On Ignatieff's ballot question - Macleans.ca
 

On Ignatieff’s ballot question

Focusing on the “economy of tomorrow” is interesting for a couple reasons


 

On Ignatieff's ballot questionFiguring out each party’s preferred “ballot question”—what they hope voters will be asking themselves in the polling booth—is the traditional limbering-up exercise before a campaign. Remember to hydrate afterwards.

In last fall’s election, the Conservatives were largely successful in framing the question in terms of contrasting caricatures of leaders: Do you want as prime minister an “elitist professor” or a “minivan-driving hockey dad”? Watch for the Tories to attempt a reprise of that one.

As for the Liberals, Michael Ignatieff spelled out his ballot question with precision today at a news conference in Sudbury, Ont., where his caucus is meeting. “The ballot question,” he said, “is, ‘Who is best placed to lead Canada into the economy of tomorrow?’”

It’s an interesting question for two reasons.

Firstly, Ignatieff casts ahead to the future, instead of focusing on managing the country through what’s left of this year’s recession. In other words, he is not counting on Canadians punishing the government for the scare of 2008 and the slump of 2009. He will try to inspire voters to think beyond their immediate circumstances. That’s always tough to do. Stéphane Dion’s Green Shift pleaded for voters to take the long view, too.

Secondly, he’s making it all about the economy. Traditionally, that’s a strong suit for Conservatives. Now, you might think presiding over a plunge back into massive deficits would wipe out that residual brand advantage. I’m not so sure. Last fall and into the first few months of this year, economic predictions were exceedingly dire. Maybe the Tories will benefit from the widespread feeling that it hasn’t been as bad as expected.

Finally, there’s something familiar about the specific economic ideas Ignatieff is now emphasizing. He talks about the need for Canada to take the lead in promoting the expansion of the G8 into the G20, and about pursuing Canadian trade opportunities in the Chinese and Indian economies. Paul Martin, when he was finance minister, more or less came up with the idea of the G20; and adapting to the rise of the Asian economies was one of Martin’s signature preoccupations during his brief stint as prime minister.

Does this make Ignatieff’s ideas look weak and derivative? Or is he smart to link himself to a Liberal whose economic credentials were strong?


 

On Ignatieff’s ballot question

  1. Promoting the expansion of the G8 into the G20 and increasing trade with Asian communities is good for a column in the newspaper but to bring inspiration to Canadians during an election?

    Oh my! Will this really be a part of the "wait and see" platform?

  2. How is…

    "“Stephen Harper hasn't just failed to stand up for Canada—he's also failed to stand up for Canadians. Suaad Mohamud. Omar Khadr. Makhtal. Bahari. Mohamed. Abdelrazik. Being a Canadian must mean the Canadian government will stand up for you—no matter where, no matter when. This is at the heart of what every Liberal believes: a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. A Liberal government would stand by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We would stand by our citizens. And we would bring forward legislation to protect Canadians abroad—to make it illegal for the government to pick and choose which citizens it protects—to make sure these abuses never happen again.”
    … making it "all about the economy"?

    • Can you tell which name doesn't belong in that list?

    • Stand up for Omar Khadar when his budies are killing Canadian Soldiers that are trying to protect school girls?
      I don't think that the majority of Canadians are approving this idea. Don't give me the story that he was a child. Taliban fighters younger than 15 beheading infidels and others that have the misfortune to fall in their hand.

  3. Remarkably the Conservative brand is associated with strong fiscal management… even though one would very hardpressed to find a living Conservative PM that met that bar. (personally I think Stanfield would have but we never gave him the chance and now it is too late) The Liberals are seen as the party of vision. They have had some modest success (reversed brain drain) but really since Trudeau they have not been very visionary. The NDP are the party of dreams, remarkable since they have brought out the same-old-same-old stuff for years now. So Ignatieff's push to the new economy is not a bad one… it highlights Harper missing being a leader in Green technologies, his anti-Science reputation (largely undeserved, but sticking) and so on. It also hits upon key points that the NDP will have a hard time arguing with. Finally it will draw Harper in because of his own core beliefs.

