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Ontario assumptions, Alberta PM


 

Whenever I write a long piece about politics, I’m always left with stuff I couldn’t fit in. Not just the odd quote, but whole concepts that didn’t quite fit the narrative and the allotted space. Here’s one I meant to include in the latest rumination about Harper.

I keep being struck by how frequently calculations about the prime minister are based on the assumption that he needs to succeed at some sort of short, sharp action if he is to be counted any kind of success at all. Merely sticking around is seen as half a victory, if it is any victory at all, and until recently the possibility that that’s Harper’s goal — longevity and incremental change — has usually simply been dismissed. This is true among Harper’s opponents, and less frequently among his supporters. Andrew Coyne’s lament, that Harper is no conservative because he has not moved quickly to roll back the federal state, is echoed privately by lots of Conservative staffers. They’re looking for a Common Sense Revolution, Mike Harris-style, and chafing at Harper’s refusal to produce one.

On the other side you have the persistent Liberal assumption that Harper “needs his majority” so he can implement the “hidden agenda.” This was behind the utter certainty in Ottawa circles in the spring of 2007 that Harper was going to call an election or engineer his own defeat at the polls. Harper’s senior staff were telling reporters that wasn’t the game plan and they were being ignored because the idea of a quick sprint to the polls to secure a majority was hardwired into official Ottawa’s assumptions. Senior former staffers to Paul Martin and Anne McLellan made money bets with me that Harper would force an election. Why? Because Paul Martin would have.

So I’ve written, a bit repetitively, that Harper sees longevity as a goal and will not at any point — now or after the next election — bring in the kind of big, game-shifting “reform” package that would delight movement conservatives or galvanize a liberal opposition. Brian Mulroney reached the end of his career believing, strongly, that abysmal poll numbers were the best proof of his virtue. Harper saw the fallout from that kind of thinking for 13 years after Mulroney retired. He doesn’t want to make the same mistake.

The more I think about it, the more I realize there is a name for a place where conservatism is synonymous with short, sharp change implemented by an ephemeral majority over the dead (but soon to rise again!) bodies of the opposition. That place is called Ontario, or more precisely, Mike Harris’s Ontario. And similarly, there is a name for a place where long-term survival and incremental change — at least compared to what Harris and, on some files, Mulroney implemented — is the name of the game. That place is called Alberta.

Guess which province Stephen Harper is from.

You’re right, it’s a trick question. He was raised in Ontario but he moved to Alberta as a young adult, and he converted to Alberta-ism with the zeal of the late arriver. And his instincts are Alberta instincts.

Compare Harris’s economic management with Klein’s: Harris front-loaded his tax cuts, bought years of extra-deep deficits because of it, and wasn’t entirely sure what to do once he’d implemented his revolution. There is a lot of romanticism in conservative circles about what Harris accomplished, and very little willingness to acknowledge that it was unpopular and therefore ephemeral. Why, if Harris’s own senior minister Jim Flaherty is to be believed, Ontario is already the worst place in Canada to do business. It’s not a particularly clement place to be a Conservative, for that matter.

In Alberta, meanwhile, Ralph Klein constrained spending sharply (blowing up the hospital where he was born, for instance) but refused to cut taxes until after the budget was balanced, and even then emphasized debt reimbursement more than tax cuts. His agenda took years to implement. He made a lot of enemies, of course, but never so many that he or his successor had to suffer unduly at the polls. There’ve been plenty of times when Klein didn’t even look much like a conservative, but because he’s Alberta’s 142nd Conservative premier in a row (I quote from memory), and an essentially conservative mindset is sunk deep into the Alberta culture. The point is not to win every fight; it’s to be around for every fight.

This is a subtle point, and there’s plenty of ways to rebut it (Preston Manning is an Albertan and he wanted to do the short, sharp shock if he ever got elected prime minister). But I’m finding that when Harper is misconstrued, it’s usually by somebody operating on assumptions that were common among Mulroney Conservatives when they became unmoored from the Alberta element of their base; among Mike Harris Common Sense Conservatives; and among Martin Liberals, who in terms of their assumptions about how politics works, are still the dominant strain in today’s Liberal Party.


 

Ontario assumptions, Alberta PM

  1. “and among Martin Liberals, who in terms of their assumptions about how politics works, are still the dominant strain in today’s Liberal Party.”

    This is the most subtly damning description of the Liberal Party I’ve read in a while. If true (and why not?), it explains a heck of a lot.

  2. Not only does it explain a heck of a lot, but if the Alberta experience of government can be repeated nationally (a big if, I know), then it might just bode for a very long reign of the CPC with Harper at the helm.

  3. More please, your on a roll today.

  4. I dunno, I think it is pretty damn easy to look good when the opposition is non-existent and you are the single lonely voice of your government.

