Great moments in candour

by Aaron Wherry

Tom Flanagan considers the Conservatives’ intent to run against the specter of a Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition.

“They can tie the two together and say … ‘He will force an election even when there is no reason for it and there is no policy distance between the two parties on any major issues. And he’s forced an election which will lead to him rebuilding the deal with the other two parties,’ ” said University of Calgary political scientist Tom Flanagan, a former Harper adviser. “It doesn’t have to be true. It just has to be plausible and it strikes me as plausible.”




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Great moments in candour

  1. This guy is our own little Karl Rove.

    • He would (rightly) take that as a compliment.

    • Nah… Rove would have enough sense to keep his mouth shut.

  2. "It just has to be plausible and it strikes me as plausible."

    To be fair, I think those gloves were dropped somewhere around the time of: "Soldiers in our streets. We're not making this up…" (exact wording might have been different)

    If Canadians are stupid enough to swallow innuendo and half-truth smears in place of substantive policy positions and accountability, I guess they deserve this kind of crap.

    • And what did voters actually say to Martin and the Liberals for their innuendo and half-truth smears in place of substantive policy positions and accountability.

      The Conservatives now deserve the same treatment Canadians gave the Liberals then because they are acting the same.

    • "Soldiers in our cities… with guns…. We're not making this up"

      Scary soldiers, scary guns, scary Harper

      Laughable now

  3. It doesn't strike me as particularly unusual for someone to make a charge that isn't true. The old Liberal line of accusing the PCs of being the party of big business back in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s when it was the Liberals who in fact got the lion's share of corporate money was not just not true it was hypocrisy on a grand scale. It worked because the PCs did not have an actual principled position they could point at to counter the claims. And many Canadians didn't believe the PCs really cared about them, and thus the party died and disappeared.

    Something similar is at work here. With an ongoing internecine war within the party, the Liberals don't currently have a clear principled position to point at to counter the accusation. And many Canadians probably worry that some in the party, read Bob Rae, really do want to yoke the two parties together.

  4. It doesn't strike me as particularly unusual for someone to make a charge that isn't true. The old Liberal line of accusing the PCs of being the party of big business back in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s when it was the Liberals who in fact got the lion's share of corporate money was not just not true it was hypocrisy on a grand scale. It worked because it the PCs did not have an actual principled position they could point at to counter the claims. And many Canadians didn't believe the PCs really cared about them, and thus the party died and disappeared.

    Something similar is at work here. With an ongoing internecine war within the party, the Liberals don't currently have a clear principled position to point at to counter the accusation. And many Canadians probably worry that some in the party, read Bob Rae, really do want to yoke the two parties together.

  5. Unfortunately, even the Globe article does not give enough context to understand what Flanagan means by They can tie the two together.

    What are the two?

    My best guess is the Liberal willingness to form a coalition, and Ignatieff's desire for an [unwarranted-by-Conservative-standards] election, thereby providing evidence of a power-mongering mindset. If that is what Flanagan means by the 'two', he is probably right that the electorate would feel that is plausible. It seems like more of a spin than a strategy.

    • The "two" are the two messages the Conservatives keep shrieking: 1) Iggy is just visiting, and 2) the (dum-dum-dum!) scary coalition!!!1! (best said aloud in a deep, spooky voice while wiggling fingers.)

      These can be tied together by saying "look! He just came to Canada to rule us! And if he loses this election, he'll form a coalition with the NDP, Bloc, and Satan! So help us save Canada by voting Conservative."

    • Ed, Read today's Globe editorial. It does a great job of rebuking Ignatieff for his sense of entitlement (Don't blame me – I'm just the messenger).

  6. Unfortunately, even the Globe article does not give enough context to understand what Flanagan means by They can tie the two together.

    What are the two?

    My best guess is the Liberal willingness to form a coalition, and Ignatieff's desire for an [unwarranted-by-Conservative-standards] election, thereby providing evidence of a Liberal power-mongering mindset. If that is what Flanagan means by the 'two', he is probably right that the electorate would feel that is plausible. It seems like more of a spin than a strategy.

  7. It doesn't strike me as particularly unusual for someone to make a charge that isn't true. The old Liberal line of accusing the PCs of being the party of big business back in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s when it was the Liberals who in fact got the lion's share of corporate money was not just not true it was hypocrisy on a grand scale. It worked because the PCs did not have an actual principled position they could point at to counter the claims. And many Canadians didn't believe the PCs really cared about them, and thus the party died and disappeared.