    So the next election will be about Stephen Harper stating Canada has to be careful, prudent, selective and Ignatieff claiming Canada has to be a bold, innovative leader in the world. Both arguments suit their respective proponents. Ironically, Harper will have to point backwards to the recession to remind Canadian how frail, unstable etc our future is, while Ignatieff will have to overlook current difficulties and point to all of the indications that say this century (or maybe the next) will finally be Canada's century.

    While some of you policy wonks want to see proposed legislation and ironclad promises, personally I will be very happy if the next election is about these two different futures for Canada.

    • I think the real question (comparing economic growth while Tories were in office to that when Liberals were in office is stupid – the economy is cyclical and largely tied to the US economy. Economic policies matter, but they matter in the long term, not the short term) on the economy is which of the two parties is closer to the economic program that has worked well for Canada (namely, the Chretien-Martin approach). Ironically, while I don't see a platform yet from Ignatieff, I think it is Harper that better embodies the pragmatic centre-right approach of the 90's.

      The stimulus is a case in point. It seems pretty clear that the stimulus was, if anything, too big. There is only one party that probably wanted it smaller, and one party that ensured the stimulus contained accelerated infrastructure spending instead of program spending that could never be cut.

      When it comes to the economic accomplishments of the Liberals in the 90's, moreover, they happened because the Liberals did what the right was calling for. They made necessary cuts (which they had not campaigned on), and acceded to the necessity of the Conservative GST (which they had campaigned against). In addition they benefited heavily from surging exports – facilitated in part by the US-Canada free trade agreement, and NAFTA (which they had been against).

      My point is that in the last 25 years, it is Conservative ideas – free trade, prudent spending, low income taxes, etc. that have consistently brought good results to Canadians (there are a few exceptions, of course – we are better off today because we didn't deregulate the banks). Voters are more likely to trust the Conservative party to implement those policies, but, there is nothing stopping electorally motivated Liberals from doing so as well. In that sense you may be right that the Conservative brand on the economy is overstated.

      • I have made this point before (and given my nature will again). The Liberals have a tremendous advantage in making "conservative" fiscal policies work. The Mulroney conservatives and their predecessors did the country a great service by pointing out the spiralling costs of servicing a growing debt. (particularly in an era of fluctuating interest rates). However, they really did nothing to address that issue and there is no real evidence they ever would have. Chretien and Martin were able to make hard decisions to beat that problem, largely due to the PR efforts of the Conservatives.

        Modern Conservatives (Harris, Harper and their ilk) have abandoned fiscal prudence. Indeed the new mantra is smaller government at any cost. Ironically the preferred approach to achieve this is to put the government into debt as quickly as possible to prevent any pressure for new programs. While the global downturn is the big player, Harper had already put Canada on a path to a deficit long before it came into play. The predictable, ongoing surpluses of Martin represented fiscal prudence that most people use in their real lives. If you really do live hand-to-mouth wrt income versus fixed spending requirements… you go hungry a lot.

        I actually don't think that the Conservatives (in either Ontario, or Ottawa) are particularly evil. The reality is that they top out at well under 50% of the popular vote, and face a relatively united opposition when they push program cuts. However, even in Alberta, spending under Conservative governments has grown remarkably. You have a hard-time claiming prudent spending when the home of Canadian Conservatism took one-time income (income from tar sands development projects) and plowed it into ongoing spending commitments.

  4. What I like best about "ballot" questions is that they don't mean anything.
    Or they could mean everything.

  5. They are typical "borrow and spend" Conservatives.

  6. "Does this make Ignatieff's ideas look weak and derivative? Or is he smart to link himself to a Liberal whose economic credentials were strong?"