    I think the cons have missed the sweet spot given that the opposition is already re-building. Who knows, they might actually stand up one day and “oppose” something.

  5. Interesting observation, Paul. Makes sense to me but I hope you are wrong. It is all well and good to think of the long game as a Conservative in Alberta because they don’t elect anyone else. Conservatives forming the government federally happens once in a blue moon and there are a lot of things we, conservative base, want done while we have this interregnum between Liberal reigns.

  6. So Paul, if I understand correctly, Harper’s plan is to stay in a circling pattern until when, some major world event like 9/11 takes place? A global pandemic? A financial crash?

    It sounds disturbingly similar to the Chicago boys doctrine.

  7. Very and I mean very well said and described in a way I wish I could have done. Yes indeed I have been wondering about how often I read from left wing nut posters about majority this and that as if somehow a majority is the only answer and success can only be defined by such – this is just plain wrong a successful PM is one who gets their legislative agenda through and at the end of two terms is hated by everyone for about two years and then becomes a national Icon. I especially like the way you described the different schools of approach for us Conservatives as you are dead bang on exactly on point – well done and well said! PS: A lot of people seem to truly underestimating Harper much like the Liberals have done for two years now and look what happen when you do that!

  8. “I dunno, I think it is pretty damn easy to look good when the opposition is non-existent and you are the single lonely voice of your government.”

    Interestingly, Klein always got the same reaction. “Yeah, he’s been in power long enough that his first formal meeting was with Bismarck, but look at the clowns in opposition”.

    I theorise that part of an incremental change program is simply not giving the opposition a lot to go on. When the Liberals stand up in Question Period and bellow about some electoral non-issue, it’s not because they’re ridiculously inept but because Harper isn’t making enough big changes that they can grasp onto. Which is why we still see the “wait for a majority!” scaretalk: they can’t show enough evil goings-on out of the minority.

  9. You mean like raising government spending to the highest level ever? No.. no.. that can’t be it. Uhmm.. I know! Paying pork farmers to stop working! No? Hm. Is it.. let’s see.. making it a $20,000 criminal offense to copy a CD you bought to your personal MP3 player if that CD has copy protection on it? OH! OH! I’ve got it.. working to ensure that Ontario’s economy tanks by calling it the worst place to invest in Canada! Am I wrong again?

    Well goodness. I guess I’m stumped. Just what do you, the conservative base, want?

  10. “working to ensure that Ontario’s economy tanks by calling it the worst place to invest in Canada”

    yes, and when someone says “you are dying from cancer” it’s not really the cancer, it’s that somebody told you. brilliant.

  11. As one of the ” Conservative ” base as you put it T. I want (speaking only for this conservative) exactly what I voted for and so far I am very happy. (1) Almost all 5 election promises = Done (minus income trust which never should have been promised)(2) Better fiscal management = Done (3) Reduced taxes = Done (3) Stronger Military = Done (4) Better approach than pandering to criminals = Done (5) Better relations with USA = Done (6) Better National Unity = Done …. I want for the future – slowly but surely purge through attrition left wing nut philosophy from wherever you can in other words incremental change = In Process broad based tax reduction personal and corporate = This has only just started Income Tax is next if I have anything to say about it and the one real good thing I like about being Conservative way better Than Liberal is that us members out in the boonies are actually listened to rather than the liberal Party’s approach which is basically being told what to do I used to get so tired of the way the LPC treated us here in Victoria when I was a member.

  12. Wayne – you’re right, you’re right. The Harper Tories have accomplished a lot in terms of their promises. (Though they broke a couple of doozies).

    But my point is that despite all their hard effort —– they are sitting exactly tied with the hapless Dion / Liberal in the polls.

    Why? Why? Why?

  13. I’m sticking with the hidden agenda scenario. The significance of the Guy Giorno recruitment has been underestimated in Ottawa. Flaherty hangs in as Finance Minister. There have been a lot of half way measures on right issues that are just waiting for a wrap up under majority government.

  14. TC – No, Jim Flaherty telling the world that Ontario is the worst place to invest in Canada is more like someone telling you “you’re dying, you’re ugly — and I could have saved you in 1997-2001, but I didn’t know what I was doing back then.”

  15. You keep forgetting the third part of the triangle that is Stephen Harper – his roots in the oldest settled part of this country, the east. He is a worthy descendant of his Harper/Dixon/Thompson/Coates/Dobson/Chapman ancestors who came from Yorkshire in the 1770s – quiet but steady, always watchful of the ‘brass’ and endowed with a great deal of stubbornness because they know the ends they wish to achieve.
    Had it not been for some of these Yorkins in Nova Scotia, the east coast might be American today. They held the balance of power during the only battle of the American Revolution fought on Nova Scotian soil (even if Harper is like many of our family with relatives on both sides of the fence during the rebellion).

