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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

a response to scott tribe on stephen harper's fears.

After reading Scott Tribe's latest post on why Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been scared into election mode, I felt the need to engage in some friendly dialogue and write a response to Scott's post. In his post, Scott suggests that:

1) Harper knows the economy is going to tank in a few months, or he’s going to be in the red with his next Budget, so he prefers to go now then later, when he and his government and Mr Flaherty would take more heat over mismanaging a Liberal surplus into a deficit situation in less then 3 years.

2) The Committees looking at the in-and out scandal will be highly embarrassing for him, as perhaps will the actual court case result against Elections Canada.

3) He knows he’s faring crappy in the 4 byelections, knows he wont win any of them, and doesn’t want Liberal momentum going into the House this Fall.

First, I don't see any evidence that Harper has been scared into election mode. It seems pretty evident that the Conservatives have succeeded in manufacturing a ‘crisis’ in parliament and framing the debate around an ‘impending’ election call. Is there really a crisis in Parliament? Of course not. Is there need for an election? No. It's fairly clear that the Conservatives believe that, regardless of polling results which place the Conservatives in a tight race with the Liberals, they can increase their seat total in the next election, which is generally why political leaders at all levels have done the very same thing since Confederation in 1867. I don't see any reason why Harper's motivation is any different than that of say... Pierre Trudeau circa 1974.

The economic downturn in Ontario is hardly something that can be squarely pinned on the Conservatives, and after only two years in office it is reasonable to believe that the Conservatives could use their partisan spin machine to attempt to pin the downturn on "13 years of Liberal economic mismanagement..." If anything, the economic mess in Ontario's auto sector has more to do with inefficiencies of the automobile manufactures than the policies of Conservative or Liberal governments.

Though the lack of respect towards Parliament that the Conservatives have shown towards committees such as the House Ethics Committee is reprehensible, I don't believe that the In-and-Out scandal will have traction on the doorsteps. It may be a big deal inside the Ottawa bubble, but I have a hard time imagining that this will lead Conservative voters to change their minds in a 2008.

I'm also not sure how winning a handful of by-elections in constituencies which they already hold (minus St. Lambert of course) would give Stéphane Dion's Liberals any momentum. The financial and organizational mess within the Liberal Party isn't likely convincing Harper to change his mind on calling an election. After sitting in the Opposition benches for two years, it seems that the Green Shift is the first solid policy announcement that the Liberals have proposed and though Dion's messaging is getting stronger, it may be too little too late. It also may be that the Liberals are underestimating the bitter taste that Paul Martin and Adscam left in the mouths of Canadians just only two years ago. After two years in the dog house (and a pretty comfortable minority parliament-style dog house at that), it is hard to believe that the Liberals have spent enough time outside the Ottawa bubble to understand why Canadians didn't trust them to govern in 2006.

Even though people aren't jumping up to warmly embrace him on the street, I don't believe that Canadians feel Harper has done an awful job as Prime Minister. With the lack of a credible or charismatic opposition leader to knock him off his Prime Ministerial pedestal, I don't see anyone moving out of 24 Sussex Drive anytime soon. And though I strongly disagree with many of their policies -- including the introduction of draconian copyright legislation, short-sighted cuts to federal arts funding, the lack of seriousness on climate change and environmental issues, and the politicization of MPs taxpayer funded resources -- I have a hard time not predicting an increase in the Conservative seat total in the next election, and I can hardly believe that Stephen Harper is afraid of that.


Skinny Dipper said...

Hi Dave,

I will agree with you that certain issues that are important within political circles in Ottawa won't resonate with the voters.

Harper will target his messaging at particular voters. He will try to consolidate his base support and try to get a few extra seats in the suburban fringes of Canada's major cities. He may have a lousy environmental policy. That doesn't matter. His target voters will be more interested in individual and family incomes and expenditures. He will talk about crime because suburban voters see and hear about urban crime on television and radio. Nevermind that crime rates may be falling. His party will talk about youth crime (they can't vote) and gang crime (they may be black or aboriginal who live in strong Liberal ridings). Sorry if the last part seems racist, but it's a strategy that the Conservatives can use.

