Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Can the Conservatives recover from the Duffy Trial?

With the adjournment of the Duffy trial until November the daily revelations of the corruption in the PMO has come to a stop.  

That has caused some commentators to express the idea that the Conservatives now have a chance to recover from the trial and possibly win the election.

While anything is possible in politics I would say the probability of that happening is not very high.

First, I have been trying to think of a political party that had a brutal first quarter of an election campaign and went on to win the election and I cannot think of one.  Just in recent memory, Mr. Hudak, Madame Marois, and Mr. Prentice all had very bad first weeks of their campaign and they all lost big.  They were never able to recover.  The same for Mr. Martin in 2006 and Mr. Day in 2000.

Most commentators point to the length of this election as the reason why they believe the impact of the trial revelations may not do serious harm to the Conservative campaign.  They also claim that Canadians do not care about the Duffy trial and that Canadians have short memories 

I believe they are forgetting one very important aspect of the last three weeks in their assessments. The revelations of the trial have created a widespread perception in this country that Stephen Harper lied, was caught in that lie and has been lying more to try to get out from under the original lie. Canadians are not going to forget that.  It is going to be at the back of the minds of Canadians for weeks and it will influence the vote of a large number of voters.  We only need to see how Canadians reacted the first time the Senate Expense Scandal came to light.  The Conservative polling numbers slumped and stayed slumped for over a year only rising again when two disturbed individuals decided to kill some Canadian Army personnel last fall.  

A second consideration that needs to be accounted for is the fact that the last three weeks has given the Liberals and the NDP a rich vein of material to mine to create political advertizements to remind Canadians of the lies and corruption of Stephen Harper and the PMO.  I imagine we will be seeing those ads in the coming weeks.

As much as they would like the testimony of the last three weeks to be forgotten by Canadians between now and October 19 I do not believe it is going to happen.  The perception that testimony created is going to be around for awhile so the only way that the Conservatives can overcome it is by running an stellar election campaign and by having both of their opponents stumble and stumble badly in the next few weeks.  

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Karma's a bitch isn't it - two

I noticed today some Conservative sympathizers, both in the media and ordinary folks, lamenting the cost of the Duffy trial and how it has become politicized.

Again I am reminded of the 2006 election when Liberals desperately tried to distract Canadians from Adscam.

This time I disagree 100% with the concerns of these Conservative sympathizers.

First the cost.  The judge in the case, the Crown Prosecutor and all of the court personnel are salaried employees that have to show up for work regardless of which case they are working.  So whether they are working on the Duffy case or that of a drug lord they are going to get paid.  Further Mr. Duffy's lawyer is a private contractor.  His fees are being paid by Mr. Duffy, by some unnamed benefactor or Mr. Bayne is working pro bono.   In other words Canadians are not being saddled with any costs that they would not otherwise be on the hook for as part of the workings of our justice system.

Now some would argue that the money would be better spent prosecuting that drug lord but I would counter that you have nobody to blame but the Harper government for that as they were the ones that called in the Mounties to begin with.  Maybe they thought Mr. Duffy would be cleared or maybe they were just desperately trying to find some way to quench a political fire when they did so.  My money is on the quenching of a political fire.

As for the argument that the trial has become politicized that has to be the stupidest thing I have heard this summer.  The trial involves all of the senior advisors in the Prime Ministers Office, an office by definition that is a political.  To be surprised or upset that a trial involving them has become political is naive at best and extremely disingenuous at worst.

Both of these arguments are the same thing.  They are desperate attempts by Conservative supporters to distract Canadians away from the damaging revelations that have come from the Duffy trial, on a daily basis, for the last three weeks.  

Again, I have no sympathy.  If Conservatives really believed they were not going to wear this scandal they were living in a fantasy land.  

Monday, August 24, 2015

Karma's a bitch isn't it?

I recall during the 2006 election Liberal commentators, including myself, stating that there were more important things to talk about during that election than Adscam.  However, we were gleefully shouted down by Conservatives, and Dippers for that matter.