    There is an old saying about Yorkshire folk – “Bloody Blunt and Damned Honest” and another – “You can allus tell a Yorkshireman, you can’t tell him anything”. He most certainly walks the talk in both of those instances.

  16. Raises the interesting question of how Manning would have governed with a minority government, say, if he had won the CA leadership and Chretien had called an election in 2001 to fend off Martin (no Quebec seats in that scenario, but maybe GTA votes who were still voting Harris?).

    Also, would ~6 years during the Getty era do enough to have the notion of Alberta provincial conservative longevity seep into Harper’s bones?

  17. I do agree that longevity is the goal for Mr. Harper. However, I completely disagree that incremental change is the dominant name of the game – perhaps mostly only for things Mr. Harper could not immediately change regardless if he had 300 seats, or, with all due respect, things he does not completely understand or thought about (let’s remember he is human).

    Let’s not discount the rapid acts Mr. Harper has done in the past to gain a perceived advantage. Can anyone argue with a straight face that Mr. Harper, or any Conservative thought about the “Quebec as a nation” for more than perhaps a week or two before throwing it out there?

    But for the things which Mr. Harper knows and holds dear, there will be a swift, sharp change with a majority. F’instance, the Canadian Wheat Board:

    “We’ll continue to fight in Parliament. We’ll continue to fight in the legislature. But the bottom line is this, mark my words, Western Canadian farmers want this freedom and they are going to get it. And anybody who stands in their way is going to get walked over.”
    Prime Minister Stephen Harper
    Saskatoon – June 20, 2008

    Compile a list now, and marvel at how predictable his swift sharp changes were.

  18. I don’t know that it’s useful to extrapolate
    from the “distinct society” that is Alberta
    to the political culture of the nation as a
    whole.
    Out here on the Least Coast,which is very
    conservative politically,even Tories run as
    though government matters. They may mouth all
    the usual market mantra but they know that the
    invisible hand often carries a very stiff middle
    finger.
    In a very real way,Harper has already accomplished a lot by shrinking our budget
    capacity to the point where options are limited.

  19. You’d best look again at those campaign promises, Wayne.

    A new federal accountability act? Well.. okay. But I thought the point of such a thing was to make the government more accountable, not less. See http://www.dwatch.ca/camp/SummaryOfLoopholes.html for details.

    The GST — the reduction in tax that every economist said was the was worst possible tax reduction, they’ve done that, this is true. I suppose if you want the worst of tax reductions, that’s cool.

    Making changes to the justice system to get tougher on gun crimes? Okay. This one’s true as well, minimum sentencing for many gun crimes has been in place. All well and good after a person gets caught, but does nothing to deter the crimes in the first place (because criminals don’t think they’ll get caught.. if they did, they wouldn’t do it, right.)

    $1200 tax credit for daycare? Done. Effect on shortage of daycare spaces that it was supposedly going to address? As predicted by anybody with sense..none.

    And then there’s the fiscal imbalance with Ottawa and guaranteed wait times for health care. Tell me Wayne, what does your province guarantee is your wait time for health care? Oh wait.. it doesn’t have one. How has the fiscal imbalance been addressed? Oh, that’s right. It was declared not to exist. Still, I’ll grant they technically addressed at least four.. but that the net effect of that has actually been negative, not positive, as it hasn’t alleviated any problems and created a more difficult future for our government to take the actions that are going to be needed as we go beyond peak oil.

    As for the rest of your points, how you think being the highest spending government ever – for less services, or the federal government going into deficit for a month or two back in October before Flaherty sold off a bunch of government buildings so they could rent them afterward, is better fiscal management, I don’t know.

    Reduced taxes, I will again grant.. provided you weren’t relying on income trusts and ignore the planned for half point reduction in income tax that was budgeted before the election switched government over.

    Stronger military? You mean the 30 billion that had already been announced and the defence plan that didn’t exist? Or a good chunk of our forces being tied up in Afghanistan instead of available for Canadian Defence? I suppose if you consider that strong. Better approach to crime? Again, debatable. I look at their hardline stance and things like the reaction to insite and don’t tend to think it’s the best way to go. Relations with the US certainly.. bending over for them in things like softwood lumber and Omar Kahr certainly puts a smile on their face. Better National Unity? I dunno. It’s gotten better yes, but I’m not sure how much of that you can lay at the feet of the conservatives and how much you have to attribute to the issue just dying as Quebecers get tired of it. The fate of the ADQ certainly seems to speak to that.

    Now, I can’t comment as to how any party treats its members, as I’m not a member of any. But, sadly, that has little to do with how they actually govern.

