What Harper’s thinking - Macleans.ca

What Harper’s thinking

WELLS: Some insiders are talking majority. So why is the Prime Minister in no rush to call an election?


Chris Wattie / Reuters

For two guys who never got along, Jean Chrétien and Stephen Harper seem to be learning to enjoy each other’s company. They posed for photos at Whistler during the Olympics, dressed for warmth and grinning from ear to ear. They were back together this week when Prime Minister Harper spoke at the unveiling of Chrétien’s official portrait in Parliament’s Centre Block.

At such moments the impression they give is not one of opposites attracting. Harper may be working hard to undo as much of Chrétien’s legacy as he can, but it is obvious that each man recognizes elements of himself when he looks at the other. At the unveiling of Chrétien’s portrait, Harper joked that “the hanging of Jean Chrétien is long overdue,” but he also called Chrétien “a great parliamentarian” who “knew instinctively what it took to win.”

It is perhaps no coincidence that the two men are discovering more in common as the length of Harper’s tenure as Prime Minister grows. Chrétien, too, has always liked a winner. Applying that very yardstick, Chrétien would be the first to note that Harper has not yet been Prime Minister for even half as long as Chrétien was, and that a parliamentary majority still eludes the Conservatives. But Harper is becoming a durable Prime Minister, perhaps even a consequential one. Both men have been lucky in the opponents they faced. Both have been ruthless in pressing advantage. Both manage to endure.

Within weeks the House of Commons will rise again for the summer and another window for a possible election will close definitively. Harper will relax a little—no minority prime minister can ever relax entirely while sitting in a House of Commons where his opponents outnumber his own caucus—and settle in for a summer of international summits and Calgary Stampede breakfasts. This week, as they pondered the truly bizarre school year now ending, Harper’s close advisers were feeling optimistic about the boss’s chances of keeping his job for a long time yet.

Some even dare speculate about the prize that has eluded Harper until now: a parliamentary majority. No prime minister has ever won one after falling short twice before. Harper has proven perfectly capable of sabotaging his own lucky streaks. But Conservatives argue that long-term trends favour their chances much more than the Liberals’. Which is why, even as Harper once again opens up a comfortable polling advantage over Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals, he is content to avoid an election for as long as possible. Time is on the Conservative leader’s side.

“Every day that Stephen Harper is Prime Minister, Stephen Harper is Prime Minister,” Kory Teneycke, Harper’s former communications director, told Maclean’s. “Beats the hell out of opposition. I don’t think Harper’s going to call an election on himself at this point in the mandate. I could see three years in, or something, going to the polls.” That would take this government to October—of 2011, not 2010.

Sources say that ever since his fall economic update in 2008 goaded the opposition parties into trying to replace him with a coalition government, Harper has consistently resisted pressure to call a quick election—or to concoct some other legislative finger trap that might provoke the opposition parties to rally against him. Last autumn, Ignatieff returned from a difficult summer recess to declare that Harper’s “time was up” and it was time to force an election. Public opinion quickly polarized sharply, and Harper enjoyed an autumnal polling honeymoon better than any he’s seen as Prime Minister. Some advisers urged him to call a quick election to capitalize on Ignatieff’s weakness. “The PM strongly resisted, not only calling an election, but any initiatives that could possibly be perceived as trying to start an election,” a senior Conservative source said.

But won’t the opposition call an election on Harper? That’s the more common route to the polls for a minority government, after all. But that’s hard for a few reasons. First, to defeat the Conservatives, every opposition party must unite against him. And as Ignatieff found out last autumn, whenever the Liberals are enjoying a brief rise in the polls, it’s at the expense of the NDP or (less often) the Bloc Québécois. That makes those parties less eager to see an election.

Second, Harper is being careful to avoid giving the opposition an issue to coalesce around. That was clear after last month’s ruling by Speaker Peter Milliken declaring that parliamentarians had a right to view documents about the treatment of Afghan detainees. The four parties in Parliament negotiated an agreement that would permit the slow release of the documents to selected MPs. While all this was going on, and for no obvious reason, the Conservatives were opening up a tidy polling lead over the Liberals after months of deadlock. Yet Harper resisted the urge to provoke, and by this week there was no issue in sight that could serve as any party’s pretext for a quick election.

Finally, Conservatives are sure the polls misstate Ignatieff’s real weakness. They note that when respondents are given the party leaders’ names when asked how they’d vote, adding Harper’s name increases Tory support while adding Ignatieff’s name is a drag on Liberal support. And it’s hard to fight a five-week election campaign without reminding people who your leader is.

“When you actually get into a presidentialized election campaign cycle with the party leaders on TV every night, pitching the message, you tend to see party support either pull your numbers or drag your numbers,” Teneycke said. “And Iggy’s a worse drag on their numbers than Stéphane Dion was.”

The only thing that could put an election on the map any time soon is one of Ignatieff’s own election commitments, which he announced with great fanfare at the end of his party’s Canada 150 thinkers’ conference in Montreal in March. That’s a pledge to postpone billions in corporate tax cuts to pay for environmental and social programs. The next such cut comes into effect at the start of 2011. If they go ahead, Ignatieff has no way to pay for the rest of his platform. That prospect may, of course, make him change his mind under pressure, but it just might lead him to try forcing a fall election in five months.
Of course, if he does, he’ll run into the same problem he faced last September, which is that Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe have no interest in forcing an election to protect Michael Ignatieff’s credibility.

So don’t bet on an early election. This is good news for the Conservatives, because many of them are persuaded that over time, Canada is evolving to reinforce Conservative strengths. “I think time is on the government’s side,” Teneycke said. “Electoral redistribution is the most untold story of what’s going to change the political landscape in Canada.”

He was referring to Bill C-12, the so-called Democratic Representation Bill, which would add seats in the House of Commons to bring the distribution of electoral ridings more closely into line with population growth. By some estimates, the bill would give Alberta six more seats, British Columbia seven, and Ontario 21, while leaving the rest of the country unchanged in seat counts. “If you rebalance for population growth, on the last election results you’d have a Harper majority,” Teneycke said. “Places in the country that are growing in population are places where the Conservatives do very well.”

Well, maybe. First, it’s important to emphasize that this is a long game. The bill has to pass the Commons. Then the next census has to happen, in 2011. Then the results have to come back, in early 2012, and form the basis for an arm’s-length commission to make recommendations about new riding boundaries. It’s hard to imagine all that happening before the next election, no matter how long that’s delayed.

Secondly, on current form the Conservatives would have a hard time translating extra seats into a majority, says Barry Kay, a Wilfrid Laurier University political scientist who designed the LISPOP model for projecting seat counts from polling results. That’s because the Conservatives have been showing lower support in Ontario this spring than in the 2008 elections.