This is going to be a bi-polar election where there won't be common issues among different Canadians. The Liberals can scream, "environment", all they want. They won't gain Conservative voters. It's like trying to sell dresses and tampons to a man. It won't work. Likewise, the Conservatives won't waste their energy trying to sell corporate tax cuts to progressives who require tax funded programs from the state. The Conservatives will just focus on select Canadians who may be interested in their message.

Anonymous said...

You say "If anything, the economic mess in Ontario's auto sector has more to do with inefficiencies of the automobile manufactures than the policies of Conservative or Liberal governments."

But that didn't stop Harper/Flaherty trying to make McGuinty eat that problem. It's always someone elses fault with the conservatives, and that arrogance is what will hold them back.

ktr said...

the media in alberta and the people will give you a slanted perception of harper and dion.
Harper has 3 main reasons which make him want and need an election now before it gets worse.
1. no matter what he does, he cant top 36-38% in the polls. not after cutting the gst, not after slamming dion in various ads, never.
2. the libs, dips, and cons will all be able to spend the max 18 million (the libs and ndp thanks to bank loans). if canada gets another minority government, watch for him to pull the plug again quickly in order to have an election before the other parties have enough for a second campaign in less than 1 year.
3. the economy is getting worse in quebec and ontario, and staying strong or growing in the west. perhaps harper can pick up a few seats in manitoba and NB to counter those he will lose in ontario.

Duncan said...

I couldn't agree more with your analysis. I may not think Conservative gains are a lock, but I certainly don't see Harper on the defense, quite the opposite. Tom Flanagan's article in yesterday's Globe seems to agree with us (

Chris LaBossiere said...


Great post Dave. You have a knack for seeing the obvious through the cloud of political chaf.


chason jerniak said...

Skinny Dipper said:
It's like trying to sell dresses and tampons to a man.

I happen to enjoy feminine attire, and I find your misogynistic attitude in denigrating tampons to be totally offensive and completely inappropriate. Sorry but it's the truth!

Sorry Dave but you are wrong, it is Dion who will be Daredevil in this federal election of choice. An unnecessary battle fought, like the Iraq War, at the whim and choice of a cocksure right-wing tyrant. Only difference is: Americans call him "Bush". We call him "Bush's Monica Lewinsky". ie. Who's getting the President's semen stains on this time? Is it you, Stevie? Is it? Do you mind if I call you "Stevie", like your 'man-handler' Bush Junior?

The right-wing bias in this anti-Liberal screed is breathtaking, to say the least. I don't quite know what to say or how to respond. If this all the Kool-Aid drinking right has to offer, I predict that we are seeing the beginnings of a Dion majority!

chason jerniak said...

Well well.

It's always someone elses fault with the conservatives, and that arrogance is what will hold them back.

It turns out that an anonymous commenter over at Daveberta "gets it". With the conservatives, it's always someone else's fault. That's why they have accomplished virtually nil in their disastrous first term in office. With the liberals, you get action, you get implementation, you get results. With the conservatives comes partisan bickering; Liberals bring can-do know-how.

chason jerniak said...

NB: When I referred to Dion as "Daredevil" in this election, I was of course referring to "The Man Without Fear", Marvel Comics' classic "Daredevil" character.

For that, I believe, will be Dion in this impending election. A mighty, red leather clad superhero. Blinded by toxic materials, yes. Aloof and cerebral, perhaps. Stylish? Natch. But totally, utterly, completely, 100% without fear when facing the blue menace that is the Harper Conservatives.

Choose wisely, Canada. Choose wisely.

chason jerniak said...

Chris said:
Great post Dave. You have a knack for seeing the obvious through the cloud of political chaf.


May I suggest a visit to my own blog, perhaps. When clear clarity is sought, there is really no substitute.

"I laugh
in the face of chaf"

This has been my motto - my creed, if you will, my "ethos" for as long as I can recall.

Thank you for your interest about my political musings and stylings.