    Don’t get me wrong, many of the goals they preach are indeed admirable, lesser crime, stronger military, better child-care, etc. Everybody can get on side of those things. The problem is that their actions toward these leave a helluva lot to be desired in my eyes, and they come with the baggage of the social conservatives and things like bill C-484, C-10, C-61, etc which basically are trying to regulate my morality in favor of religious or corporate groups.

  20. chris r, do you honestly think venture capitalists aren’t looking at provincial business taxes before they make decisions on where to invest? granted, it is not the only consideration, but to lay blame for ontario’s problems on someone who hasn’t been the ontario finance minister for 7 years? ontario’s problems stem from a rapidly declining american dollar and a rapidly appreciating canadian dollar.

    mcguinty’s strategy of hand picking winners and showering them with public money isn’t exactly working now, is it? ask the GM workers in oshawa if it worked for them. the best strategy is to lower the cost of operating all business, and let the market pick the winners and losers. pouring money into GM while they nose dive, due to poor products and a failure to meet the needs of a changing market, is good only for GM shareholders, not ontario tax payers.

  21. So tc, what’s your opinion on the feds pouring money into pork producers to keep them from.. well.. producing pork?

  22. I know you came of age Paul as a journalist with the Harper, but I wonder if you don’t give the Conservatives more credit than they deserve.

    Nixon, King, Chretien, Blair … Cromwell?

    It’s only been two flippin’ years!

    On the other hand Stephen Harper’s summers HAVE been getting progressively better.

  23. Sigh.

    I’m not saying he’s at their level. I’m saying they’re his models. Or in King’s case, that King’s style is a handy metaphor for Harper’s style.

    I don’t even think I’m being that hard to understand.

    Thank you for the youth compliment, though. I’ve long felt I came of age during the 1995 referendum, or maybe during Bouchard’s re-election campaign of 1998. Suddenly I feel a decade younger.

  24. Great analysis, as usual Paul – and I’ve come to realize the obvious ever since your blog enabled comments: blind partisanship makes people stupid.

  25. I’d rather have a PM who comes in wanting to achieve a few goals (but big goals) than someone who just wants to hang around for as long as he can.

    What’s the point of fighting all your adult life for the highest position in your country just so you can vegetate and tiptoe around when you get there?

  26. Klein’s method, according to Ralph, was to figure out where the parade is going, then get out ahead of it. Simple really – do what the people want and they will re-elect you. Of course, it’s a lot easier in a relatively homogeneous province than in this vast and varied country – but it is possible and I suspect that is where Harper is headed.

  27. Let’s go down to the municipal level. For fun.

    Ralph Klein and Stephen Harper are both Calgary politicians. And they share similarities.

    Joe Clark is another Calgary politician who shares something with Harper – popular in Quebec because the admiration is genuinely mutual.

    So how about, Ontario Assumptions, Alberta PM, Calgary Politicians?

    Ss

  28. I agree with an earlier commentator who observed that staying in power for a long time and having a long game aren’t necessarily the same thing-especially in Alberta. I don’t think the Alberta Tories have had a long game since Peter Lougheed stepped down. Since then it’s been scare-mongering and seat-of the-pants governing.

    As for incrementalism, anyone who was in Alberta during the Klein revolution might be forgiven for finding it short and sharp enough in many ways–massive layoffs in the public sector, privatizing liquor sales and registry offices, utility deregulation that took the province from the lowest rates in the country to the highest–and of course a flat tax. The big difference between Klein and Harris is that for the most part Klein didn’t come across as being quite as thuggish in manner.

    Harper may have a long game, but a lot of what his government has done has struck me as being based less in policy than in temperament, defining itself in terms of characteristic antipathies. There’s really a lot these people don’t like.

  29. Well if what we see now is the sum of the long term plan I bet a whole bunch of people are kicking themselves that they ever started that reform party thing.

  30. did the gov’t pick only certain pork producing farms, while excluding others?

    all im saying is flaherty is an ontarioan(?) and has the right to criticise, although i would also say it should have been john tory who did it. i’m pretty sure i’ve seen mcguinty call out the feds for some of their policies, so why is mcguinty so untouchable? the feds want to have a combined business tax of no more than 25% across canada. they aren’t forcing ontario to do it, but ontario will lose investment for having the highest rate.

    but pointing that fact out is somehow anti-ontario, and the REAL reason for the economic slowdown. i guess every finance minister in the world said the same thing about their manufacturing heartlands this year too. what fools! if only they hadn’t pointed out the obvious!

  31. I’m always interested to see people who view the next election based on last week’s polls, or even the last few months of polling.

    For the entire year lead-up to the 2006 election, Harper’s concervatives were consistently in the high 20’s. Sure, they had a few spikes following the release of a Gomery report or two, but the day the writ was dropped, Harper was at something like 28%.

    Yet, today, he stands as the PM. So polls before election day are relatively usless as a judge on the next election or on support for a leader or party.