    Neither. Iggy/Libs will look out of touch if they bring down government now and say Cons are not doing enough around trade with BRIC. I am skeptical that people are going to be all that pleased about having an election because Iggy doesn't think Cons are doing enough about expanding G8.

    I am interested to see if having an election so soon after the last one will hurt Libs. I know people grumble about having too many elections, and then forget their objections and vote anyway, but occasionally there is backlash if pols are seen as being too opportunistic.

    And Geddes, don't you read Macleans? Just last week I read story about how we drink too much water so it might not be necessary to hydrate afterwards.

    • Oh there may be a come-uppance due but i dare say Harper may not escape it. His game-playing, reckless ambivalence to some pretty core Canadian issues — including issues that he will trumpet as strengths — if slickly framed, will make Joylon less than jolly. But I suppose when you idolize a narcissist like Harper, even a broken mirror or a fecal-filled water pond will reflect nicely.

    • I'm not so sure voter fatigue, which usually favours the incumbent, will be on Harper's side this time around. Remember, he called the last election, without any justification. If Ignatieff remembers this and reminds Canadians that Liberals haven't forced/called an election for four years, it may well be that Conservative supporters simply become too tired of propping up an inconclusive (and not overly conservative) Harper government.

  7. To Mr. Ignatieff. For about 40 years, the Liberal brand has been more of opportunism rather than that of principle. In 2009 we need a fresh elaboration of what Liberal means in terms of thought and principles. We also need to understand how your vision links to those principles. Perhaps then we can get to slogans.
    If you are so strong on the economy, why did you support the bailout of the old american companies while letting Canadian NORTEL disintegrate and the remnants left twisting on a string with perhaps just a whimper rom the Liberals. And it was the Conservatives which provoked the sudden bankruptcy of NORTEL. Very strange, or cynical.
    If you are so strong on human rights and citizenship, why is that bedrock issue (DFAIT and stranded citizens of colour and the little matter of the child soldier) left out of the glare?
    If you are really for Canada (as distinct from The Party), why did you dismiss the possibility of a coalition? The reality is that the Conservatives united the right (not perfectly, but it is there) while the left continues to split the 65% vote against the neo-conservative affects of Harper et al on our beloved Canada.

  8. The recession's far from over, Geddes.

  9. Eh, let's keep it to "forced" an election – I suppose after that vote of non-confidence, Martin did call one back in 2006.

  10. as someone who believes Canada would be best served with a CPC majority I will be answering any polls from now until the election is called with unmitigated support for Ignatieff and all things Liberal.

    The apparent lack of vision and politcal accumen leaves the only thing that can save the Liberals is forcing a leadership review (instead of an election) if they find out how poorly they are polling.

  11. In my view Ignatieff wants an early election so he can lose and return to academia.

  12. I think the election question the CPC wants is: Do we want a Harper majority or do we want another election in 8 or 10 months? At least two Liberal seats were won by less than 100 votes, I'd say those MPs must be pretty worried when they hear their leader trying to campaign on tired 1960s era rhetoric. That promise of 4 years with no election is looking pretty good right about now.

  13. EPress release Ottawa;

    Liberal fundraising quadruples overnight;

    and in related news sales of small brown paper bags soars in central Canada.

    WKPress release Ottawa;

    Liberal fundraising quadruples overnight;

    and in related news sales of small brown paper bags soars in central Canada.

    WKnter text right here!

  14. A fourth election in five years?
    I would think that the turnout will be low and that will certainlt affect the outcome.
    Still, campaigns often draw their momentum from unforseen energies. If Harper is smart (he is, but he is also vindictive) he will shelve the negative campaigning and run on a platform of economic stability. Negative ads will simply turn the mood against him. Ignatieff is expecting a full negative barrage and will counter with a "philosophical" argument about the nature of "doing better", in the hope of capitalizing on a backlash against the negativity.
    By running a straight campaign, Harper would outflank Ignatieff and take away any emotional surge the Liberals might hope to ride like a wave.
    The problem: Harper is just plain mean spirited. He likes to kick sand in faces and take lunch money. It causes him no end of trouble, but he can't seem to help himself. He is being branded as a "bully" as surely as he branded Dion a wimp. Can you teach an old dog new tricks?
    Ignatieff has a tough road to travel. A politician with a good battle plan, funds and charisma could pull this off. Does he really possess any of these? Ignatieff is no Dion; he is going to score verbal points. But can he charm a nation?

