Maybe an Inch and a Half


Not long ago, I wrote that the commitment of Canadians to the environment was a continent wide and an inch deep. Herewith, the latest Issues poll from Ipsos Reid:

Asked what subject voters most wanted the party leaders and candidates to address during the campaign, the economy was listed as the No. 1 concern by 24 per cent of respondents, while health care came in second at 17 per cent, and the environment and taxes were each listed as most important by 14 per cent of those surveyed.

This is beyond Bad News for the Liberals and the campaign they’re hanging on the Green Shift. Yes it is just one poll, but I don’t see anything here that Dion could even start to chip away at. It means that the election is basically just a referendum on Harper’s leadership. Dion needs to shut up about carbon taxes immediately, and start hitting Harper hard — so hard, he should consider hiring Coyne as his speechwriter.

They also need to get Ignatieff and Rae into the game. It was probably a deliberate strategy to make Dion carry the first week of the campaign, but the Liberals are forgetting (or ignoring) the simple fact: the Liberal brand has remained strong over the past few years despite the leadership of men like Paul Martin and Stephane Dion, not because of it.

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Maybe an Inch and a Half

  1. Actually the Green Shift is both an environmental plan and an economic plan (although this is not to say it should be the only economic plan). If one looks into this type of plan, as studied by the US Congressional Budget Office, for example, the economic impact of the plan becomes clear. It is meant to position industry and businesses to be competitive in the longer term as oil prices rise and to stimulate green industries. We still have a chance because the major competitors are not so large (countries like Sweden) but there is a small window because the US will jump on this in the next cycle too.

  2. “They also need to get Ignatieff and Rae into the game.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Gotta play to everyone’s respective strengths – Ignatieff (with a LOT of coaching in brevity) should be making punchy critiques of Harper’s record. Rae should be sent out as attack dog, on message, feeding the press. And Dion needs to be relieved of the burden of trying to sell a positive message/plan while simultaneously trying to keep up with the Cons’ smear machine.

    I can’t begin to express my frustration with the Libs’ handling of this campaign. They knew how the Cons would campaign and this is basic, basic stuff.

    I can’t help but wonder if Rae and Ignatieff are holding back to let Dion implode on the trail alone, opening a new path to party leadership for themselves.

  3. I’m glad to see Dion is talking about the economy, too, and putting paid to Harper’s rosy talk about how strong our commodities-fuelled, export-heavy economy is. The issue there is that voters probably prefer to believe the fairy tale.

  4. TJ, the Liberals have been saying, plausibly, that Dion had to lead for the first week because if he went out of the gate surrounded by photogenic crowds of Cabinet-ready Liberal MPs, we’d have written that Dion was hiding. Expect to see the rest of the Grit front bench more prominently from now on.

  5. Of course, this assumes that Ignatieff and Rae actually want to be part of this campaign. What if they are deliberately laying low and laughing up their sleeve as Dion stumbles about?

  6. “I wrote that the commitment of Canadians to the environment was a continent wide and an inch deep.”

    Agree 100% with this statement. Most of the people I know who claim to care about the environment think all they have to do is change their light bulbs or stop heating their home at 24 celsius and reduce it to 22.

    If we are all a little more earnest in our recycling, we will save the world! When it’s explained what really is involved in trying to meet Kyoto targets or somesuch they aren’t so supportive anymore.

    I think Dion is in big trouble and I don’t believe ‘the team’ is going to make much difference, but we’ll soon see I guess. People can’t see Dion as leader at the moment so I am not sure how highlighting others is going to help that. Do Canadians vote for teams or do they vote for leader?

    I also agree the Lib brand is absurdly durable but I don’t think it will be enough to save them this time.

  7. Re. some comments here and else where raising the possibility of Rae and Iggy sabotaging this campaign to boot Dion:

    1. I don’t see how the Liberals being reduced to 70 seats, which seems possible right now, helps a future Liberal leader.
    2. I’m not a Liberal, but I don’t see how even the perception that Rae/Iggy sabotoged the current campaign would endear them to party members.
    3. If I’m wrong about #2, and there actually are Liberals who want to see themselves lose this election just to get rid of Dion, they should be asking themselves when the last time any Liberals actually wanted to lose an election was? Then consider what is wrong with their party.

  8. “He speaks English better than me, but I speak the truth better than him in French and in English,” Dion said.

    Best Line of the Campaign nominee.

  9. Mathew F

    I don’t see reason for Rae/Iggy to sabotage Dion’s campaign either because he seems to be doing a good job all on his own.

    Potential leaders have no motive to want Dion to do badly because the next leader is going to have to put it all together again. The Liberals could be in real trouble if things get too bad and it might be in Rae/Iggy interests for Dion to lose but it’s not to their advantage if he’s pulverized.

  10. I know people who STILL harbor a deep dislike of Bob Rae.

    He could cost the Liberals a few votes in Ontario ridings. In close contests he might be more of a liability than an asset.

  11. I agree JWL it would be political suicide for Iggy, Bobby or even Dalton to make a play during an election it has to be 100% support for the leader in public that is. Otherwise the party would deal with you right after the election. Right now I think the LPC see’s the writing on the wall and any new potential leader has to become super gracious, dignified and partisan as the base will need tender care over the next while during the upcoming poltical re-alignment as make no mistake about that is exactly what is happening here.

  12. Am I the only person who thinks the Liberals don’t actually want to win this election?

    As much as I believe Harper is a Cabbage Patch Kid addicted to prescription anti-depressants (note to CPC lawyers–this is only my personal opinion and I have no actual proof. Please don’t sue me.), I’m hoping for another CPC minority.