    The real test of strength or endurance is the strategic analysis of WHAT a leader does with his time. This is why Paul Wells essentially beats out every journalist for best coverage of the national scene. Not only does he analyse the longue durée, but he looks specifically at what these moves will “set up” for the future.

    Paul’s point, I think, in most of his articles is that the media, the public and the politicians all too often want the “whiz bang” of any event to cause an immediate electoral reaction the following day. That’s not Harper’s style. More importantly, Paul emphasizes that this whiz-bang mentality is not the WINNING style either.

    Slow and steady, wins the race.

  32. Paul, one thing that is clear is that Harper was heavily influenced by the so called ‘Calgary Mafia’ at U of C. I know that when I attended as an undergraduate, every time I saw him at an event, it was one where Flanagan and Gibbons were at. Would you say that this go slow approach is also their view?

  33. Very nice piece. Analytically as meaty as Giornalism 101, although I did miss the parallel to “Made you jump.” :)

  34. “Paul’s point, I think, in most of his articles is that the media, the public and the politicians all too often want the “whiz bang” of any event to cause an immediate electoral reaction the following day. That’s not Harper’s style. More importantly, Paul emphasizes that this whiz-bang mentality is not the WINNING style either.

    Slow and steady, wins the race.”

    Funny. That’s what I was thinking about Dion. Let the record show that “slow and steady, wins the race” has been M.O. from the onset, yes?

  35. “Funny. That’s what I was thinking about Dion. Let the record show that “slow and steady, wins the race” has been M.O. from the onset, yes?”

    What record? He called Harper’s policies and government every name in the book only to sit on his hands for 41 cofedence votes?

    The guy even uses the weather for an excuse not to bring down Harper, and this whom you place your faith?

    Nice record, I hope Dion keeps it up.

  36. JK, go try those talking points on someone who doesn’t know better, ok?

    The biggest mistake the Libs could have done would have been to give Harper the election he so desperately needed. If Harper could be stupid enough to forego his right as Prime Minister to call for an election, he should assume the consequences of that maneuvre.

    If I was Dion, having now been given sole right to decide when we go to the polls, I’d take my sweet little time pulling the plug and would only do so when it would be most favorable to my prospects. Judging by the way the Cons are tanking in the polls these days, that time might soon come indeed.

    As for Dion’s record, you’d be wise to look at Dion’s political career and judge the man on his incredible path rather than basing yourself on Tory spin.

    What some of you CPCers seem to forget is that what you spout about Dion is spin invented by your Politbureau and ought not to be confused with reality.

    Lowering expectations concerning your opponent could turn out to be a serious mistake. Don’t take my word for it. Just ask Paul Martin.

  37. The problem has been that Dion HASN’T had a plan from the onset.

    His plan and the Liberal plan was never “slow and steady wins the race” it was a teeter-totter of will-we/won’t-we. It was using election speculation to keep himself in power, and then being talked down off a ledge by his party. Then, at a later date, he himself had to take his PARTY off the ledge.

    So no, the record does not show “slow and steady” has been Dion’s M.O. at all. He has not tried that in terms of fundraising, he hasn’t tried it in terms of steady delivery of policy (at least he recently came out with the green plan) and he hasn’t had any major calculated moves except to ramp up election speculation or ramp it down.

    Unless you are someone who knows more, and you can point out to me HOW his strategy has been slow and steady.

  38. And also, something that Paul picks up on often is that Paul Martin’s “fly by the seat of your pants” operations are what drove a lot of capital L liberals away. I am one of those Liberals who had no idea what Paul Martin was up to, or where he stood on issues, or what his game plan was. Thus far, the Liberal game plan seems to be “we will win, because we are Liberals”. The genetic right still runs deep in most capital L’s as far as I can see.

    Until that changes, and a real strategy and approach comes forth (over time, not just in one green shift stillborn child of a proposal) most small l liberals won’t be running back to the capital L tent.

  39. boudica, what with those red-coloured glasses of yours I fear for your safety at traffic lights.

    Dion has made an absolutely shocking number of gaffes in his 18 months as leader. Off the top of my head, so far he has:

    . Led his party to be the defendant in a libel lawsuit with loose lips and actionable press releases

    . Failed to do due diligence on the name of his signature policy platform and incurred a trademark lawsuit

    . Floated the carbon tax as a trial balloon with no details, and allowed the Conservatives months to pre-define it for him.

    . Suggested sending NATO forces to invade Pakistan

    . Blown 2 by-elections (Outremont and the northern one) by personally appointing candidates over the riding association objections, and almost lost a third stronghold in Vancouver

    . For all intents and purposes, abdicated his resonsibility as Opposition leader with over-the-top rhetoric about many pieces of Conservative legislation, then failing to back up his rhetoric by voting against them

    . Just yesterday declared that he would be the first Prime Minister with a PhD, forgetting Mackenzie King

    He almost makes Stockwell Day’s time as Alliance leader look good. That is not slow and steady. That is fast and drowning.

