Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Layton and Harper to meet for tea and crumpets

Very interesting news just breaking over the wire:

AUGUST 25, 2009

OTTAWA – New Democrat Leader Jack Layton will meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Langevin Block to discuss the fall session of Parliament. Layton plans to speak to reporters immediately following the meeting.

2:50 PM-Photo-Op, Layton enters Langevin Block 80 Wellington St. Ottawa, ON

4:00 PM - Press Conference with Jack Layton, National Press Theatre 150 Wellington St.
I’m told the meeting is at Harper’s request. I have no information as yet of a meeting being requested of or accepted by Michael Ignatieff or Gilles Duceppe.

My speculation? Stephen Harper obviously wants to play let’s make a deal to keep my government alive.

Where I Harper, I’d settle Jack in, butter him up with questions about his new grandchild, and then offer him a deal on employment insurance. Probably pretty close to what the Liberals were asking for. And I’d tell Jack that this is a great deal for him, because a) The NDP isn’t really in a financial position to wage an election this fall, b) The polls aren’t favourable for him either, and c) The deal would let the NDP claim victory on EI by getting the deal the Liberals couldn’t d) He can spin it to marginalize the Liberals at NDP expense.

If I were Harper, why would I offer Layton a deal? Well, I know that those Ipsos numbers are an outlier, I know a fall election could be very bad for me and at some point, the Liberals could finally decide to take the leap. So I don’t want an election this fall. I also know that, at this point, this is likely my last election as leader unless I get a majority, and that’s not in the cards right now.

And I know that, if I’m going to make a deal with anyone, I want it to be with the NDP. A deal with the Liberals is fine, but no fringe benefits. A deal with the separatist BQ is unpalatable. But a strong NDP saps strength from the Liberals, which is to my benefit, so a deal with the NDP is my first choice.

So a deal makes all kinds of sense for Stephen Harper, and for the Conservatives. But it takes two to tango. The more important question is does a deal make sense for Jack Layton and the NDP?

Strategically, you can argue it does. An election this fall wouldn’t be ideal for the NDP. It would stretch their finances significantly, and the polling shows they’d drop seats, particularly in Ontario, which would only be partially be offset by gains elsewhere. And were I Jack Layton, I’d be wondering how many more elections I have left in me. I’ve made steady gains to this point, but I’m still short of Broadbent levels, and I may never have another chance like I did last fall. People like Mulcair are waiting in the wings. I’d be wondering if I really want to roll the dice this fall, so a deal may be attractive.

However, were I Layton, I’d also know it would need to be a helluva deal if I’m going to be able to sell it to my supporters, and convince them I’m not just doing what I’ve been accusing the Liberals of doing for some time: caving and propping up a Conservative government that is hostile to so many of our deeply held principles. A deal takes away the “xxx consecutive confidence votes” and “only real opposition” memes we’ve been carefully cultivating and lets the Liberals go on the offense, and the only hope to counter that without looking totally morally bankrupt and risking polarizing the electorate between the LPC and CPC is to be able to claim you’ve extracted significant and meaningful concessions, from the Conservatives, concessions deal the Liberals could never have gotten.

Is such a deal likely to be on offer for Layton? Were I Harper, it would be, for the reasons already outlined. Were I Jack, I’d want more than a deal on EI. And even then, I’d be wary.

But we’ll see in a few hours, I suppose. Could be Harper just wants some help on his hockey book. Or maybe Harper really does want an election, and he's running a replay of last fall. Unlikely, however.

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RuralSandi said...

Well, we know summer's over when the new season of programming is beginning - Canada's version of "Let's Make a Deal" new season is starting early and the same players/actors will be back.

Harper and Layton - the "standard" coalition.

Greg said...

I think Kady is right. This is all a show, to prove Harper is "trying to make parliament work". I am sure Iggy's invite is in the works.

Gayle said...

Or it is Harper and Layton meeting to discuss their joint campaign strategy. Maybe Harper will share some of his private poll numbers and give Layton some advice about where to put the most energy into his campaign.

Anonymous said...

I think your analysis is off. You say the NDP is out of money and down in the polls. The first is false and the second is overblown: the difference between our current poll numbers and the outcome of the last election is insignificant. I think you are grasping at straws here.

Jeff said...

Actually Devin, its my hypothetical Harper and Layton that would be grasping in this case.

But seriously, I disagree with your disagreement. I didn't say the NDP is "out of money" but I did say "The NDP isn’t really in a financial position to wage an election this fall" and I stand by that.

If I recall from your convention, the NDP reported a debt of $3.something million, which they expect to be paid off either next year or within a year, I don't recall which. They also said they have promises for bank (credit union) loans if there is a fall vote.

So, yes, the NDP could finance a fall vote. But, assuming you're going to spend the max again, it would mean pilling millions of dollars on top of that existing $3m debt, which won't be paid off on that same timeline because you're be redirecting donations from debt repayment to election spending.

So, yes, the NDP could financially fight an election this fall. But it would emerge with pretty significant debt, uncertain electoral results and, depending on how well the Cons do, perhaps the end of the per vote subsidy.

Were I Jack, that would give me serious pause, and that's the point I was making on money.

On polls, indeed, they're fluid. I don't have them all side by side now to do a comparison. So I'll grant your contention nationally you're near 08 levels. I'd note though that the Libs are up from 08, which will impact a number of splits. And the polls I've seen point to some key regional weakness for the NDP, particularly in Ontario, and pretty consistently for the last 6-8 months. I think you're at risk of dropping a number of seats in Ontario. You may pick up a few here or there in BC, the Prairies, maybe Atlantic Canada, but at best I think it would be a wash. And it could be worse.

Certainly, there isn't visibility to net gains and my point was, were I Jack, that would give me pause as well, because I'd be concerned this would be my last election if I don't make strong gains. The incremental approach has been successful but I'd be worried, were I to drop seats, that patience could be lost.

Anonymous said...

If the government doesn't go down during this fall,in my opinion it will then go down in the fall of 2010.

Let me explain:

1)I don't think parties would want an election during the Vancouver games. People won't have their minds on politics they would be too busy watching the games.

2) Than comes the budget in the spring. Who would have the courage to bring down the government when they would be making promises of over $200 billions? Because that's our budget.

3) By the time the budget it's adopted it's summer. We saw what happened before the summer recesses.

This is how I came up with the fall of 2010.Of course they will have to survive this fall.What's your thought on this BCer? Does this make sense to you?

Malcolm+ said...

There won't be an election this fall because the Liberals will roll over yet again.