    Canadians want to end this cycle of elections, but they are also ready to punish the politics of negative, personal attacks.Can a youth vote be drawn out from their apathetic slumber? Will sweater vests be the new trend for Fall? Will eyebrow trimming become all the rage? Will Jack rise from the dead? Will Gilles set his sights on Michael and unwittingly help Stephen? Will a verbal misstep or bad photo turn the tide? Anything is possible.

    Stay tuned folks, this is going to be interesting.

  15. I agree with most of what you say up to conclusions. This Conservative government has now a serious deficiency in the good governance column. I have listened to two Ministers speak in the past month, and they point to their stimulus package as their defining achievement in governance. At this point nobody is pushing back, but in a campaign there are plenty of opportunities to show that Harper missed seeing the recession coming, and in particular missed seeing how the US banking troubles would lead to real problems for the Canadian economy (even with strong Canadian banks) Many right-side conservative commentators will/have comment(ed) that the stimulus package was forced upon the Conservatives. The CPC will have to decide how to spin this and either way there will be some embarrassment to endure.

    To some extent the wild card is the NDP and to a lesser extent the Bloc. In the days following the famous economic update, these parties clearly understood that a Harper majority would led to a painful kneecapping of their finances. Harper has (quietly) stated that that agenda is still on the table. Of course, walking away from any coalition has pissed off Layton especially. So will the NDP and Bloc use their traditional approach of targeting the Liberals to maximize their votes, knowing that they risk disaster if they are too successful, or will they focus on the Conservatives hoping for a Liberal minority which they can influence.

  16. Sorry for the spam… but with respect to Trudeau please see

    http://www.cbc.ca/greatest/top_ten/

    or the coverage of his funeral. Outside of Alberta, I believe Trudeau is regarded as an arrogant SOB, but without doubt a great man. The popularity of the Charter etc is now a matter of record outside of libertarian circles and tied directly to Trudeau's legacy. (Personally I find it quite sad that the great Conservative PM in our time seems intent on self-destruction of his legacy)

    • Re: Trudeau

      I am not doubting that he is revered here in general. I think it is good that PET is still respected despite the continual character attacks. I was just pointing out that Conservative partisans really hate the man, but this has been a paralleled sentiment to the increasing emphasis on good governance, which even with all the ideological grandstanding by the Reform/Alliance in the early years, was their ethos. Invoking PET was a way of harboring further resentment and alienation from Ottawa, and well, it worked. Attacking uncertainty or lofty visions works for them because they can point to past Liberal blunders as evidence of that. Given that even to this day, the talking points include a laundry list of past Liberal transgressions, it is clear that the CPC is going to try to avoid philosophical debates on vision for this country. These days, people want concrete ideas, even if they are probably not going to be kept or that they are not part of a larger view of what Canada should be. I think this election will focus on the immediate and concrete, not the long term and the ambitious. This gives the CPC the suprising benefit of being ideologically fluid, since they will be working from the bottom up. People may call them on it, but I am doubtful.

      Thanks for the discussion, by the way. I do enjoy testing out ideas in a thoughtful exchange. At least here at Macleans, it is still possible. I sort of a given up at other places.

  17. The Liberals are making up their strategy as they go. They will continually float ideas out to see how the public reactes. they'll simply drop the duds and promote the ones with legs.

    Their plans are so flexible, they have no plan.

    • You may be right…. but Mr Harper has been known to borrow opposition ideas and claim them as his own. Under those circumstances, a feller might keep his cards close to his vest – afterall – the election has not been declared yet.