  40. This might be as good a place as any (because almost nobody’s left reading this thread) to point out that I haven’t the faintest idea who will win the next election, nor do I have strong opinions about who should. That’s not always the case; by the time the campaign is nearing its end I’m usually pretty sure, as are most observers, who’s gonna win (I did call 2004 wrong) and a couple of times in my adult life I’ve had a strong preference as to who wins. For now, I’m just trying to explain what each leader is trying to do, and to point out flaws when I see them. Hardly ever in the same piece.

  41. Ralph Klein, by the way, actually allowed the local authority to blow up an empty, disused building which had once been the hospital he was born in. This “blowing up a hospital” schtick is really pretty lame. I’m surprised that you don’t scream that Ed Stelmach allowed a hospital right in the heart of downtown Calgary to be torn down, and there’s a gaping hole on the site today? Granted, Penny Lane hadn’t actually been used as a hospital since 1917, but it’s once a hospital, always a hospital to you guys, isn’t it?

  42. “Unless you are someone who knows more, and you can point out to me HOW his strategy has been slow and steady.”

    Did you follow the exchange between Dion and Bouchard over the clarity act? Do you remember how Dion was targetted by the Martin clan and how they tried to get rid of him? Do you not remember how he went from second to last in a group of 9 leadership candidates, passing Bob Rae and Michael Ignattieff?

    Again, you COns would be wise to remember that spin is just that… spin. Underestimating Dion has led you to allow him complete ownership of the environment file at the moment. Underestimating him has led you to allow him to roam the country and address voters who have been telling you for months now that they want leadership on this issue.

    Dion is not the person that your War Room has depicted. That’s what you are supposed to tell people. You’re not supposed to believe it yourself.

  43. “Underestimating Dion has led you to allow him complete ownership of the environment file at the moment”

    Hardly. Libs and Conservatives are at a statistical tie for who is most trusted on the environmental issue.

    From Nik Nanos latest poll (http://www.nikonthenumbers.com/topics/show/73)

    Question: Which federal party do you trust most to manage the following issues?

    The environment

    Liberals – 21%
    Conservatives – 18%
    NDP – 14%
    Bloc – 3%
    Greens – 13%
    None – 16%
    Unsure – 16%

  44. Boudica,

    After reading your last post I peed my pants in fear. Did I follow Bouchard and Dion? Are you telling me THAT’s the selling feature of Dion?

    To clarify, I’m no Con. I’m no NDP either I am a free small l liberal. So please don’t target anyone who may question Dion as a “Con”.

    Dion has not shown himself a leader since he took the office. He has also not pushed strategic moves for the long run either. If I had been advising Dion when he became leader.. I would have told him to do three things.

    1) Build your fundraising organization from the ground up. Top priority
    2.) Craft simple, centrist policy positions and slowly leak or act on them over the next 12 months
    3. Save your big gun proposals for just before an election.

    To show he hasn’t done that… check out the past year’s fundraising efforts. Then ask yourself why he has reversed/dodged/hyped or balked at any of the major policy issues/topics in the past year (Quebec nation-hood, Afghanistan, Anti-terrorism bill, Native apology, the budget). As a coup-de-grace, think about how bold it was to wait til the House rises for the summer before leaking slowly with a thousand cuts, a tax grab proposal that does nothing to limit greenhouse gases, is 48 pages of various vagueness, and does not make one mention of inflationary pressures already imposed by the current spike in fuel prices.

    Then, after you’ve done all that… go back and read some newspaper clippings of the Clarity Act coverage and bath yourself in that glory.

  45. I guess I didn’t really mean to lob that last post specifically at Boudica. It was more targeted to all the people who seem to believe there is some larger strategy with Dion just because he was once a mighty federalist who noone had heard of until 2005.

    I once supported Dion for federal Liberal leader. Especially after watching him on CTV’s question period in April of 2005 ripping apart the NDP’s position on Afghanistan. At the time, he seemed like a centrist fighter for Canada with a lot of heart, and a lot of guts.

    The person who leads the Liberal party today is not that same person.

  46. boudica

    Just the facts my man. I would respond longer but I am break at work but I love this comment from you.

    “If I was Dion, having now been given sole right to decide when we go to the polls, ”

    Ha,ha, well last time I checked it took all three parties to bring down the government. But thanks for the talking points.

  47. JK, I’m sorry but last time I checked, the NDP and the Bloc’s strategy was to leave the decision to Dion.

    Do you know something we don’t?

