The season in politics: a cheat sheet - Macleans.ca
 

The season in politics: a cheat sheet

Feschuk: What Iggy, the New Old Whatever Democrats and a guy named Steve have been up to lately


 

The season in politics: a cheat sheetAdmit it—you haven’t paid close attention to federal politics over the summer. You’re so clued out that I could make some ridiculous claim, like saying the Liberal party’s boldest initiative of the season was sending its national director from Kingston to Ottawa in a canoe for some reason, and you might even believe me—which is absurd, because he was actually in a kayak. Sorry, Conservative Party of Canada: you had a good run but there’s no competing with that.

Autumn approaches. Let’s get you up to date. First things first: Stephen Harper is still our Prime Minister. You can tell because the country’s colour-coded Partisan Tirade Threat Alert remains set to Red.

Few people are sure what Harper did for much of the summer. He mostly dropped out of sight, popping up only to remind Canadians that they positively, definitely do not want an election. I must have seen that headline a half-dozen times this summer: “Canadians don’t want an election, Harper says.” Let’s face it: Canadians hardly ever want an election. An election means watching tedious debates, enduring low-blow advertising and humouring Jack Layton’s belief that he’s got a shot. That said, if you took the time to read beyond the headlines this summer (and you didn’t, so stop pretending), you would have come away feeling more as though, “Canadian named Steve doesn’t want an election.”

To be fair, Harper did emerge to once again travel to the Arctic. He seems to head north an awful lot, doesn’t he? It makes you wonder if maybe he’s staking a gold claim or hunting elves up there. Also, to be fair, Harper ended the spring by hoodwinking Michael Ignatieff with that “blue-ribbon” panel on employment insurance, so the PM was obliged to spend two solid weeks this summer rubbing his hands together and cackling villainously. It’s all there in the Evil Mastermind handbook.

All in all, it’s not a bad time to be Stephen Harper. Here is a man who claimed we couldn’t possibly have a recession (even as we were falling into one), issued the New Coke of economic updates—hilariously obsolete even before it was made public—and needed to be cajoled into launching a stimulus program during the gravest financial crisis in 75 years. To be any more wrong on the economy, the Prime Minister would have had to convert the nation’s assets to poultry in a hedge against the revival of the barter system—a disastrous strategy, to be sure, save for the five chickens we could have got for John Baird.

But the opposition has been so ineffective and unfocused that most Canadians approve of the direction in which the country is heading. This is remarkable when you realize that for much of the past year that direction has been straight down off a cliff.

The Liberals need a strong economic message to win an election. They don’t appear to have one. They need a strategy to differentiate themselves from the Conservatives. They don’t appear to have one. They don’t have any reason to believe it would be wise to force an election this fall. Naturally, many in the party are therefore determined to force an election this fall. These people are confident that Canadians will rally behind Michael Ignatieff’s pitch, which to date breaks down as follows:

  • I am Michael Ignatieff.
  • [Extended pause, followed by a shrug to signify his confusion at the absence of applause and laurel-throwing.]

Meanwhile, the New Democratic Party so mismanaged its convention this summer that the only issue anyone was interested in—a potential name change for the party—didn’t even make it to the floor. This freed the national media to cover the convention from more traditional angles, such as ignoring it. Not even the unveiling in Jack Layton’s keynote speech of his boldly intellectual new thesis—Old thinking? Boo. New thinking? Hooray!—could generate any sustained enthusiasm.

Not that NDP loyalists seemed to notice. Writing for the Globe and Mail, a long-time party strategist claimed, “Our party is now at least as coherent, reasonable and thoughtful about the way forward” as the Liberals and the Conservatives. Then again, so are those five John Baird chickens.

The New Old Whatever Democrats insist they want to form government. Yet when they fail to come even close to winning, they don’t change. They never change. They think of this as principle but it’s actually hubris. Instead of fashioning ideas and policies that appeal to voters, they assume that Canadians will one day come to their senses and—striking themselves upon the forehead in a collective eureka moment—exclaim aloud, “Have the New Democrats been this awesome THE WHOLE TIME??! Why wasn’t I informed??” Cue the electoral landslide.

In other news, the Greens say that during the next campaign they will for the first time release a fully detailed campaign platform. God, they’re adorable.


 

The season in politics: a cheat sheet

  1. "the New Coke of economic updates"

    That might be your best yet.

  2. So anyway, why is the Liberals forcing an election??

    • better yet

      what are the Conservatives doing to stop them?

      • Right…what are the Conservatives doing to stop them…I'm tired of the Liberals/NDP/Bloc saying jump and the Conservatives say "how high?"

        How about all political parties stop saying jump!

        • because that's what political parties do.

          your turn.

        • because, when they have the chance, saying jump is what political parties do.

          your turn.

  3. Precisely!

    It's all a game isn't it? And according to you – that's okay because it's fun to watch?

    • It is fun to watch, but it's not a game.

  4. The complaints about an election are another example of how little integrity the CONServatives.

    Complaining now about about a possible election yet you were kissing Harper's butt last fall when he broke his own fixed election date and called an election during the Thanksgiving holiday.

    Why are you not publicly complaining about the millions of dollars wasted in patronage appointments this summer?
    Why are you not complaining about the CONServative government advertising a tax rebate program that has not even been presented in Parliament?

    CONServatives = hypocrites ……… and Canadians are tired of it

    • What did you want them to do–appoint Liberal Senators? Forget that–I think I know the answer. Unfortunately, only Alberta elects Senators, so there weren"t that many to pick from.
      Fixed election dates are for, are you ready for this –MAJORITY gov'ts–minorities are vulnerable (in case you hadn't noticed) to a vote of non-confidence at any time). What I am tired of is Ignatieff's blustering (now for the third time this year) to force an election at the worst possible time. Check the value of the dollar –it fell at the mere mention of an election.

  5. "Stephen Harper is still our Prime Minister. You can tell because the country's colour-coded Partisan Tirade Threat Alert remains set to Red."

    Love it!!!

  6. "five John Baird chickens"… I'm using that at every available opportunity!

    Anyway, funny point about the Greens – I went looking for detailed platforms last election, and their's was the only one I could find! Heck, I couldn't even find an overview of a platform for the Conservatives…

    • Gee Craig,
      The web-site for the economic action plan is on almost every website on the side bar. If you google Conservative Party of Canada, there has been a consistent platform for the last 4 years. Hope this helps.