    Something similar is at work here. With an ongoing internecine war within the party, the Liberals don't currently have a clear principled position to point at to counter the accusation. And many Canadians probably worry that some in the party, read Bob Rae, really do want to yoke the Liberals and NDP together.

  8. Flannagan: "It doesn't have to be true."

    sums up Harper's entire approach to gaining and keeping power

  9. Flannagan: "It doesn't have to be true."

    sums up Harper's entire approach to gaining and keeping power

    and congratulations Sean:
    "Canadians are stupid enough to swallow innuendo and half-truth smears in place of substantive policy"

    that sums up the last 4 years of Canadian politics

    • It is hard to quarrel with Michael Ignatieff's analysis. Indeed, it's unassailable. Had the opposition parties succeeded last fall in their plan to oust the Conservatives and form a coalition government in their place, the Liberal leader argues, it would have caused irreparable harm to Canadian unity. The coalition, he told a gathering in Montreal last weekend, would have “profoundly and durably divided the country.”

      “There was also a question concerning the legitimacy of the coalition that troubled me,” he confided. While perfectly legal, it would nonetheless have struck many Canadians, coming so soon after an election in which the Liberals had suffered their worst defeat since Confederation, as if they and their coalition partners had “in some sense or another stolen power.”

      Moreover, it would have been very difficult to assure the country of the certainty and stability it needed in a time of crisis “with three partners in a formal coalition,” he said, likening it, CP reports, to a rickety three-legged stool. “That was my first doubt. I couldn't guarantee the long-term stability of the coalition.”
      <a href="http://thealbertaardvark.blogspot.com/2009/09/bob…” target=”_blank”>http://thealbertaardvark.blogspot.com/2009/09/bob

      The problem voters have is the opposition denied the "Plan" existed or would be executed. Six weeks later and the opposition Plan became public and was executed. Most voters don't belong to ANY party. Voters from all stripes witnessed 3 leaders of the opposition effectively perform a bloodless coup with the rules of parliament. Did Canadians get it wrong on October 14, 2008?

      57% of the ridings went to the CPC excluding Quebec that sent a regional party interested in leaving Canada.

      24/75 seats went to ALL Federal Parties. Should one province dictate how the Federal Government works?

  10. Would a coalition constitute "Making Parliament Work(tm)"?

    Last time parliament was on the intertubes, it did not look like it was working… rather like a donkey being continuously beaten behind the shed where it met it's maker many years ago.

    I still think the coalition was the closest this country has come to actual representative democracy in many decades (since becoming a democracy anyways). How anyone can in good faith rail against the Senate when we have a House of Representatives elected in an extremely non-representative way is loopy (being generous). With over 60 per-cent of the population not voting for the party that forms the government, perhaps one representative branch of government would be nice before trying to replace another.

    The muddling through of these successive minority governments only highlights the need for a system based on proportional representation; much to the chagrin of the two big parties, who have the most to lose from such a change.

    • It is actually worse than you describe.

      A vote in rural Canada is worth two or three in urban Canada given the riding distribution.
      If we had proper riding boundaries that approximated one-person-one-vote then even with the low turnouts persisting the right-wing would be quickly relegated to the rural-rump (oh plus the Bloc-Albertans) that it is.

      • not 2 or 3.
        not even 1.5
        but that would be relying on facts

          • So my "rural" district of Timmins-James Bay has 84,001 people.

            Toronto Centre has 114,581.

            Can you explain to me how my vote is worth twice as much.
            Not even 1.5, just as I said

            The inter-provincial numbers obviously have you confused.

            Like I said… facts

      • If as NPV suggests that a vote in rural Canada is worth 2 or 3 times what an urban vote is worth, that may be about right since rural folks usually have about 2 to 3 times more common sense then urbanites.

        • Umm… "I know you are but what am I"? Can't really go much of anywhere else with that, I'm afraid.

          Oh wait, I have one! "I think you might be confusing common sense with guns again!"

      • Do you mean that some rural ridings have populations that are 2 to 3 (or more) times greater than some urban ridings? If so, quite a few small rural ridings or not so many?