  48. Riley, you are the perfect example of why politicians swear by the effectiveness of attack ads.

  49. Paul Secam’s point is accurate, as is my pre-emptive self-rebuttal regarding Preston Manning. But much of politics lies in personal experience, and the Bill Davis years, which ended in the mid-80s, lie outside the personal experience of many people active in federal politics. Especially most Ontario Tories under 50, who came up seeking a way to rebel against what they saw as the stasis of the Davis years. For what it’s worth, Harper worked hard to arrange a rally with Davis in the home stretch of the ’06 campaign. I covered that rally. It was boring. Just as Harper wanted it.

  50. “JK, I’m sorry but last time I checked, the NDP and the Bloc’s strategy was to leave the decision to Dion.”

    Yes and he said he would not take down the government b/c of the weather. Had he said he would vote againts the government who knows what th bloc o NDP would do.

    Non partisan. I think that the Confedence votes was one of Dion’s problem he let himself get boxed in on confedence votes. Maybe the long term route is best for Dion. But come an election there is a wealth of material to use againts the liberals b/c of there different stands issues.

    And remeber in 2004 everyone said Harper would not get 20 percent, 2006 30 percent. will see what Happens come an election itill then everybody is right.

  51. I think there’s an old, old expression that succinctly explains the opposition’s propensity to mis-read the electoral situation: ‘Evil thinks as evil does’.

  52. Just to add on to Dion and the confedence votes.

    If Dion in the spring said he was going to bring down the government(not I might) would the Coservatives cut a deal with one of the other parties?

    I don’t think the CPC wanted to go to the polls. And that Dion made them look stronger then the CPC was. Plus I don’t think the NDP wanted an election.

    But we will never no b/c Dion played his hand bad IMHO.

  53. Wow.

  54. Regarding the next election, the polls indicate that the two main parties’ popular support has been literally frozen, encased in cement (why? beats me). So my best bet is that this remains the same. For years to come.

  55. “To clarify, I’m no Con. I’m no NDP either I am a free small l liberal. So please don’t target anyone who may question Dion as a “Con”. ”

    Forgive the confusion, Riley. As far as am concerned, anyone who starts foaming at the mouth at the mere mention of Dion the way you do has got to be a con.

    Which would bring me to Dion’s other great problem and that is his own Liberals. Leading the fractious liberal party… Now here’s a job you couldn’t pay me enough money to do. Julius Cesar was safer among his Senators than Dion could ever be with that bunch.

    THe only reason why Harper’s marketing campaign against Dion worked so well is because the Liberal caucus (yeah, this song is about you Iggy) added to his material.

    Anyone who can remain standing after being savaged by the Harper thugs, the blood thirsty press gallery and the Judases within the LPC has my respect. I thought Harper had it bad when he was in the Opposition but I sure don’t think it compares to what has been done to Dion.

    Oh yeah… what a coward that one.

  56. Susan Delacourt, writing on Jan 2nd:

    “Dion, reportedly not a fan of strategists and strategizing, is undeterred, telling Liberal riding presidents in Montreal in early December that the poverty issue will be at the heart of the party’s platform in the next campaign.”

    Deborah Grey, in a CPAC documentary, talking about her time in Ottawa after she was first elected as a Reform MP, and had hired Harper as her assistant (approximately) …

    “We were working so hard, I wanted us to take a break. So I invited Stephen to come to a hockey game with me. But he would have none of it. He wanted to stay home and do more strategizing. That’s what he thinks about all time–strategy”

    Therein lies one of the key differences between Dion and Harper.

    Most of Dion’s actions appear to me as a series of disconnected, short-term tactical moves. Most of Harper’s actions appear guided by an overall strategic plan. There is a coherence and consistency which is sorely lacking from Dion.
    We are seeing a repeat of Paul Martin’s “fly by the seat of your pants” way of operating.

  57. I think most pundits analyse election results a bit too much.

    When Stockwell Day used to run, the Canadian Alliance used to get 25%. At the same period, Joe Clark and his tories were getting 12%. Add those two together, and the Right was getting roughly 37% of the vote back in 2000.

    They are getting a smaller share of the vote today, under one united party, yet many pundits think Canada is undergoing a shift to the right or turning Right side up.

    During this same period, the NDP, the Bloc and the Greens, all arguably left of centre are taking away votes from the Liberals.

    Harper is certainly focused and obviously thinks ahead. Paul Wells’ theory is not completely far-fetched.

    But let us keep things into perspective.

    Stephen Harper < Joe Clark + Stockwell Day.

