Monday, June 22, 2009

We need to put some meat on the BBQ this summer

With the spring session of parliament over, and the dig days of summer ahead before a return to parliament for more melodrama in the fall, politicians of every stripe will be hitting the vaunted barbecue circuit. It's an annual rite of passage, where our political leaders travel the country to flip hamburgers and convince us they're “just folks.”

Michael Ignatieff is the rookie amongst a group of very experienced party leaders, all with multiple campaigns under their belts. Whether this fall or not, there will be an election one of these days, and Ignatieff really needs to ramp-up his skills on the retail side of politics. This summer should be a dry-run for the campaign to come.

But for the Liberal Party and for Ignatieff, a summer of glad-handing, baby-kissing and burger flipping won't get it done. We need to put some meat on the barby this summer.

If we're to be campaign-ready by this fall, it's vital that the Liberal Party use this summer to answer the two nagging questions that many Canadians have about us: who is this Ignatieff guy, and what would the Liberals do if we gave them a shot at government?

I know the old saying, governments defeat themselves. That's true to a degree, but it was truer when we had a 2 major party/1 minor party system. In today's fragmented political dynamic though, just waiting for your opponent to self-destruct (and even giving them a little push) isn't enough. Their support won't just fall into your lap when there's a number of other laps waiting too. At least, not enough of their support.

No, you need to give those people ready to make a move a reason to support you. And we haven't done a good enough job of that yet.

I'm not saying pre-release a policy platform, that'd be silly. And we all remember what happened with the Green Shift a few summers back. But there is a growing sense out there that Canadians aren't totally clear just what we're about, just what want to do in government, and just how we'd be different from the Conservative gang.

Whether you consider that a fair perception or not, we can't afford to ignore it.

We also need to start better defining Michael Igntieff. And, frankly, why this hasn't been a priority sooner, given the lessons of recent history, is baffling.

Yes, he's been polling well, for the most part. But as some of the early numbers from last week (which could just be blips) have shown, those numbers are soft. We need to solidify them.

My theory? A lot of people are ready to leave the Conservatives, and even the other parties, and come to the Liberals. They like the IDEA of Michael Ignatieff. But they're not ready to commit yet. With an election an immediate possibility, the softness of those numbers was highlighted. They like the idea, but they're not ready to commit because there's not something more tangible to commit to yet.

That's why we need to give them something more tangible. That's why we need to put some steak on the BBQ this summer.

Who is Michael Ignatieff? He has a compelling personal narrative that will resonate with many Canadians, but we haven't tried to tell it yet. Turn the Conservative attacks on their head. Tell us how his international career has informed his values, his ideals, and his political persona. Tell us how it will make him a better Prime Minister. Tell us what he wants to accomplish in government. Tell us how he'll deal with the fiscal constraints a Liberal government would inherit from the Harper Conservatives.

As Bart Simpson once said, you don't win friends with salad. If we're to have a successful fall, we need to grill up some beef this summer.

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Lizt. said...

I agree. A great many people do not know Michael enough. He has to get around, give small speeches of what he would do, without too much detail. He really has to work at it.The summer should be enough. We should have an advertisement about his life....the good things.

penlan said...

"And we all remember what happened with the Green Shift a few summers back."

A few summers back? Lol, Jeff, it was last summer. You must have had a lot of things to do this past year to make you think it's been *years*.

A BCer in Toronto said...

LOL well it has been a looong year, hasn't it?

penlan said...

Yes, it has been a very long year & you have been very, very busy. Kudos for all the great videos btw - & thanks!

Socially Active said...

In the New Year, Michael faced a difficult decision, whether to join the Liberal Party in with others to form a progressive coalition government. Perhaps the progressive coalition would not have given the Liberals the liberty to exercise itself freely in some areas.

The progressive coalition forced a decision on Michael. A choice to join a medium term coalition with the progressive parties or join a perhaps shorter term coalition the Conservative Party. As Liberal supporter I was saddened by the decision made, because of the consequences it held for Michael and the Liberal Party.

The decision may have not been in Michael's hands. I don't know the decision was made. This questions how important decisions like this are made?

Joseph said...

Good Post. I can't disagree.