the Liberals are losing in every region to some other party.

I don't think it is fair to pin everything on leadership. The message is not working.

February 27, 2011 12:55 PM  
Blogger CanadianSense said...

Regarding your conversations with people out west, I do believe they are upset about the PC in Alberta and they are not rewarding any political party on the left.

The Wild Rose is further to the right?

Take a look at Europe, Toronto, NB and the mid term elections.

Is the left-liberalism views gaining or losing their cachet regarding a free lunch and wealth distribution?

I agree with the life cycle and in my opinion the democratic governments are shifting to the right and governments will balance their books and pay down their debts. It is not a good time to push a bigger role for government if government is being blamed for the problems.

Look to our provincial governments in BC, ON, QC are they going to be re-elected or reduced to a minority?

February 27, 2011 1:03 PM  
Blogger ottlib said...

Tomm, I am not talking about Parliament I am talking about the next election. It is going to be a crap shoot that the Conservatives could lose.

CS, you acknowledge my point about polls then use the latest polling to "prove" your second point. Just a little contrdictory don't you think?

The rest of your comment is pretty predictable so I will leave it at that.

Except this. John Turner, Kim Campbell, Ernie Eves, and Paul Martin all lead organizations that were better organized and better financed than their chief rivals and they still lost.

Do not mistake good fundraising for solid support outside of party partisans.

February 27, 2011 4:04 PM  
Blogger CanadianSense said...


I did not introduce talking points from a war room.(You did)

I support your theory a government defeats itself (life cycle). I am reading the stages differently than you because of what has taken place since 2006. (Real numbers back it up in a general election, 7 by elections and fundraising.

Turner-Campbell were left holding the bag for their leader. (Full stop)
Martin was held accountable for the 13 years. Take a look at the political map the Liberal party consists of Vancouver, GTA, Anglo-MTL island and Atlantic Canada. (DW ABC helped)

The MSM has lost it ability to shape public opinion. Times have changed. We are tuning out the bias reporting in large numbers.

Most of us are cynical of ALL parties regardless of which party is in power.

The big issues are being overlooked for fluff. The success for the CPC is to not repeat the mismanagement of the previous Liberal government. (See AG reports)

This Federal government did not repeat the devastating cuts to Health care, Education and Social Services. Martin tried in 2005 to recast his party with massive spending programs with the help of the NDP.
That deal did not last and Jack pulled the plug when his numbers looked good.

Campaigns matter and it takes money to buy media. The MSM can't restore credibility to the Liberals, only the public can.

February 28, 2011 5:10 AM  

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