    This will give the Liberals time to further refine & develop the policies they are currently stealing from the Greens & Dippers, and to have another leadership convention. Also, the neoconservatism is really starting to hit the fan south of the border, so it’s likely voters will be much more informed of the effects of different government policies.

    I don’t think any combination we could possible achieve in this election would be good for Canada. I don’t think a majority is likely, or that another minority will last as long as this one. There is a possibility the Bloc, NDP & Greens will have enough seats to bring them down after six months, and the Liberals can’t keep playing Twister to lose indefinitely. (As a moderate Western Disenfranchised leaner I’d love to see the Liberal party go down in flames and be replaced by anything that isn’t the CPC, but I don’t really believe in Santa.)

    There’s a reason the Greens & Dippers are polling well. They represent the “anything-but-the-libs-or-cons” vote.

  13. Am I the only person who thinks the Liberals don’t actually want to win this election?

    No Shenping, I had exactly the same thought.

    I think in their heart of hearts most Liberals know that Dion, while generally a decent, thoughtful man who means well, simply doesn’t have the “royal jelly”.

    A Dion Prime-Ministership would nearly certainly be a minority. The GreenShift budget would almost certainly be defeated as soon as its tabled, sending us back to the polls again within 12 months. The Libs can’t afford another campaign; they would be bankrupted; never mind running another election under Dion.

    I think a lot of Liberals are (privately) probably hoping for another CPC minority (or perhaps even a majority). They would be able to ditch Dion, take some time to get their finances back in order, and renew.

  14. Paul – good point, thanks.

    Now I won’t feel compelled to egg Rae’s campaign office when I walk by twice a day.

  15. Yes it is just one poll,

    And it is just a poll, by which you rarely get an examination of what people understand about the things that worry them. Most people may be worried about the economy, but more troubling is the fact that very few people actually understand the economy beyond their own household budgets and their own jobs. And no one but no one understands the financial economy.

    It’s not something to be dismissed, necessarily, but in the reality-based world, opinion and perception has to be taken for what it’s worth.

    I think in their heart of hearts most Liberals know that Dion, while generally a decent, thoughtful man who means well, simply doesn’t have the “royal jelly”.

    Case in point, kind of.

  16. “…commitment of Canadians to the environment was a continent wide and an inch deep”

    So true. The environmental movement in Canada is 99% political correctness, 1% commitment.

    My own father, who never shuts up about Al Gore and global warming, has two SUVs, a sports sedan, a giant house out in the country, takes multiple tropical holidays a year, and is scouting out a vacation home in the Southern US.

    Canadians are all for the environment… until it even minimally impacts their lifestyle or bank account.

  17. “the Liberals have been saying, plausibly, that Dion had to lead for the first week because if he went out of the gate surrounded by photogenic crowds of Cabinet-ready Liberal MPs, we’d have written that Dion was hiding”

    I’m a little confused. I thought one of the Libs’ messages was the strength of their “team” vs. “Harper the control freak and his marionette ministry” or something to that effect.

    Yeah, I remembered correctly: that WAS to be one of their messages: this is from an August 31 article previewing the Libs’ last caucus retreat:

    “Montreal MP Denis Coderre added that Dion, subject to relentless attacks by Conservatives as a weak leader, would be presented during the campaign as the head of a strong team. “Do we want a control freak like Harper as a prime minister or do we want somebody who can surround himself and be a team player?” Coderre asked in an interview.

    “The Liberals will play up their front bench strength, such as MPs Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae and Ken Dryden, showcasing a large team of prominent MPs, both familiar and fresh faces among them, and some of them seasoned for cabinet in previous Liberal governments.”
    –Liberal campaign to portray PM as ‘control freak’

    I guess the leader’s tour never got the messaging memo. Or maybe by “showcasing” they meant putting Rae, Ignatieff, et al. on milk cartons, or lunchboxes or something.

    Or maybe they’re changing their messaging, now that a number of MPs and candidates seem to have already disengaged from the central campaign, viz. the continuing grumbles about the carbon/green tax, and last week’s Toronto Star quoting an unnamed GTA Liberal saying “it’s every man for himself now.”

    Sorry to be kind of a partisan jerk about this, and I acknowledge that this campaign ain’t even half over, but that Liberal spin not plausible given their lines of two weeks ago: it’s a lame coverup of either organizational incompetence or the fact that Liberal candidates don’t want to be seen with Dion. Dion was in Newfoundland last night — where the PC premier is telling people to vote AGAINST Harper — and there was no Dion evening rally. What does that tell you?

    Anyhow, speaking of awesome ministers, I remember then-NDP MPP Bob Rae saying, shortly after Mike Harris took power, that “spending cuts are popular in general, but not in particular” which is a good line and probably true.

    I suspect the same goes for environmental measures. Most people think they are already doing everything they can, and it’s those wasteful hogs on the next block or province, or businesses, that should pay.

  18. I wonder how much that cost the CPC.

  19. Dion can “surround himself“?

    Wow.  How does one do that, exactly?  Turn inside out?  ;-)


  20. I don’t work for the party or the gov’t.

    Tories do this kind of thing as a hobby, ’cause we believe in what we’re doing and our leader’s not an embarrassment.

  21. Hear hear, bring on Ignatieff and Rae. Iggy can be Dion’s Joe Biden; Rae can be Hillary Clinton. Besides, why settle for five parties when you can have seven?

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