Still, extra seats in Alberta and British Columbia help offset any Liberal advantage in Ontario, even if the Liberals manage to translate a pre-electoral polling advantage into results at the ballot box. The trend lines do not point to a spectacular Conservative breakthrough. They do suggest a continued erosion of Liberal support while Conservative support holds steady. Commentators often remark that Conservative support has a low ceiling, usually somewhere around the mid-30s. What they more rarely point out is that the Conservative floor is solid and not much lower than the ceiling. Ignatieff’s floor, on the other hand, keeps sinking.

Privately, Jean Chrétien has been known to make gentle fun of Harper’s inability to rack up the kind of consecutive majorities that seemed so easy for the Chrétien Liberals through the 1990s. But even Chrétien would concede that a narrow victory beats a defeat, especially if hope of better days still lies tantalizingly ahead. It’s that attitude that must give him a lot to talk about when he runs into Stephen Harper these days.

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What Harper’s thinking

  1. I find it distasteful that journalisst do not see the damage that they do when they use or quote Conservatives using pejorative names such as 'Iggy'. They would never use 'Harpie', supposedly being held to a higher standard for the Prime Minister.
    This feeds the disrespectful 'image' the current government wants stuck to Mr. Ignatieff and puts journalists smack in the middle of the pack of those such as Tenycke and the other nasties behind Harper. Sure puts new meaning to 'Honorable Member' and takes 'nobility' out of Parliament.

    • Give Iggy a knighthood or a peerage, then he can be Sir Mike, or better yet, Lord Iggy.

      • The Igster sounds much better.LOL

        • I love that!

          • Iggy sounds like he looks

    • First, Teneycke is "former." Second, it's what he actually said. Third, the "Iggy" quote speaks more poorly of Teneycke than it does of Ignatieff. Fourth, if you believe such a childish taunt is indeed damaging to the Liberals in the eyes of Canadians, you have a very dim view of Canadians.

      • You're right, MYL, but so is auntie em. It's the same reason Danny Williams insisted on calling Harper "Steve" in the press a couple of years ago: disrespectful and provocative. Teneyke is out of line, and trust me, he is well aware of it. It is what he said, so Wells is correct to quote properly, but Teneyke should stop talking like that. But he won't because he knows it's effective for his team.

        • Well Iffy calls the Prime Minister of Canada 'that guy',
          but that's ok, eh!

          • Wilson! I'm pretty sure I didn't even imply such a thing. Read into it whatever you like.

          • So wilson, how much did the Harper minority government pay you to post that?

          • Holly….if you have nothing of benefit to say why bother commenting.

          • How juvenile.

          • wilson…..agree…However, Liberals have no trouble with the double standards that they consistently practice.

            Too bad the Libs are so sensitive. If the polls were the other way around they would not have much sympathy for "that guy".

    • Boy, it's so easy for everyone to get their nose out of joint these days. Seems our fearless leaders, and their erstwhile supporters, have no sense of humour.

      Personally I think that Ignatieff often comes off as a pompous windbag, and I think the term "Iggy" rather than diminishing him, humanizes him. I've sometimes seen him referred to as "Iffy". In that case I would agree with your point.

      Not that I'm a huge fan of Chretien, but I think he would laugh and play along with any nickname given him – it means people are paying attention.

      • Chretien could do it because he was adept at portraying the everyman – a skill that Mr Ignatieff does not possess.

      • He comes off as a pompous windbag, because that's what he is!

    • I do agree that using "Iggy" is disrespectful. However I have never heard "Iggy" uttered by the Prime Minister. Although I have heard Ignatief call my country's Prime Minister "This Guy" more than once. Ignatief takes disrespect to a whole new level.

    • auntie_em_m…..obviously you don't read the newspaper and read the blogs much. How about perjorative names like Conbots, Haperites, neocons and of course the perennial tubby. So lets not get sancrosanct about name calling.

      Iffy deserves the moniker as did Paul Martin when he was referred to as Mr. Dithers. Both labels illustrate their style of leadership. I could go through and list the flip flops of Iffy since he came to be appointed leader. However, that would be a boring exercise.

      You can criticize Tenycke others but the fact is this is politics in 2010 and there is lots of blame to go around. However, you conveniently are forgetting the attacks by the lIkes of Goodale, Jennings and of course the failed former leader of the NDP (boob) Rae.

      Politics in a minoirty government is a blood sport and all parties are not innocent as you would have us believe.

      • deserves the moniker

        Like "Herr Harper"or "the Dictator" ? Is that deserved too?

        Yes politics is a bare knuckle sport, but this sort of thing cheapens it for all of us as a society.
        People go on and on about how disrespectful kids/teens are nowadays – yet here we are throwing around the cheap shots – is it "do as I say and not as I do?"
        While none of us are perfect, it would surely do us no harm to debate the issues minus the lazy name calling. Handles like "Iggy" and "Tubby" do not make us sound like regulars at the Algonquin round table; more like foolish kids circling one another in the schoolyard.

        • I agree danby. I often use "the SH government", which, come to think of it, is disrespectful as well. Although I really don't respect Mr. Harper, I could be more professional when commenting. In fact, being more professional lends to increasing credibility.

          By the way, "…like regulars at the Algonquin round table".

          Please clarify this phrase danby.

          • Hope this helps

          • Thanks for referring us/me to this interesting bit of history danby. I read the Wiki piece, and went on to read a PBS American Masters article that said:

            "[the regulars at the Algonquin Round Table] standards were high, their vocabulary fluent, fresh, astringent, and very, very tough. Both casual and incisive, they had a certain terrible integrity about their work and boundless ambition."

            Love it. Wouldn't it be nice if we, on blogs like this, could aspire to achieving something like the 'Macleans Round Table'? I say aspire knowing that we'll never be as artistic and creative as the ART group; it's a different beast.

      • Tubby? Why are you bringing Frank magazine's nickname for Conrad Black into this discussion?

    • If I were doing an article myself, I might replace "Iggy" with "[Ignatieff]" in these quotes — I prefer being more formal.

      That said, my instinctive response to this one was, "Well, what _should_ we be calling him — 'Graf Ignatieff'?"

      Maybe that's the Harperite in me. :p

      But then, "Iggy" comes from the Liberals themselves. Or have we already forgotten the starstruck denizens of iggynation.ca?

    • Are you for real? After the last four years of Liberal inspired attacks and kangaroo courts and media lables of Harper as bully, dictator, cold etc, you are worried that a media commentator referring to Ignatieff as Iggy is pejorative. Why not examine how the media has made the term "right-wing" a fully loaded, pejorative attack adjective – once that is dealt with and corrected, we can try to get openly partisan commentators to be nice to Ignatieff – after all, he has never sad anything bad about Harper has he? Facts are, that despite near hero-worship in acedamia and the media (initially) Ignatieff has proven to be an incompetant, ineffective leader. I am one who believes people earn respect – Iggy hasn't done that.