  18. A fourth election in five years?
    I would think that the turnout will be low and that will certainly affect the outcome.
    Still, campaigns often draw their momentum from unforseen energies. If Harper is smart (he is, but he is also vindictive) he will shelve the negative campaigning and run on a platform of economic stability. Negative ads will simply turn the mood against him. Ignatieff is expecting a full negative barrage and will counter with a "philosophical" argument about the nature of "doing better", in the hope of capitalizing on a backlash against the negativity.
    By running a straight campaign, Harper would outflank Ignatieff and take away any emotional surge the Liberals might hope to ride like a wave.
    The problem: Harper is just plain mean spirited. He likes to kick sand in faces and take lunch money. It causes him no end of trouble, but he can't seem to help himself. He is being branded as a "bully" as surely as he branded Dion a wimp. Can you teach an old dog new tricks?
    Ignatieff has a tough road to travel. A politician with a good battle plan, funds and charisma could pull this off. Does he really possess any of these? Ignatieff is no Dion; he is going to score verbal points. But can he charm a nation?

    Canadians want to end this cycle of elections, but they are also ready to punish the politics of negative, personal attacks.Can a youth vote be drawn out from their apathetic slumber? Will sweater vests be the new trend for Fall? Will eyebrow trimming become all the rage? Will Jack rise from the dead? Will Gilles set his sights on Michael and unwittingly help Stephen? Will a verbal misstep or bad photo turn the tide? A game changing expose? Anything is possible.

    Stay tuned folks, this is going to be interesting.

  19. Iggy is out of his gourd!!! HOw can the present Government govern– with constant black mail over his head. don't need election– Harper is getting the economy on track– looking after trading— taking care of the antartic etc. When the economy is down hill- it's everyones fault–not just the people who govern– trade goes down– people buying goods goes down– unemployment is up–recession– depression–simply comes from all this.NO matter who governs– they have 2 be in power long enough 2 correct –these things.Can't be going 2 the polls every year–need at least 4 years 2 rule!!! Go ahead- vote Iggey in– you'll be sorry– arrogant–pompous–know it all attitude—he will soon fade in the voters minds– as he speaks beyond the realm!!!!

  20. No way should we have another election – leave this alone until the economy settles some – too many elections in too short a time! The Liberals just want to 'try' their new leader's popularity – Canadians should not be made to vote again…stupid…Jack Layton loves this going on as he "thinks" he gets more popular siding with the Conservatives or Liberals – get a life Jack…you are NEVER going to be Prime Minister! This country has problems as do other nations, let's not be stupid – show some integrity Liberals (for a change) and get along with the government until at least late next year. Then lets see if you can do better!

  21. Iggy Stardust and the stooges from Ontario want to run our country. They claim to speak for all Canadians. They claim that the Conservatives have done everything wrong and that the Liberals are ready to ride to the rescue and save us from ourselves. They claim to have all the answers – and that answer is always "wait and see'.
    They claim to have a vision for Canada's future – grandoise dreams with no clue on how they would get there. But one thing is for sure. We know what they have done in the past – tax and spend, lie and cheat, steal from the poor and give to the rich. And it is easy to see that the people running this party are the same types that have run it in the past and we will be in for the same old dog and pony show. The Conservatives on the other hand have shown that they can govern – at the worst of times under the worst of circumstances. Makes you wonder what they can do with good times and majority rule. Makes me wonder enough to vote for them. I hope others have the vision to look past the Liberals magic tricks and focus on the realities.

  22. Harry Popoff
    I think its ludicrous for Iggy to show his cards before the budget speech. This will give Harper to present a very rosy budget for the next term that it will impossible for the opposition, (the three amigos) to vote against.. The next budget will be everything the Liberals and NDP were asking for. They pulled a bluff which will backfire. They should have listened to the budget speech and then made their move – for or against. Another Harper one ups man ship!!!