        Or the average rural riding has a population that is 2 to 3 times greater than the average urban riding?
        Or something else?

        • On the contrary:
          * worst example is PEI w 4 seats and less than 35k voter per seat.
          * Windsor West 117k voters

          Hence the voter who farms spuds out in PEI has over 3 times the voting power over the auto-worker (who is now likely unemployed) in Windsor

          There should be less seats in rural Canada and more in urban Canada. And even if the overall effect is 1.5 to 1 as AJR79 said – why is that fair????

          • A couple of points:
            - agree that the starting point should be every vote is equal (ie every riding has the same # of voters)
            - I would leave a small allowance for exceptional exceptions such as:
            o theoretically PEI should get one seat, but I could accept two: one for Charlottetown and one for the RoPEI
            o large, large geographic areas (ie NWT, Nunavut?) might qualify for extra ridings
            - other than that, the goal is equal population in each riding

            One related topic that I am less certain of is blended ridings; I used to believe that urban ridings should be urban and rural ridings should be rural, but some days I wonder if there aren't some benefits to having MPs have a mix of constituents in their ridings. I dislike blended ridings because when they get created it often seems that they 'inadvertently' favour the party in power.

            I questioned your ratios because they do overstate the true state of affairs. It is my personal belief that exaggerated claims rarely help achieve the desired outcome because they makes it too easy for opponents to dismiss everything that you bring to the table. And I'm not saying that avoiding exaggerations will guarantee success, just that it will help in the long run.

            Btw, when I scanned the pdf, the smallest riding I found was Labrador at 27K, the largest was West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast at 124K (a blended riding I believe) and the second largest was Peace River in NW Alberta at 123K. Interestingly, that riding would be predominantly rural.

    • While proportional representation has many merits, it will not automatically hurt the two biggest parties. Indeed, it may benefit the Conservatives most of all, as they'd gain representation from the cities in which, under first-past the-post, they've been totally shut out. And the Liberals may see small gains in rural/western regions for the same reason.

      That said, there are at least two less wonky reforms that should be considered along with PR.

      First would be a more radical redrawing of the rural ridings in this country. Rural Canada is still over-represented on a per capita basis. (Consider that the current gov't has no MPs from the 3 largest cities in the country). Yet many of these ridings are huge and underserved by a single MP. One might also consider setting up a system that provided representation for the reserves who, while governed by Ottawa, have no real representation in the House … Oh boy, that would go over well.

      Second, make MANY more, somewhat smaller ridings. This could help cities and urbanizing areas get better representation, give other parties a shot at city wins, and also reduce the territory a single MP has to cover in rural Canada. The only objection to this approach I've seen came from Diamond Jim during the "small man of Canada" flap: we'd have to reno to make more seats in the House!!!

      To have better representation, we don't have to switch to PR from the clear majority winners that first-past-the-post provides. We could have more, smaller ridings and a reno budget for the House itself.

      • I would say it would hurt the big two pretty hard. I don't recall the last time a majority government was formed with over 50 per-cent of the vote (maybe Mulroney's landslide?) but it is extremely rare and I don't see a situation in the near future where any party will get over 40 per-cent, let alone 50.

        The Greens have a pretty solid 500,000 voter base with no seats. That large of a group not having representation seems wrong to me (would it seem fair if Saskatchewan voted but had no MPs?).

        Last election, the Conservatives received almost 38 per-cent of the vote. If the Liberals received that amount, they would historically have formed a majority government.

        22 per-cent of eligible voters elected our current government.

        These, and many others, are systemic problems that aren't going away and cannot be addressed through fairer electoral ridings alone.

        • "I don't recall the last time a majority government was formed with over 50 per-cent of the vote (maybe Mulroney's landslide?) but it is extremely rare and I don't see a situation in the near future where any party will get over 40 per-cent, let alone 50."

          Yep. Mulroney's '84 government was the last, and they only just managed to squeak into the 50%+ Club at 50.03% of the popular vote.

          The other governments to manage >50% of the popular vote are: the Diefenbaker PCs in 1958 (53.66%), the King Liberals in 1940 (51.32%), the Borden Unionists in 1917 (56.93% — though that election is a very special case), and the Laurier Liberals in 1900 (50.25%). Historically somewhere in the mid-40s seems far more common for majorities in this country, though it occasionally dips down into the high 30s depending on the regional distribution of the vote.