  2. Harper is a drag on the Cons in Quebec. The New Democrats are stronger in BC than they have been in years. And the Liberals can't do worse in Ontario than they did under Dion, losing everywhere except the GTA.

    So, besides the addition of another 30 seats in Alberta, I have yet to see any convincing electoral math that shows how the Conservaties can get the majority that aluded them in 2006 and 2008 when Harper was more popular a leader. Tories are putting on a brave face, I'll give them that.

    • "Harper is a drag on the Cons in Quebec."

      Harper is a drag on the Cons period. Harper is the reason why the Cons are unable to grow their base. Had the Cons put forth a different leader in the last election, we'd be looking at a majority Tory govt at the moment.

      • PM Harper is polling higher than the party,
        but don't let the facts wake you to the reality that the Libs new ceiling is 29%,
        they haven't yet found the floor, somewhere south of 26%, which is exactly what their unelected leader is polling.

        • I think it's wishful thinking that the Libs can't achieve support of greater than 29%. You're suggesting the Conservatives will form government in perpetuity.

      • Mmmm, not sure about that PolJunkie. As much as Harper's autocratic style makes me and a whole bunch of others absolutely cringe, it seems to be working to his advantage with his party and the general public; and I think he's smarter than any of his cabinet ministers. The benefits of the control he enforces on talking points likely outweighs the costs.

    • Firstly, I find it hard to believe you think he was more popular in 2006 and 2008.

      Secondly, the answer to your question is Ontario.

    • oppoguy…….I would remind you that the Conservatives are 12 seats short of a majority government. A few more seats in Newfoundland and the rest of the country they would have had their majority. That despite only getting 10 seats in Quebec.

      Majority or minority as long as the Libs are kept on the opposition benches that is fine with we Conservatives.

    • And what has Quebec got to do with Canada???Quebec can sit on the sidelines and have no say in parliament with the blockheads or jump on board and have a say.But one of these years your transfer payments are going to stop.And the Conservatives can get a majority easily without Quebec.NDP more popular in BC.???Check your latest Leger poll before you give out the BS.

      • Perhaps voting for the Bloc is Quebec's way of "having a say." It's a free vote and "none of the above" to the potential governing parties is their vote– it's up to those parties to try and get that vote. And, "the Conservatives can get a majority easily without Quebec"? As Well's pointed out, that's going to take at least until 2012, and even then it certainly wouldn't be "easy."

  3. Commentators often remark that Conservative support has a low ceiling, usually somewhere around the mid-30s. What they more rarely point out is that the Conservative floor is solid and not much lower than the ceiling. Ignatieff's floor, on the other hand, keeps sinking.

    That's nicely put, Paul. Not great for the country, mind you. Floors and ceilings should hopefully be more mobile than that.

    So, can I remain hopeful that Harper's (ominous drum-roll of doom) HIDDEN AGENDA(tm) of limited government won't be so hidden that everybody forgot where they hid it if ever a majority shows up?

    • I am gobsmacked by how 'mobile' Libs floor is. Even a few years ago, I thought 30% support in polls was the lowest Libs could possibly sink but I was wrong, very wrong, and I am delighted.

      Where are all the Libs going and will they ever return?

      • Where are all the Libs going and will they ever return?

        I suspect, and again this is probably not good for the country, that changes in leadership are likely to have quite an impact. The team and the platform SHOULD matter more than they do, but I don't see that concept coming back anytime soon.

        • I agree that leadership is important but surely Libs could rally around Dion or Iggy. Both of them are autocratic academics and that should delight Lib supporters because they have similar pretensions.

          • That you see academics as pretentious says so much. You don't seem to have any problems with autocratic.

          • Lib supporters are pretentious, which is what I wrote. And scratch a Liberal/liberal, and you quickly find a love for autocratic government.

            "You don't seem to have any problems with autocratic."

            You know me well, do you? Seeing as I am Libertarian and loathe government, it makes lots of sense to say I don't have any problems with autocratic.

            Do you have anymore of these chestnuts of wisdom?

          • Why don't you try reading what you wrote : " Both of them are autocratic academics".

            But the words as I read them, and what else can I do but read the words you wrote, said "Lib supporters" have pretensions to "autocratic academics".

            For a Libertarian worshiper of individuality, you leap to stereotype, and dehumanizing generalizations very quickly.

          • Autocratic you say? And what would you say about the Harper government's disdain for Parliamentary (you know, "democratic") rules? And the obvious use of strict talking points by his Ministers? I could provide more examples, but those alone hold a lot of weight.

          • I'm pretentious? Really? Because, if I understand you correctly, of my autocratic academic credentials? Wonder how I got them, not having been to university and all.

            On the other hand, in spite of your libertarian ideals and your loathing of government, you really don't seem (at least if judging by your comments on these boards–which is all I and I presume most of the posters have to go on) to have any problems with autocratic. If you did, I imagine you'd not defend the Harper government at every turn, as you seem to do. But perhaps I'm just reading your comments.

          • "But perhaps I'm just reading your comments." LOL! That made me chuckle :^)

          • Tories seem to have a general disdain for academia They are actually quite proud of that fact.

          • I only disdain certain parts of academia.

          • Our contemporary batch of conservatives for sure.

          • yes, that's why they just funded 19 $10,000,000 research chairs at universities across Canada. Look behind you, your straw man is on fire.

          • They take every opportunity to slag any opponent who has ever taught at a university as 'out of touch' and an 'intellectual', as if it were pejorative.

          • Andrew….show me where Harper has slagged any of our academics in Canada. Problem is the party says something and of course you label Harper as having said it. Give your head a shake.

            Harper is only professional when he speaks in public. On the other hand it is his operatives and others who handle the day to day stuff that you people find so abhorrent. All you guys can do is comment on tactics, process and strategies. I think many Canadians just ignore those things and consider them white noise.

          • I didn't say Harper. It is common practice everywhere to have lieutenants and party hacks do the slagging so the leader can appear above the fray and Prime Ministerial.

          • How about:

            "It's one thing that they, the criminals do not get it, but if you don't mind me saying, another part of the problem for the past generation has been those, also a small part of our society, who are not criminals themselves, but who are always making excuses for them, and when they aren't making excuses, they are denying that crime is even a problem: the ivory tower experts, the tut-tutting commentators, the out-of-touch politicians. "Your personal experiences and impressions are wrong," they say. "Crime is not really a problem."

            (6th Annual Gala and Fundraiser for the Canadian Crime Victims Foundation, 6 June 2008
            Vaughan, Ontario)

          • Hmmm, which explains why the CPC MPs have less academic credentials.
            "While only 15 per cent of Liberals are without a chunk of sheepskin on their office wall, 41 per cent of Conservatives and 37 per cent of NDP members do not have degrees."

