Monday, June 04, 2007

What's this, I agree with Scott Reid?

It seems weird to me and yet, reading his op/ed in the Star this morning I found myself nodding my head in agreement: The Liberals should angle for a fall election.

If timing is everything in politics, then October 2007 is the right time for St├ęphane Dion to do everything possible to force Stephen Harper into a general election.

If that sounds risky, consider the alternative. The Conservative Prime Minister clears his cabinet of chronic mistake machines like Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor and reboots his policy agenda with new legislation. He then spends a year blitzing the airwaves with yet more negative political ads and finally, next March, triggers an election on his own terms after a budget of his own design.

His argument makes a lot of sense, and Scott paints an interesting scenario. While, at these point at least, a Fall election doesn’t look ideal the simple fact of the matter is that it isn’t likelier to get any more ideal than it will be this fall; indeed, for Liberal prospects barring the unforeseen it is only likelier to get worse.

If we let the fall go by Decivin' Steven will have had time to shuffle the deadwood out of his cabinet, put some attractive (if not effective) policy on the table (much of his current trouble can be traced to lack of an agenda) and to introduce another goody-laden budget. He’s likely to engineer his own defeat around that time under much more attractive (for him) conditions, making him much harder to beat.

The best-case scenario for the Liberals is a strong summer for Dion and the Liberal team on the BBQ circuit to try to give some boost to party support and, as well, his own flagging popularity numbers. Then, when the HoC comes back in the fall, likely with a Throne Speech after a Conservative prorogue, start playing hardball. Make the case on all the legislation the Cons killed by proroguing. Come into the session with a strong policy agenda of our own, and push hard on Throne Speech amendments.

Here’s Scott’s scenario:
Perhaps even more importantly, a scheduled confidence vote provides Dion with the chance to define himself in unmistakable terms.

Imagine a challenge to the Prime Minister in October that makes Liberal support contingent on three under-advertised but already-articulated Liberal priorities: broad-based personal income tax cuts for the middle class, proclamation of MP Pablo Rodriguez's Kyoto bill and an unequivocal declaration that our troops will be rotated out of Kandahar in February 2009.

Harper will find it hard to support these policies. But he will find it even harder to convince Canadians they are policies unworthy of support. Similarly, the NDP and Bloc would find it difficult to explain their decision to back Harper rather than Dion on these issues.

I like the strategy of that idea. The NDP and BQ would indeed find it difficult to support Decivin' Steven on such a vote, and would pay a political price if they did.

Now, there’s a lot to argue against pushing for a Fall election. Our poll numbers still aren’t swell, but we have the summer to turn that around and with the right issue to go into a vote on and the right campaign strategy those numbers can change quickly. There’s also the scheduled Ontario vote for the Fall too but c’est la vie, the Cons and NDP will be impacted there too.

The fact is, as I said earlier, wait into next spring and the picture only gets more uncertain and the challenge more difficult for the Liberals. It won’t be easy, a lot needs to go right, and there’s a lot of hard work to do, but I agree with Scott a fall election would be the best chance for the Liberals to wrest power from Decivin' Steven and return progressive government to Canada.

Elsewhere, Tribe thinks his fellow Scott makes a good case. Interestingly, over in Blogging Conny land, when they're not giggling about beer and pop corn and complimenting each other on their cleverness, they seem to think the idea is bad. Which leads me to think there may be something here.

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Ames Way said...

I think that the election in Ontario would make a federal election nearly impossible. The parties tend to share the same campaign workers.

DivaRachel said...

ABC, what about the provincial election in Ontario? I personally do not mind voting twice in 1 month, but it seems like a burden to many.

Jeff said...

Ames, diva, I agree the Ontario vote timing is an issue but it impacts all the parties, and I think the pros of going in the fall outweigh this and the other cons.

bigcitylib said...

A) Don't think its practical, with the Ontario vote etc. Diva is right I think. Spring is the first practical opportunity.

B) My honest opinion is that it doesn't get any better for Harper. He's got money to throw around next budget, but to what end? One spending spree didn't work, and the Dion attack ads are exhibiting diminishing returns. WHat does he do? Play to the base? That won't work either.

I think time is more on Dion's side than not. I remember reading one poll where the majority of Canadians said let these guys run until 2008. That seems the right thing to do.

I agree about playing hard-ball, though. The Libs have stabilized if not climbed in the polls, and the party seems to have settled. The wave of pro-Dion enthusiasm, and then anti-Dion disillusionment, has passed.

bigcitylib said...

And, who does Harper replace these guys with? He's pretty thin, talent wise, it seems to me.

northwestern_lad said...

you may think that this situation would be tough for the NDP and Bloc, but all that the other parties have to do is point to the large number of times that these Liberals have voted with the government to save their own hides. Whoever sets off the next election, all the parties are going to have to stand on their entire record in this Parliament, the Liberals included