Now, as the slow drip of the revelations from the Duffy trial slowly dissolve the Conservative election campaign I cannot help but notice that many Conservative commentators, both the Conservative apologists in the media and non-professional ones at large are stating that there are more important things to talk about than the Duffy trial.

I happen to agree with them.  The Canadian economy is in a recession and the outlook for the short and medium future is not great.  Oil prices have not hit their floor yet and that floor is going to be lower than originally expected because of the expected influx of Iranian oil into the oil market.  Dozens of manufacturing companies fled Canada in the last decade taking over 1 million jobs with them.  They are not coming back which means the lower Canadian dollar will not have the same positive impact on exports and the economy as before. Finally, the only thing holding up the Canadian economy at its current level is the housing market and record consumer debt, which are approaching their limits before a major correction occurs.  That is what we should be talking about.  How each party is going to deal with that situation is what Canadians should be demanding.

All that being said, I have no sympathy for the Conservatives and their sympathizers.  Their holier-than-now attitude from 2004-2006 was infuriating and the current political travails that they are dealing with as a result of rampant corruption in the PMO is something they are going to have to wear for awhile.  

Maybe these last few days will teach them something about humility.  Not Stephen Harper and his gang.  They would not know humility if it came up and kicked them in the nuts.  But perhaps Conservatives at large will learn a little bit about it.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The impact of the Duffy trial on the election

The trial has progressed to the really critical bits.  Gone are the housekeeping days where the workings of the Senate and its byzantine expense rules were the main topics.

Now we are getting down to the real trial where the main characters behind the Senate expense scandal have to testify under oath.  Mr. Wright is the first and some of what he has stated is quite enlightening.

He has only been on the stand for three days but I am already seeing some pundits stating that the trial will not have an impact on the election.

What these pundits are forgetting is the trial is still in prosecution phase.  Mr. Duffy's lawyer has not yet launched his defence.

Since Mr. Bayne's defence seems to be to depict Mr. Duffy as someone who made an honest mistake, navigating the convoluted Senate expense rules, and then got caught up in the PMO's "scheme" to prevent such errors from embarrassing the government I would imagine that Mr. Bayne will be seeking to introduce evidence to back up that defence when his turn rolls around.

At that point things should really get interesting for the Conservatives.  I would imagine that frequent revelations about the machinations of the PMO during an election campaign it not good news for them.

The trial has the potential to become a running sore on the hide of the Conservative campaign as weeks of revelations are disseminated to the public. At best those revelations will distract from the Conservative election message and at worst they will put them on the defensive for weeks at a time during the campaign.  That cannot be a happy prospect for an incumbent government trying to overcome a desire for change.  As well, it is an open question on how Mr. Harper will react.  He is a well known control freak so his reaction to having journalists ask questions about the latest evidence coming out of the trial, instead of the Conservative announcement of the day could be interesting.

Then there is the fodder being produced by the trial that could be used by the Liberals and the NDP in election ads.  Mr. Wright gave them some rather juicy quotes and more will probably be forthcoming in the coming weeks.

We cannot overestimate the impact of the trial on the election but we also cannot dismiss the trial as never going to have an impact either like some pundits are currently doing.  

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Thoughts on the election so far

My first thought is it has been rather dull.  It almost seems that the parties are not really on a full election footing yet.  Heck, I have not seen a single lawn sign in my riding yet or the ones they usually post at major intersections.

Some of my other thoughts.

The debate was a bust.  Dull, lifeless, pointless.  I agree with many of the professional pundits that no one was hurt or helped by the debate.

I am impressed that the Liberals seem to be sticking to their message of pounding the economy during the early going.  They are ignoring all of the other stuff going on and focusing on it.  They virtually ignored the Wright testimony.  There has been some hay made of the "economy of the heart" statement of Mr. Trudeau, by the usual suspects, but if that is all they have then it is thin pickings indeed.  It is a message that could resonate as the Conservatives suddenly appear vulnerable on the economy, the NDP have no experience running the national economy and the Liberals have a very recent stellar track record.  It is apparent that the Liberals want to make the economy and their plan to make it more beneficial for ordinary Canadians the ballot question.  If it does indeed become that the other parties could be in trouble.