          • Was someone saying something about pretentiousness?

          • Gaunilon, I don't consider myself to be pretentious because I appreciate an academic education of some sort; it does not preclude, in my mind, that many people have degrees from the "university of life". Our MPs should be varied in their competencies; thus, varied in the kind of ecucation they've persued.

          • Nothing rots the brain like education.

          • That means nothing, I would much rather vote for and support a MP that has had a taste of the real world than support an acedemic. I have had quite a few run ins in my life with "educated" people, and for the most part, they're clueless, especially when it comes to common sense and work ethic. I think it's time that real people run our country, not acedemics, they've run this country quite long enough.

          • So, you're saying that the millions of real-world workplace job ads that require post-secondary education or some kind of certification, as well as experience, is not the same standard we should be applying to those who run our country? It's not like I'm saying that all our MPs should be professors.

          • The LPC and leader both are at 25-26%,
            which speaks to the Liberal policy, or lack there of, as well as to the unelected leader trying to sell it.

          • Leaders aren't elected. They're the product of unregulated party selection processes. I don't think Harper has any more or less democratic legitimacy because a tiny percentage of the Canadian population picked him over Belinda Stronach.

          • Andrew….you are losing it. Harper was elected by the grassroots of the Conservative party and Belinda Stronach lost big time despite trying to buy votes in Quebec. The Canadian population had nothing to do with it. The party elected him. However, they did elect the Conservative party to govern the country and because Harper is its leader he became Prime Minister.

            I might add nobody elected Iffy in the Liberal party. He was appointed by the backroom boys and it was confirmed by the membership. Given no alternative so they had no choice.

          • We don't elect parties, we elect MPs.

            There is nothing inherently democratically legitimate about how Harper was selected. Party leader selection is not part of our electoral system.

            And if you think back-room types had and have no role in leadership selection in the CPC, I think you're rather naive.

      • I agree with another poster on another blog here that they are part of the mushy middle that has been entirely turned off by the past 6 years of gutter antics. Paul uses the image of the finger trap; do you remember Preston on 22 Minutes when Mercer gave one to him? Laughing idiotically at his inability to extricate himself, he came off as a ninny. Substitute the opposition and that's where we are. They routinely fall into the trap of trying to cry 'scandal!' The people to whom that speaks loudest are already solidly behind the incumbent government. The voters the oppsoition are wooing are just fading away and out of the picture. Taht's th hypothesis anyway. If it's true, you would need to examine the dwindling voter turnout and demonstrate that those who have left the marketplace are voters who have tended to vote for more than one party over time.

        • "they are part of the mushy middle that has been entirely turned off by the past 6 years of gutter antics."

          That's interesting idea, never thought of it this way, but I don't understand why only 6 years of gutter antics. Chretien was a scoundrel but Libs supporters did not seem to mind then.

          • Stepping back from JC, the opposition and government at that time operated under a different set of behaviour standards. In my opinion, and those of friends in Ottawa, the last 6 years have seen a change in those standards. Has it been deliberate? I don't know. But I do believe the Liberals have been the losers in the exchange. They feed the phenomenon by getting sucked in to it or by leading it – who cares for the purpose of the hypothesis? – but lose in the exchange. If Wells is right and the COnservatives are at a rock steady floor, it appears the it is the Libs who have lost as a result.

      • The Liberals used to have a significant voting bloc that would always vote Liberal, no matter what. It was a cultural thing for a lot of people.

        After Adscam, I saw this change. I saw people in my family who had voted Liberal their whole lives suddenly vote differently, weighing the policies and personalities against each other for the first time. It was remarkable and heartening. Thanks Chretien/Martin!

        • And yet Chretien/Martin had no responsibility for Adscam other than poorly overseeing a program.

          How well has the EA!P been overseen again?

          • Chretien's responsibility extends a bit further than Martin's, in that some of Chretien's atttitudes and behaviours helped to set a tone that allowed the abuses to flourish.

          • And which behaviors of Mr. Harper do you suggest would curtail that? The ones where he says one thing and does the complete opposite? Or the ones where he blames absolutely anything and everything rather than admit fault?

          • Ummm, I thought the topic (of this sub-thread, at least) had morphed to become Chretien/Martin/adscam, so it was that to which I was restricting my comment, above.

            However, if you are asking me which of Harper's traits do I admire the most, it would be, umm, just a moment……..ahhhh, well……..let me get back to you about that.

          • Ach. Apologies, poor reading on my part. I'm still trying to wrap my head around Gaunilon's suggesting Adscam stopped people from voting habitually when Alberta still overwhelmingly votes for the PCs despite their performance.

          • Well, it isn't as if people are pleased with the Tories. However, we know that you hate us, so why would we vote for you?

          • You need to specify your "you" there, because, as I have to point out time and again, I'm an Albertan myself.

            And then once you've specified your "you" you might want to try coming up with something in the manner of evidence other than a policy that ended a couple decades before the originator of it died nearly a generation ago.

    • I would think floors and ceilings should shift very rarely, and that numbers below and above them should almost never happen without a very good reason.

    • We'd all be better off if Canadians all voted on policy rather than partisanship.
      Ideally, there should be no "floor" or "ceiling" to a party's support – it should depend entirely on their policies of the day and how the electorate views those policies.

      • I agree that ideally, we should vote on policies, rather than partisanship. However, over time, our faith in governments to implement the policy they portend depends on their trustworthiness and whether their philosophy seems to align with our own in key areas. And this is what influences the floor and ceiling.

  4. Why does Ignatieff have so little traction with the electorate ? Is it something that can be fixed ? I put the question out there hoping for some honest analysis. Things are looking pretty grim for the federal Liberals. I don't think it would serve our democracy well for it to become like the Liberal Party in the United Kingdom after the Second World War.

    • To cheer you up, Mulletaur, I give you two names: Jean Charest & Elsie Wayne.

      • Okay, that does it. It must be 11 am somewhere …

        • But I genuinely intended to cheer you up… put the bottle down.

          Sure, there was a little turmoil in the years that followed Charest & Wayne, but look what has happened to capital-C Conservatives since then. Small-C remains dead and buried, mind you…

    • "I don't think it would serve our democracy well for it to become like the Liberal Party in the United Kingdom after the Second World War."

      I think it would do Canada a world of good if Libs turned into Lib-Dems while Cons/NDP alternated admins. Having one party dominate Canada like Libs have reminds me of banana republics and stultifies our development.

      • An NDP government at the federal level would be the ruination of Canada.

