Saturday, September 08, 2007

This is no referendum

Steve writes about the coming Quebec by-elections, and a media analysis of their national implications. Frankly, I think this whole opinion that it's a referendum on Dion's leadership is tiring.

Perhaps there's a group in the party, in Quebec, that have never liked Dion, were upset when he won and are looking for any excuse to boot him out and get their person in instead, so they can advance. I don’t doubt that. But do I think most Liberals actually consider this a 'referendum' on his leadership, a make or break? No, not at all.

The three by-elections last year were Harper's first as PM. Did he not handpick/backdoor support the selection of Dianne Haskett ran in London? She lost, badly, as I recall, to the Liberals. And the Cons lost the Quebec by-election to the BQ too. Didn't impact Harper's leadership at all, did it?

And now there's three by-elections in Quebec, a province Harper has tapped as key to his majority dreams, and has poured billions of billions of dollars, and extended tons of effort. So, given all the importance and effort Harper has expanded on Quebec, why aren't these by-elections a referendum on his leadership? Wouldn't a failure to take at least 2/3 speak to a massive failure of his Quebec strategy, a rejection of Canada's New Government by Quebecers. If he loses all three, that will be four Quebec by-elections Harper has lost since forming government. And he’ll be 0/5 on by-elections overall. Yet, it’s not a referendum for Harper.

And Jack has invested quite a bit of effort in Muclair in Outremont, what's the price he pays if that's all for naught?

By-elections are by-elections. Certain groups within the party can try to use them to further their own nakedly obvious internal power grabs and personal goals, and the Cons and NDP can play along to support their own strategic goals. But that doesn’t mean I’m buying it. Get over it people, and move on. The rest of us have.

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Steve V said...


With all due respect, while you might disregard the by-election as a referendum, I doubt those in the media would agree with you, and in terms of perception that's all that matters. This riding is a "stronghold", a loss will undermine Dion, I take that as a given. Also, Quebec Liberals haven't exactly embraced Dion, so how the party does in this by-election could tip opinion one way or the other.

Dion picked this candidate, which raised the stakes because of that relationship. Objectively, Dion's leadership numbers are abysmal in Quebec at the moment, how a loss in the remaining Liberal bastion is anything less than devasting is beyond me. Liberals can minimize the ramifications, but the Cons will jump all over it, with a willing media in tow, and a "referendum" frame will take shape IMHO. I can already hear the "unnamed Liberals" now in Quebec.

Burton, Formerly Kingston said...

Jeff, I have to agree with Steve on this one, that riding is very important for the LPC, they pulled out a star candidate so even they think it is important. As to why these are not a bell weather to Harpers leadership is these were not CPC ridings, now if one of these bi-elections where in say a CPC stronghold then I would say the result would be a reflection on his leadership. In my humble opinion the other two ridings will be a small indication of the CPC chances in La Belle Province and the CPC knows it and that is why as suggested they are expending considerable effort in them. What would not surprise me, is if the CPC should quietly throw in the towel in Outremont and help the NDP win it just to cause massive turmoil in the LPC ranks. If I was him I would. It would just be a good political move at this point in his mandate.

burlivespipe said...

In a small sense, I can agree with Jeff; no by-election win or loss should carry the weight to topple a leader -- unless he's running in it. The nature of a by-election alone allows for the voter to do unnatural things, throw their support behind someone just to rankle and send a cranky message. However, we are the opposition and thus the obvious choice to a gov't that is hiding some serious ideological roots.
If the Liberals cannot present a strong face and parlay that into a bold result, then I am concerned. Quebec voters have shown to be quite volatile -- their sudden embrace of Dumont, their abandonment of the Liberal party in '84 (Turner had previously been an MP from Quebec and thus should have had some currency) suggests that unpredictable is their nature.
Many of us who strongly support Dion feel that one of the reasons is that, when push comes to shove, he'll be able to retain and build upon our numbers in Quebec, not only because he's a native son but because he can speak to Quebeckers firmly.
Should we not win Outremont and finish 2nd in at least one of the other ridings, I believe the CONs will be ramping up some new devilish non-campaign ads, and working the pliant media to their advantage again.
When you are in gov't, you have plenty of tools at your disposal to paper over a bad by-election result; when you are the Opposition, your chances are far and few between general elections to make a mark.

lance said...

Kingston is right. Can you imagine the talk if the CPC were in tight in Wildrose? Or the NDP in Winnipeg Centre?

Sorry Jeff, but Outremont is the most important election Dion's Liberals have ever faced.


Monkey Loves to Fight said...

With all due respect, I also disagree here. My disagreement is mainly because none of these ridings in the current or past by-elections were held by the Tories so it is really only an issue if the Tories pick it up. It would be a referendum on Harper if it was a riding the Tories won last election or came very close to winning.

As for the Liberals, again it will only matter if they either lose Outremont or pick up one of the other two. If they win Outremont and lose the other two it means nothing. The reason losing Outremont matters is the Liberals held this riding before.

Jeff said...

Steve, the media is going to do what it wants, and there's not much we can do to help that. They want to make it seem like a make or break for Dion because it sounds more exciting, and they like conflict. Doesn't make it any truer. Doesn't mean I have to buy what they're selling.

Would a loss in Outremont be bad? Sure. But it's not the fatal blow that certain elements, egged-on by the media, seem to want to make it into. What's going on in Quebec would be going-on under any leader. Certain elements are just looking for an excuse to further their own agendas, so they're hying the importance of this byelection.

...but the Cons will jump all over it...

I don't doubt it. The Cons are going to do what they're going to do. Not much we can do about that.

As to why these are not a bell weather to Harpers leadership is these were not CPC ridings,

But how many ridings do the Cons have in Quebec Kingston? Not that many. If they're going to do anything, have any hope for a majority, they have to start winning ridings. Particularly in Quebec, where Harper has expanded so much political capital, and staked so much of his future. So if the Cons can't start picking-up some ridings, that to me has to be a failure of leadership on Harper's part.

I believe the CONs will be ramping up some new devilish non-campaign ads, and working the pliant media to their advantage again.

Burl, I don't disagree that the by-elections are important, I just think this referendum/make or break talk is going too far. As for the Cons' ad strategy, they're going to come-up with nasty negative ads no matter what we do. If it's not one thing, it'll be something else. Not much we can do about that, so I'm not going to worry about it.

Sorry Jeff, but Outremont is the most important election Dion's Liberals have ever faced.

I agree Lance, but it's also the only election Dion's Liberals have ever faced. :)

because none of these ridings in the current or past by-elections were held by the Tories so it is really only an issue if the Tories pick it up

As I said earlier Miles, they have to stop winning unheld ridings at some point. But I don't think they're an referendum for Harper either; I'm just saying if you'tr going to argue it's a referendum for Dion you can argue dido for Harper.

Burton, Formerly Kingston said...

Jeff, well stated argument but you haven't won me over. If this bi-election was happening in AB, BC or a known Con stronghold I would agree that it would mean nothing for a LPC lose and everything if they won for Mr.Dion. Ditto if you reverse my argument, and besides that, your correct if the LPC drops that riding in particular the MSM and pundits are going to have a field day with it, and as I have said before, unless your a political junkie like we are, your getting your analyzes from the MSM and pundits, i.e Duffy and Newman and a lose will not bode well for Mr.Dion if for no other reason then their ratings.
PS. It just occurred to me why they LPC wanted the rest of the Bi-election at the same time. Those riding in Toronto are pretty much a foregone conclusion so they would of easily provided good news at the same time if that seat is lost. Again just my thought, rip away at them.