I am biased but I believe the Conservatives are a tired, old government that has run out of ideas and the first couple of weeks of the campaign seem to bare that out.  Everything they have promised is more of the same and it does not seem to be resonating with Canadians at large.  Their plan so far seem to be to just attack Justin Trudeau, otherwise their campaign so far has been underwhelming. Also the Duffy trial is the proverbial wild card. The Conservatives were at their lowest ebb during the height of that scandal and the trial could remind Canadians as to why they were very unhappy with the government at that time just in time for the election.  

The NDP seems to be disjointed.  I have yet to discern a central message for their campaign. They are doing a good job of attacking their opponents but they have yet to provide any real reason why Canadians should vote for them.  They are trying to overcome a 150 year old voting pattern so they are going to have to do more than give reasons why voters should not vote for the other guys.  They need to give compelling reasons to vote for them.  I would say this is most true for the NDP.  The other parties can get away with not doing so to a certain extent because they are known quantities to voters.  The NDP is not.  They need to convince Canadians that they can be trusted to govern and so far they have not done so.

The polls are not changing much although you can see some hints of where things might be headed.

The gap between first and third is about five points.  That is an extremely small gap and it means that it is still anybody's election.

The Liberals are dominating the Eastern provinces.

The NDP is leading in Quebec but the Liberals are leading amongst Anglos and federalists, which if it holds could mean big gains for the Liberals.  You can expect the Liberals to pound the NDP promise to scrap the Clarity Act in that province so that they can solidify their support amongst these groups.

The most recent Nanos poll seems to indicate the NDP has fallen to third place in Ontario.  I firmly believe that as the campaign unfolds in that province it will become a two way contest between the Conservatives and the Liberals.  Could this poll be the first hint of that dynamic beginning to develop?

The position of the parties in the Western provinces are exactly where you would expect them to be so there are no surprises there.  

So far there is nothing to become overly excited about but there is still nine weeks to go so I am certain that will change.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

And the winner will be...

The election has been called so I am going to go out on a limb and make a guess on who will win the the election.

My assumptions:

1.  The desire for change will become strong enough that the Conservatives will lose the election.
2.  While Canadians will want change they will not want the radical change represented by the NDP. Canadians will stick to their habit of alternating between Liberal and Conservative governments.
3.  Justin Trudeau will perform better than many expect.  He is likable, approachable and without fear and that will come through during this long campaign.
4.  The Conservatives will grow increasingly desperate as the campaign goes on and it will add to the extent of their defeat.
5.  A man very wise to election once told me that long campaigns always benefit the Liberal Party the most.  It seems to take them awhile to find their stride but when they do they become all but unstoppable and a longer campaign allows them more time to hit that stride.

So the final result of the election will surprise everyone as it will be a Liberal majority government.

The resurgence of the Liberals will begin in the East where they will win at least 25 seats.
It will continue in Quebec where Montreal and Western Quebec will go red.  The NDP wave will recede considerably during this campaign.  Although Mr. Mulcair will win his seat it will be by the thinnest margin of all of the party leaders.
Ontario will see the largest resurgence.  The Liberals will win a large majority of seats in that province, particularly within the cities and their suburbs.  The NDP will steadily lose relevance in that province as the campaign unfolds.
In the Prairies the Liberals will double their seat count in Manitoba and maintain their one seat in Saskatchewan.
The Liberals will breakthrough in Calgary, while the NDP does the same in Edmonton.  That will be a contributing factor in the Conservative loss.
The Liberals will meet their historical high water mark in BC.
The Liberals will sweep the North.

None of the above is based on any science.  It is based on my gut, which I find has been rather reliable in the past.  

If anybody actually reads this feel free to guffaw if you like.  I really do not care.  In the fullness of time if I am proven wrong sobeit.  It is not like I have not been wrong before but I believe the next few weeks are going to surprise alot of political observers in this country.