  58. If you or anyone else is still reading, I disagree with your argument, in large part because Harris faced a much different situation in 1995 than Klein did in 1993 or Harper does now, and that the different strategies they pursued were largely a product of the conditions in which they found themselves. I had written a long response, but due to length etc. posted it on this blog instead:

    http://ammianus.blogspot.com/2008/07/paul-wells-stephen-harper-and-mike.html

  59. This article overlooks a number of peculiarities about Alberta politics. First, a rural vote equals two urban votes and the rural vote is virtually always conservative. Second, party financing makes a huge difference. In Alberta, corporate donations are allowed and are not limited. Corporations tend to donate to those who are in power or who threaten to take power. This has resulted in an accumulation of wealth in the PC Party. The other political parties, in contrast (be them to the right or to the left of the PC Party in Alberta) could not afford to advertise throughout the entire provincial election campaign. They restricted their advertising to the last few days of the campaign and relied upon local news media to take their message to the citizens. The PC Party were able to advertise widely and throughout the campaign.

    The final aspect of the last election that turned the tide is the Stelmach was viewed as a local candidate in Edmonton. This took seats away from the opposition parties, which are traditionally stronger in Edmonton than Calgary. In practice, Stelmach has failed to provide that balance to the Calgary-centric government provided by Klein. He won’t have the benefit of the doubt in the next election. However, he will still have the comparatively infinite resources of the PC Party to fight the next election. Without electoral financing reform in Alberta, it will be difficult to get change in Alberta.

  60. It all makes sense, but do you think Giorno was brought in to maintain the status quo or to do what he did in Ontario?

    That said, I think it would now be easy for the Tories to make Harris-style tax cuts. They can offer cuts similar to those in the Liberal Green Shift without the added carbon tax.

  61. Hey Calgary J. = I agree completely as this is one of things I have noticed the last few years about my boy Stevie : he rarely makers short term tactical moves instead he opts for the long term strategic approach and personally I think he is absolutely correct in this approach and that this will play out to be proven to he the right approach. The starngest thing is that being a Conservative I can remember several speeches that he gave about 3 and 4 years ago now and we are right now seeing the results of this approach playing out in detail. Though I am indeed a big fan of Harper’s I am becoming more so and not less with time which is a complete break with my previous leaders of political parties I have belonged to as with Trudeau, Mulroney, Chretien my repsect for them dimished after time as each in turn betrayed some principles in return for power however with my boy Stevie it is the reverse –

  62. Jason, one question worth asking is: What, precisely, did Giorno do in Ontario?

    I won’t claim to be an expert. But he was CoS for two years AFTER Harris’s second and final election victory. If anyone can remember the major reforms of Ontario governance in 1999 and 2000, they’re cleverer than I am, by quite a sight.

    Giorno may yet be the finest CoS any prime miniser ever saw, or he may turn out to have been miscast. This is the first time he has ever been CoS in a pre-electoral environment. Jason’s question may pose a bit of a false dichotomy.

  63. I won’t argue that Harper is attempting to play the long game.. personally I see it as attempting to stay in the PM’s seat to consolidate as much power as possible, but hey.

    But as to the betraying principles thing, obviously you don’t remember the speech where he said about softwood lumber “First and foremost, I would seek a clear commitment of the United States to comply with the NAFTA ruling. If the Canada-U.S. trade relationship is to remain a fair, stable, rules-based system, then the United States has a moral obligation to return those duties to Canadian lumber companies.

    There can be no question of Canada returning to a conventional bargaining table, as the U.S. Ambassador has suggested.

    You don’t negotiate after you’ve won.

    The issue is compliance.

    And achieving full compliance should be the objective of the Prime Minister.” (link)

    So sometime between September 9, 2005 and April 26, 2006, Harper not only completely reversed that, but then gave up over a billion dollars in illegally collected duties which could have been used to re-hire some of the many people put out of work because of those duties, he also committed our softwood lumber industry to not take up more than 34 percent of the American market, and will also tax our own lumber producers if the AMERICAN price falls below $355/thousand board-feet. IE, if their market collapses — say because of dodgy mortgage lending policies, our lumber producers suffer for it.

    Thanks Steve!

  64. Since I can’t add anything substantive about Mr. Giorno, I thought we could see what Dante, that prophet, has to say about him:

    Al poco Giorno, ed al gran cerchio d’ombra
    Son giunto, lasso, ed al bianchir de’colli,
    Quando si perde lo color nell’erba:
    E’l mio disio però non cangia il verde,
    Sì è barbato nella dura pietra,
    Che parla e sente, come fosse donna.

    Which I *think* means:

    I have come to that little man Giorno, and to a great arc of shadow (alas!), and to the whitening of the hills, when the colour of the grass disappears; but my desire, nevertheless, does not change its green. Yes, he is a barbarian in the hard rock, one who speaks and feels as though he were a woman.

    This may not be relevant, but I thought I’d put it out there.

  65. Barbarian Cross-Dresser Night at the Hard Rock Café?

  66. Been there, done that. We called it the “Common Sense Revolution.”

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