        • "I don't recall the last time a majority government was formed with over 50 per-cent of the vote (maybe Mulroney's landslide?) but it is extremely rare and I don't see a situation in the near future where any party will get over 40 per-cent, let alone 50."

          Yep. Mulroney's '84 government was the last, and they only just managed to squeak into the 50%+ Club at 50.03% of the popular vote.

          The other governments to manage &gt;50% of the popular vote are: the Diefenbaker PCs in 1958 (53.66%), the King Liberals in 1940 (51.32%), the Borden Unionists in 1917 (56.93% — though that election is a very special case), and the Laurier Liberals in 1900 (50.25%). Historically somewhere in the mid-40s seems far more common for majorities in this country, though it occasionally dips down into the high 30s depending on the regional distribution of the vote.

          (Numbers courtesy of Wikipedia, so fingers crossed that they're actually accurate.)

        • "I don't recall the last time a majority government was formed with over 50 per-cent of the vote (maybe Mulroney's landslide?) but it is extremely rare and I don't see a situation in the near future where any party will get over 40 per-cent, let alone 50."

          Yep. Mulroney's '84 government was the last, and they only just managed to squeak into the 50% Club at 50.03% of the popular vote.

          The other governments to manage >50% of the popular vote are: the Diefenbaker PCs in 1958 (53.66%), the King Liberals in 1940 (51.32%), the Borden Unionists in 1917 (56.93% — though that election is a very special case), and the Laurier Liberals in 1900 (50.25%). Historically somewhere in the mid-40s seems far more common for majorities in this country, though it occasionally dips down into the high 30s depending on the regional distribution of the vote.

          (Numbers courtesy of Wikipedia, so fingers crossed that they're actually accurate.)

      • Actually, instant-runoff elections
        (where you pick your 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc choice on the ballot and they drop the lowest candidate until one hits the 50% mark)
        would see some Greens elected, more NDP & Libs and fewer Cons and Bloc, if voting were held today.
        On the other hand it would likely see a re-emergence of the Reform-type parties too, over time.

        • It might not actually be such a bad thing to have the Reform party 'come out of the closet' so to speak – then the red Tories (is that the right colour?) could get their old party back.

          That could have an added benefit: David Orchard wouldn't have anything to complain about. (I jest about David.)

  11. No prediction concerning a hypothetical future can be true in the present. At best it's plausible. There's nothing dishonest about making the prediction anyway.

    • "There's nothing dishonest about making the prediction anyway."

      Iggy in a coalition with Jack Layton? You are joking, right?

      • His signature on that pesky document is no joke

  12. He says nothing different than is written in Kinsella's book…

    And Kinsella's book is just a codification of what was already known by political strategists.

    I do not endorse or condemn, it just is.

    • Lets put Kinsella together with Finley in a padded cell – then the rest of us can start to rebuild Canadian democracy!

  13. Flanagan is right on the mark with this. Politics is entirely about plausibility. There are only three plausible outcomes to the upcoming election: status quo, Tory majority, and the Liberals propped up by the NDP (with or without Bloc, depending on how poorly they do). The third outcome is the least likely of the three. And, as Iggy says, this is not about polls, it is about principles. We shall see what we shall see.

    • Hey LoyalSubject, just so you know, don't worry too much about the minus 50 you have there. It will improve. It's because you made an anti-Iggy post in another thread and a bunch of Iggy supporters gang-banged you for it. The Intense Debate system has got a flaw in it that over weights ratings at the beginning. I know because it happened to me too right down to the anti-Iggy post. Keep going and it will fix itself.

      • Your scars have healed? Glad to see it.

  14. I guess when the Liberals repeatedly made the "hidden agenda", or "they will destroy medicare", or "they're against immigrants", "they take away our rights", etc, accusations, they were all about telling the truth.

    • I suppose what the Liberals did not have was a Reid or a Feschuk musing that it mattered not that the wild untruths you quote didn't have to be true to be effective.

      • Flanagan removes the benefit of the doubt that anything motivates these guys beyond sheer contempt and cynicism.

  15. I think a coalition scenario is all too plausable, even probable if the Libs don't quite get to a minority govt.

    That is why this line of attack is not out of line. It is warrented.

    They made their beds, let them lie in it together now.

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