        • Honestly, i think it can't be fixed. As I see it, the core problem the Libs have is that they've never reinvented themselves post-Chretien. And I mean as a party. Chretien was a terrific politician, but the days of a 'new leader-will-fix-everything' is really over. The Tories have done a much better job of building up and engaging the grassroots, and then having leaders emerge who can hold a wide array of grassroots members (vs. party elites) together. Until the Libs address this, they are going no where. I hate to say it, but frankly they just don't want to do the hard work – it seems like they just want it given to them.

          • A monkey could have been leader of the Liberals after Mulroney left and won.The opposition was so divided.So don,t give too much credit to Chretien ,other than he got a fountain and a few other perks for his home town.

          • "As I see it, the core problem the Libs have is that they've never reinvented themselves post-Chretien. And I mean as a party."

            I also think this is a major problem, Bobby. They tried with their thinkers conference, but it wasn't exactly the stuff of "building up and engaging the grassroots", more like a policy elite whinging session.

            Contrary to what you think, however, I think that this problem can be fixed, but it takes leadership. You have to have a clear idea of what you're in politics to accomplish, and hope that this is attractive at the very least to your party faithful. That sort of thing is usually sorted out during a leadership contest. Ignatieff has to figure out why he wants the prize, and then start communicating this in a attractive and consistent way. Doing the political equivalent of chasing ambulances is never going to do it for the Liberals, particularly given that Ignatieff is bad at it, and it doesn't play to his strengths.

      • Rightwing/NDP the only options. We have that in B.C. Trust me, it's not good.

    • Mulletaur, I'm a Liberal supporter. I think Iggy's traction problem is his inability to relate to people on their level — the regular voting people who get their soundbytes from news clips and front pages. He speaks ponderously and slowly, weighing his thoughts. His questions in QP are terrible — open-ended, almost whiny sounding — "When will this end?" "How can they say it's alright?" "When will the prime minister do the right thing?"

      Given that we've got the terse and sarcastic Harper, the angry Baird, and the weaselly Polievre to overcome, we need someone quick on their feet, a little angrier than Ignatieff, and able to lob the ball right back, someone who asks hard and pointed in the questions. A little Perry Mason tactics would help.

      I would think Ignatieff's lacklustre performance in QP, and with media, could be overcome with some coaching, and will. I like that he's smart, educated and cosmopolitan. I like that he understands issues in a deep way. But he needs a translater to be able to talk to the masses. He needs to resonate. It's not as though Harper is charismatic!

      • " I think Iggy's traction problem is his inability to relate to people on their level."

        I don't know if you realize this but you are repeating a Tory talking point when you say that. Between Ignatieff and Harper, which leader do you think has a greater capacity to relate to Canadians?

        That's not Ignatieff's problem. He's the leader of the Opposition. He will always be at a disadvantage when it comes to communications with the masses. He will never have the access and platform that a sitting PM enjoys.

        I believe that Ignatieff's problem is that he's a good orator but has no substance. You listen to him talk and it is quickly apparent that the man is out of his depths on a great many issues. I could forgive his lack of political savvy if I knew that he had solid expertise in policymaking but the man has none. More importantly, Ignatieff lacks confidence and that is deadly in this arena.

        • PolJunkie….I cannot disagree. That is why Iffy is going to be at a distinct disadvantage in an election campaign. Canadians will listen and then will say to themselves…what in the h.ll did he just say. I have done it on a number of occasions already.

      • Patchouli……If you support the Liberals you are part of a vanishing breed.

        I agree with your assessment of the issues that plague Iffy. However, listen to the substance of his "questions". They are more a mini speech with a question mark at the end. The other day he asked a question on the economy and suggested it is the government's fault that Canadian are in debt. He then proferred indirectly that the government should write cheques to help Canadians out. He does not make sense. Somebody is writing his questions? It can't be him.

        I think Iffy thinks he is the smartest guy in the room like his buddy Obama and therefore any advice is ignored. Dion was the same way. I guess it has to do with the academic culture they worked in. Could it be the Harvard mentality?

      • "I think Iggy's traction problem is his inability to relate to people on their level …"

        I think you're right, Patchouli, this is a major problem with Ignatieff.

    • Nice question and good discussion. I actually think the problem of the Liberal Party is not Iggy. The problem is the Liberal Party itself. It looks to be corrupted by those who put themselves above their country. The Canadian people can see that while in power the Liberals always had plenty of money to run their party operations and elections. Now while out of power, they are broke. They can't even pay back three year old leadership loans. I have no proof of impropriety, but do I really need any to say what I've said?

      • I've thought for a long time that the Liberal Party, which I supported and voted for for many years, lost its way when the party leadership convinced themselves that their interests coincided with the interests of Canada. Until the party starts listening to Canadians again, it will go nowhere. That time may come. We need a two party system to make our government work. But that time is not likely to happen anytime soon.

        • Following all the advice for the Liberal Party here, I suggest one problem is that posters such as you and others pretend to have lost loyalty but probably never really HAVE voted Liberal.

          • Er, are you accusing me of lying?

            I did not say that I currently support the Liberals; nor pretend that I have supported the party in recent years. But it is true that I was a longtime supporter of the party, including a stint as President of my university Liberal club in BC when Lester Pearson was the leader.

            Not every one in Canada continues to support the same party for 40-50 years. It may surprise you, but people do indeed change over time. And sometimes political parties also change, leading some people to shift loyalties..

      • That you can actually lay at the feet of Chretien's willful "FU!" to the Martinites on his way out. While I agree the political donation limits and public party subsidy are a good thing, Chretien knew well and fully that they would also wrap a noose around the Liberal party for at least a few years — certainly long enough to deep-six Martin's dreams of being a lasting PM.

    • ''Why does Ignatieff have so little traction with the electorate ? Is it something that can be fixed ?''

      Simply, it is not 1993.
      Canadians have swung as far left as they are prepared to go.
      What is on the left yet to champion?

      Maybe some mini-dust ups left to fight, but with the 13 years of Liberal rule, the left have won their wars.
      And imo (hang onto your jaw) Canada is better off for it.
      That said, the pendulum swung too far to the left (because that's what pendulums do), and like other nations across the globe,
      it's correction time!

      Originally, the LPC (Paul Martin) recognised that trend, and why rightie thinker Ignatieff was installed to push the Cons further right, so as the LPC could stake territory in the center again, after a decade of leftward drift.
      But in the decade of leftward drift, the drifters took a secure hold of the party, the left representing 2/3 of the Liberal caucus.
      What choices does Ignatieff really have? It's stay left or go home.

      • interesting analyses

      • Wilson, I disagree with you on the point about Paul Martin. He wanted to take the party to the left of where it was under Chretien. It is an urban myth that Martin favoured moving the party to the right.

      • Wilson, I'm impressed at your ability to give some credit to the Liberals; shows you're capable of a more balanced analysis. I agree with danby, you make some interesting points about the current movement toward the right to bring government policies back toward some kind of equilibrium,in the minds of the voters.

