Wednesday, January 24, 2007

How do we beat them? How do we win?

After talking about a year of Steve Harper in government yesterday, today let's look ahead to the next election, and specifically, what strategies the Liberal Party should adopt to win it.

I wrote yesterday that Harper isn't the scary so-con of Liberal lore. Many in his party are; many aren't. But by governing reasonably non-scarily from a so-con standpoint he has removed that card from the Liberal deck. Commenter Jay yesterday took exception to that contention, saying he found the vote to re-open SSM scary. I agree. Talking about taking away rights is scary. It was a half-hearted attempt doomed to failure though, since he ruled-out invoking the notwithstanding clause. Both sides knew this; so he alienated the so-con right by doing it half-assed and SSM advocates by doing it at all.

But I've digressed. The fact is, the Liberal Party ran on scary, scary Conservatives in 2000, 2004 and 2006, and obviously with less success each time. It worked in 2000 because the right was still divided, Stock Day was a boob, and he actually was a bit scary. In worked in 2004 only very late in the campaign and only because the Cons let it, with incidents like Randy White's interview, Cheryl Gallant's eruptions, and Steve's child porn release. In 2006 Harper learned his lesson and kept a tight reign on his candidates, not giving the scary fire any oxygen, and he moderated his platform.

And now, after a year of Harper government, people see that the sky hasn't fallen. Yes, he just has a minority. Sure, you might think he'll go so-con loco with a majority. Strategically though, that's irrelevant. You're not going to convince Canadians he has a hidden agenda to ban abortion or something. It won't fly. After three elections we need a new strategy.

He's still scary

Steve still scares me a little. Yeah, he's not so-con scary. But he's small government scary. He's anti-strong Federal government scary. He's fiscal Conservative, gut social programs to fund huge tax cuts for the wealthy scary. He's all about that kind of scary.

I have no doubt that, handed the keys to a majority government, Steve Harper would set about remaking Canada into a country nothing like the one most Canadians want, nothing like the country most Canadians identify with. That's a point we can make.

Liberals believe in a strong Federal government that, while respecting provincial rights, is a leader in setting national standards and goals. A government that is compassionate and caring. Liberals believe government can, and must, be a force for change, and an instrument for good.

Conservatives, well, they believe the opposite. They think government is bad. What's that famous conservative quote, they want to make government small enough that they can drown it in their bath tubs? That about sums it up right there.

Choose your Canada

That's a distinction we can make, an ideological line we can draw and a choice we can ask Canadians to make. Let's make the case for government as an instrument of good.

This morning a Globe piece quotes Bob Rae as saying the Liberals plan to borrow a phrase from the Conservative strategic playbook, focusing on a key priorities and "pithy phrases."

That's fine. Focus is good. (One of) the mistakes of Paul Martin was that he had 1000 priorities, and all of them were his top priority. When you try to be everything to everyone you don’t' end up being anything to anyone.

We should take a focused, defined agenda with deliverables to Canadians in the next election. A sustainable economy that drives green jobs and economic growth. Protecting the environment and tackling climate change. And more.

But we need to tie that agenda to an idea, a vision for Canada, contrast that with the narrow-minded small government vision of the Harper Conservatives, and ask Canadians which Canada they identify with.

Do that, and I think we have a chance.

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Anonymous said...

One the key things the Liberals could do is simply not to listen to the Conservatives anymore until they start talking about their own ideas and substantive policies, if they actually have any, that is.

What's that famous conservative quote, they want to make government small enough that they can drown it in their bath tubs? That about sums it up right there.

My favourite (paraphrased) from PJ. O'Rourke: Conservatives claim government just doesn't work...and then get elected and prove exactly that.

wilson said...

Before taking that show on the road BCer, one should check out where their leader stands/stood.
I would be very interested to know what Dion means by "intelligent decentralization".
Has Dion really gave up every notion he had from when he was a separatist? (He won't separate himself from his French citizenship)

...''In an unusual statement that Dion released as he was APPOINTED (not elected) - and which was approved in advance by Chr├ętien - the new intergovernmental affairs minister stressed his support for "intelligent decentralization" and cited Switzerland, one of the most decentralized federations in the industrialized world, as a potential model.''

Torian said...

not by saying things like this:

Dion might allow disgraced Liberal back into party

Anonymous said...

Don't be surprised if Harper does not pull a rabbit out of the hat come budget time, which earns him massive votes in the 905 belt of Toronto and other big cities.

How to do it?

Easy: offer them something substantial, through a huge tax reduction, and cut other programs to afford it.

What would work? Something like deductibility of mortgage interest for homeowners, for a start. Thousands of dollars, directly into the pockets of Boomers, and, as importantly, their children...

This man is cast in the mould of the old emperors of Rome: he will use the citizens' money to bribe them, if this gives him his majority, and the chance to continue his revolutionary policies. We have already seen him do this. If it works on a small scale, why not on a large scale?

Anonymous said...

Wilson61 is another one of those that look up any negative he can find and trash and bash (or tries to) because he probably does't understand policy.

Gossip/tabloid type blogging at its worst.

Joe Calgary said...

The Liberals were notorious for stealing ideas from both the PC's and the Reform... this is hardly anything new in politics...

I think Dion had better pull a rabbit out of his hat, cause say what you will, the Tory base is still the same, and all Harper has to do is build on it, whereas the Liberal fortunes run equal to the fortunes of Mr. Dion.

Things like considering letting Mr. Cote back into the party don't exactly inspire the voter.

Not to mention that if you do the math on his vaunted "EcoPlan", we are going to be so screwed it isn't funny.

Dion has yet to be pasted to the wall and scutinized... an election will most certainly bring that on.

ottlib said...

Actually Joe:

The Liberal base is pretty solid as well so it should be interesting to see which of the competing visions put forward during the next election strikes a cord with Canadians.

Jay said...

wilson61 never reponds because he can't, he just drops a turd that only he himself finds enlightening.

Like a child smearing poo on the wall. He thinks its cool and understands it but no one else does.

Anonymous said...


I think you're right on. Harper has already said there will be tax cuts for "families" and "individuals."

I think the Liberals have to make Canadians aware of the true costs of any proposed cuts. It seems to me that any ideas I have heard mentioned benefit some to the detriment of others.

Jay said...

Probably going to be the same cut the liberals already gave and the conservatives took away.

I am sure it will be presented on a nice shiny sign at a car dealership or something. Maybe at Wajids Dufferin Mazda.