        In saying that, I think that we, the people who are trying to find a balance, don't necessarily think the Liberals have to be left; we want centre. The CPC isn't that far off centre. The Liberals just need someone more politically astute than Ignatief is exhibiting.

      • "And imo (hang onto your jaw) Canada is better off for it."

        That, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the seven signs of the coming Apocalypse.

    • There is one major gap in polling that seperates the parties, that is polling with men. All Parties are ruffly even with women mid to high 20's. But the Conservatives poll higher then all parties with men.

      The Liberals need to close the gap with the conservatives with the male vote. Sure more women vote for parties on the left, but that is divided between 3 parties. and the Conservatives eak out a slight lead b/c of the split. But when it comes to men it is not even close.

      I am no expert but when I read the polls those numbers really jump out..

    • What do you ask? A party based on lies deceit and a media that is salvating at every turn to ridicule the opposition regardless of the boners their chosen party creates.Tells us one thing though, that maybe this Reformatorie con party is subsidizing them with out tax payers dollars? If they are not would be very unlikely. Jouranlists that belong in grade school with the writting abilites of grade 3 children.

      Maybe the opposition should be digging into their personal lives and expose them for the absense of journalism ethics. It is pretty hard for any party regardless of what great polices they stand for to make grounds with this Dictorial so called religious party if they won't publish any kind of news without exposing Canada's Reform Con party and jumping on their band wagon with stupid comments and ignoring simple truths for a change. Yes I know, the big media are Reform Con supporters and that's been very plain all along and even a child could see that..

      • And this is the reason nobody listens to people like you. Digging into personal lives and looking under rocks for scandals is not the way to success. People need to believe there is someone looking after their interests. So far, Iggy has not shown that he is. He has parroted a 1990's Liberal platform that has nothing new in it. Look at the coalition in Britain – new ideas regarding personal emancipation and voter expectation, new rules regarding elections, recall of parliamentarians behaving badly. This has buzz.. Plus there is the extreme arrogance of a Liberal backroom that basically headhunted someone to be PM. This is an election, not a coronation. It has been so obvious that the Liberal Party has pulled out all stops to make ignatieff PM. He didn't have a hard riding to parachute into, and although he lost the first leadership convention, the party brass ensured he didn't have to face another one. This makes me believe, he will have no ability to actually run a successful election campaign.

    • Michael Ignatieff just can't connect with the average working person. It's as simple as that. He'd be that guy on Survivor who is good intentioned but gets booted in the third week because he alienates himself with his "deep thinking". (which, by the way, isn't so deep) It's annoying.

      Also, it seems Ignatieff lacks that political assassin instinct. There doesn't seem to be any edge to his huff. ("You're Time is Up Mr. Harper!") Chretien was a snake and that's why we loved him.

  5. "“Every day that Stephen Harper is Prime Minister, Stephen Harper is Prime Minister,” Kory Teneycke, Harper's former communications director, told Maclean's."

    Teneycke sounds like Wells, or Wells sounds like Teneycke, with this idea.

    It comes down to whether you believe parties should try to bring the centre to them or should parties move to the centre. I am believer in bringing people to you, and not abandoning principles by moving to centre, so I wonder how effective Con strategy to be Libs-lite is going to be over the middle to long term.

    • Teneycke sounds like Wells, or Wells sounds like Teneycke, with this idea.

      Actually, I believe Wells popularized that phrase by quoting Harper himself. Paul, doesn't the creative genius for that rhetorical gem rest with our Prime Minister?

    • You go where the people are. The taxpayers are the Boss.

      And that is very well illustrated by recent events.
      -the coalition of losers was rejected by the electorate, even tho it's ok within our Parliamentary system
      -Parliament is supreme, yet when they flex their muscles, the Boss says
      'oh yes you do have to submit to an employee of your own making, Ms Fraser WILL be looking into your books, like it or lump it'

      The party and leader that has their finger on the pulse of the Boss right now, is the Harper govt.
      And Harper will get a majority next election.

      And a coalition of lefties, bearing more nanny state and higher taxes, is exactly where the Boss is NOT going.

      • The coaltion of losers was not in fact rejected by the electorate. It was avoided when Harper scampered off the GG.

        • When Canadians were polled at 64% against the coaltion of losers,
          and the CPC jumped well into majority territory,
          the Boss had spoken.
          Just like the Boss want to see MPs expenses.

        • Mike T……. Canadians will never accept a coalition of the losers. The Brits coalition is made up of the party who won the most seats and a smaller party.

          Our attempted coalition was made of all the losers and they needed all of the opposition to support the coalition to make it work.

          Tell me where are the Libs going to get a min of 40 seats to win even a minority and/or to be able to make a deal with the NDP without including the Bloc. Canadians outside of Quebec will not tolerate the Bloc party as part of any coalition no matter how legitimate it may be consitutionally.

          • Say the 41st Parliament is:

            130 Conservatives
            105 Liberals
            30 NDP
            41 Bloquists
            2 Independents

            The 135 Liberals and Dippers would outnumber the 130 Tories. They could win votes with Bloc abstentions.

            That's the sort of parliament that could let Bob Rae's coalition dreams become a reality. (An "accord", not so much.)

  6. "That's because the Conservatives have been showing lower support in Ontario this spring than in the 2008 elections."

    That will change when McGuinty's Liberal HST kicks in and pounds the snot out of the Ontario economy. Women and gays and immigrants work and pay taxes and run businesses too, and calling Harper a fascist just isn't going to cut it anymore with a severely pissed off electorate.

    Here's the untold (for now) story of Canadian politics: the Liberals have been hijacked by the Atheist Left, and it is an enormous drag on their polling numbers, and there is ample data (some of it reported right here at Maclean's) to support this.

    Conservatives tend to be rational, mathematical, and analytical, and therefore have generally discounted the possibility of a majority for the past several years. Things change, though, and I see a Conservative majority as a 50-50 proposition at this point. We are facing an opponent who is committed to campaign against religion and morality and men and the elderly, and opportunities like that don't often present themselves. Liberalism is eating itself.

    • I would deconstruct your argument but it doesn't seem to have any basis. I'll let the wind take care of it.

      Or you can consider;

      – Provincial parties rarely if ever effect or affect federal parties
      – The left is much more agnostic than atheist. The 'Left' out polls the 'Right' regardless of where you want to assign the Bloc and the 'Left' would still have more people who identify themselves as religious as a total number than the 'Right'
      – Most people who are rational, mathematical and analytical aren't partisan as partisanship requires ignoring that which goes against your beliefs.
      – No one has ever campaigned against religion, morality, men or the elderly. All parties pander to these groups among every other.
      – We are still a liberal democracy, despite the executive's actions against it.

      • "- Provincial parties rarely if ever effect or affect federal parties "

        Hahaha, you suck, it is Canadian Poli Sci 101 that Ontario voters tend (this word is extremely important) to vote opposite federally of what they do provincially, this is really, really well documented. It also makes perfect sense that the millions of Ontarians who will be furious with this final-nail-in-coffin tax hike will take it out on the federal Liberals. By all means weave self serving narratives with no connection to reality if it makes you feel better, though.

        Liberals are explicitly anti-man, anti-religion, and anti-elderly and we are going to punish you for your hate next election. 170 seats for the Tories, book it. Liberals will win 58 seats and possibly be de-registered because their own greedy supporters let them go bankrupt.

        You think Sikhs and Muslims and Hindus are happy that Liberals want to teach very young children about sex toys, anal sex, and that gender is a social construct? You think these people don't get a little nauseous that Liberals are obsessed with aborting third world foeti? Watch for the immigrant vote to follow the Christian vote in bailing from the Liberals and supporting the Conservatives; Jason Kenny's hard work will soon pay off.

        • "Conservatives tend to be rational, mathematical, and analytical…" So Boogard, how much did the Harper minority government pay you to post that drivel?

          Billion dollar conservative boondoggle, nayon? Of course they will probably double it by the time the G- meetings are done.

          • Don't yah think it's time Liberals dropped that 'you evil Cons get paid to say things' childishness?
            Everyone here has an opinion, no one other than Paul Wells get's paid for their thoughts.

          • Maybe if it weren't the case that the government is paying people to say things on internet fora.

          • wilson….they are becoming so devoid of any rational arguments that's all they can say. It shows how intolerant the opposition parties are. They can't believe that some Canadians may have a different opinion than them.

        • Assuming someone who disagrees with you is a 'Liberal' is not rational. Since you are not rational, you must be a Liberal.

          Isn't fallacious reasoning fun?

          • Nah. Beating Liberals in elections is fun. 170 seats. Maybe 190. Yeah.

    • That will change when McGuinty's Liberal HST kicks in and pounds the snot out of the Ontario economy.

      Then, what will happen when Jim Flaherty's Conservative HST kicks in?

      • "Then, what will happen when Jim Flaherty's Conservative HST kicks in? "

        Do you still get paid for this post for referring to the Conservatives as Conservatives instead of the Harper ReformaTorylianceSocredJobbikBoobiesNazis?

    • Pound the snot out of the Ontario economy? That doesn't make any sense. The government will be bringing in less tax revenue as a result of the tax changes, leaving more money in Ontarians' pockets. Additionally, consumption taxes are pretty low-impact (which is why they are popular with economists). This is why Canada didn't experience a huge boom when the GST was lowered, as it should have for your theory to make any sense at all.

  7. "Why does Ignatieff have so little traction with the electorate ? Is it something that can be fixed ?"

    I think one needs to ask more fundamental questions than these ones. Since losing power in 2006, the Liberals have drifted left on the political spectrum. This was epitomized by the Liberal's 2008 Green Shift election platform and the overt flirting between Dion and Green leader Elizabeth May. Why the Liberals thought cozying up to a political radical like May would pay political dividends always was a head-scratcher to many people.

    Now the Liberals are lurching from a Green Shift to a Red Shift, cozying up to the NDP and trying to forge an alliance with that leftist party.

    The Liberals are not getting any traction because people are not comfortable with the Liberals. Their usual winning political formula of "campaign from the left, governing from the center-right" is no longer succeeding. The leftist voter is cynical with the Liberal's string of broken promises and the center-right voter is concerned by the company the Liberals keep during the writ period.

    • "campaign from the left, governing from the center-right" is no longer succeeding

      That only worked for the Liberals because they had the clout of being in government,
      where they could broker other parties' ideas…. without having any of their own to advance.

    • Environmentalism isn't necessarily a left issue (unless you're alleging that conservatives are stupid), and a tax shift from income to carbon emissions is not particularly left, either. The Green Party used to be centre-right, fiscally. May has brought in some rather left policies, but their tax policy is still fairly centre-right.

  8. Oppoguy noted:
    "Harper is a drag on the Cons in Quebec"

    Oppoguy…..given what Harper has done for Quebec since he's been in power, it's clear that Quebec will NEVER be satisfied no matter what they are given. They are a parasitic province that spits on the Rest of Canada at the same time they leech from it.

    It's time to re-draw some boundaries and cut them loose. We will all be better for it. Quebec can become the socialist haven they desire (of course, they will be insolvent within 15 or 20 years) and the rest of us can keep more of our own cash, we can ditch Official bilingualism (which is a waste of money) and dump multi-culturalism while we're at it.

    I can't wait.

    • I think it should also be noted that most of Harper's critics never expected him to win seats in Quebec in the first place, or anywhere east of Manitoba, for that matter, and that the Conservatives have a presence in each region of this country. The same cannot be said of the Liberals. Mr. Wells' article discussed trends. Does anyone foresee a trend anytime soon where the Liberals make gains out West? Even Quebec? Is this a legacy that makes Mr. Chretien proud?

      • It really depends on whether voters in certain provinces will continue to vote on the basis of 40 year old slights. Then again, it seems Albertans aren't really accustomed to competitive democracy, what with the decadent regimes they keep in power for generations.

        I can see Libs making gains in BC lower mainland and in Manitoba. I don't much optimism for Alberta or what is becoming Alberta Jr, Saskatchewan. A little resource wealth does wonders for transforming a polity from a progressive hotbed into a group of arrogantly resentful "I'm okay" Jacks.

    • Canada has the highest per capita immigration rate in the world. Immigration is largely responsible for our continued population growth, as the fertility rate is still below replacement levels. Dumping multiculturalism would not only be bad from a societal perspective, it would also be incredibly politically dumb for any government that dared touch it.

      • Dave Z……I never said anything about immigration as we'll still need that. (Although, I would stop all immigrants from countries known to consist mainly of Islamic extremists)

        I just want to stop spending money so our immigrants can pretend they still live in their former homeland; complete with sharia, homophobia, and misogyny.

      • Dave Z…..we don't have to abandon mulitculturalism but we do have to make it very clear that we are not going to stop our way of life to accomodate them. They must accept the fact that our principles are based on the Christian faith and the we are entitled to celebrate Christmas, Easter and any other holiday that is our custom. If they don' accept that reality then they need to stay where they are. Australia has made this very clear to immigrants to their country and we should certainly do the same. No more appeasement. They are free to practice their faith and cultural heritage but they must accept ours as well.

        • Add a bit about our principles having an increasing athiest/agnostic/mix of faiths, and I can support what you're saying hollinm.

          We have a pretty secular system and it should remain that way. But yeah, our stat holidays and the definitive installment of Christmas and Easter may give anyone the impression we are mainly Christian; but we are increasingly not.

    • Quebecers are seeing the harvest of their BLOC crop of MPs now.
      After 30 years of desire, no government had the courage to bring in a National Securities Regulator,
      because of Quebec's out right resistance to it. But that was when Quebecers sent Federalists into government.

      With just afew Liberal and Conservative MPs sitting in Parliament to represent Quebec's interests,
      the BLOC cries are ignored, and finally, Canada get's what's good for Canada.
      You reap what you sow Quebecers.
      When you bring spam to a pot luck supper,
      you're gonna be the only one eating it.

  9. I think the conserv atives have made just the right amount of noise about how dysfunctional parliament has become to justify calling an election at the start of September.

    The only thing in the way is a smoothly run G-20. And throwing a billion dolalrs at it certainly won't hurt the odds of it going off smoothly.

    • Dan……Critics are trying to compare the security costs of this G8 and G20 summits with others. That is grossly unfair given the fact that we are holding two summits back to back. Nobody knows whether the cost is too high or whether it is necessary. However, if something untoward happened the government would be seriously crticized. Like the H1N1 hysterics this will prove to be another tempest in a teapot.
      Let Fraser and Page look at the costs but are they expert enough to say what was spent was unjustified. I don't think so.

      What scares Iffy and the Libs is that Harper is going to be front and centre in both summits and will be in front of the cameras virtually everyday looking prime ministerial while Iffy vacations in France. Harper will do the country proud thus further cementing in the public's mind that he is the PM and deserves to continue to be PM whenever the election is called.

      Harper is not going to force an election. The longer Iffy remains leader of the Liberals Harper will continue to rise in the polls and the Libs fall. He does have a de facto majority now. Its messy but it is better than forcing Canadians to the polls when they are clearly saying no.

      • "Harper is going to be front and centre in both summits and will be in front of the cameras virtually everyday"

        Judging from Harper's past performance at summits, I take it a big portion of the $1B is going towards installing cameras in the loo?

    • Dysfuncional and who is causing all this dysfunction. Seens to me Harper wrote the book on disruption rather effectively. I will have to give hm that, it is his strength. Again we deserve the government we get and if Canadians find incompetence, obnoxious, bellicose, deceptive right-wing evangelicals acceptable in government than so be it.

  10. I think all the political parties have reached their potential and that we now need to make a complete change and renew our electoral system in order to make any meaningful and valuable policy changes for this country. We are at a deadlock, we have become hijacked by partisanship on steroids and this has brought out the insanity and irresponsibility of those we have elected to act sanely and responsibly on our behalf. These parties, as they stand represent so few of the citizens of this country that pounding through legislation to make their mark on this country is going to create more divisions that could escalate into a revolution if not civil war. I can see this happening if we do not make a concerted effort to make some very thoughtful and decisive changes to our institutions.

    • Think, thinkhard……there may be an argument for proportional representation or some variation. However, my understanding is that the proposals in B.C. and Ontario required names of political hacks to be picked from a list provided by the parties and the parties picked who they want to be an MP.

      I don't think Canadians are interested in parties picking future MPs from a list of hacks. So they have to come up with a more practical way of electing MPs with perceived partisanship and pork barrelling.

    • "I think all the political parties have reached their potential"

      Umm, only if we're talking about the Peter Principle.

  11. The Liberals' problems, in no particular order:

    – The united right. The Conservatives, in 2008, got exactly the same percentage of votes as the Alliance and PCs got in 2000 (put together). They have a solid base of about 30% of the electorate; the first-past-the-post system ensures a solid bedrock of Conservative seats, in which they could run anybody at all and win. (Case in point: Rob Anders, who probably still believes that Nelson Mandela is a terrorist.)
    – The Bloc. Historically, Quebec was a solid Liberal base. Even now, the Liberals are likely to be Quebec voters' second choice; however, Quebec voters don't have to make a second choice.
    – The Greens. They are more likely to poach votes from the Liberals or NDP than from the Conservatives. (The Conservative environmental policy seems to consist of three words: "Pump more oil.")
    – Attack ads. Whenever the Liberals elect or appoint a new leader, the Conservatives immediately launch a blizzard of carefully targeted advertising whose goal is to reinforce voters' perceptions of the leader's weakness, taking advantage of the human brain's tendency to believe that things are true when they are repeated often enough. (Ignatieff, from what I've read, isn't particularly arrogant, and isn't particularly "in it for himself", though he is somewhat out of touch – but we've been preconditioned to believe certain things because they have been pounded into our heads repeatedly. I am not a fan of Ignatieff, by the way.)

    My point is that today's Liberals face challenges that Chretien's Liberals did not.

    • "(Ignatieff, from what I've read, isn't particularly arrogant"

      Then why did he plainly state in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph in 1997 that, quote, "I am horribly arrogant and sure of myself?"

      And why did he write that about himself in his own book Blood and Belonging?

      Man, you guys suck. Can we get a better quality of Liberal commenter around here?

      • Boogard, you obviously did not read what Out There said; or you did, but just wanted to attach your comment somewhere.

        By the way are you the same as you were when you were a teenager? That Ignatieff quote was 13 years ago for flip sakes! Get current will you.

    • So the challenge, in other words, is that they have opponents who exist and try to beat them. I'm going to guess that will continue, so they should be thinking about ways to deal with it.

    • 'Conservatives immediately launch a blizzard of carefully targeted advertising'

      yes they do, and why do the Liberals not do the same thing, fight fire with fire, but instead stand back and whine about it?
      In the Chretien/Martin years, the Libs were the attackers of new Reform/Alliance/Conservative leaders.
      Why is this crop of Dion/Iffy Liberals whiners rather than fighters?

      • Wilson…..its because they are broke and despite their denials the coffers are empty.

        Dion/Iffy are effete academics who would rather whine than put up a credible argument as to why they should be elected. While in power it was the bureaucrats who thought up policy. Now that the Libs are out of power they have no new ideas of their own so we get a policy vacum from them.

        For ads to work the public must see for themselves there is truth in the ad. Perception is reality. Canadians do think from how Iffy speaks etc. that he is arrogant. Given his flip flops they know he isn't in control of himself or his party. When he says to reporters in a press conference….do you get what I mean he is bascially saying I am smart and you are too stupid to get what I am saying.

      • the last piece of this puzzle is cash. THe conservatives have exploited the changes in fundraising laws and the liberals have not. Attack ads cost money and the liberals are sitting ducks, unable to be proactive or mount a counter attack cause they need the funds to fight the next election.

    • I do not know whether M Ignatieff is in it for himself or not. In the meantime, I am ready to give him the benefit of the doubt.

      That being said, he has not done a very good job in presenting a coherent rationale as to actually why he did enter politics in terms of what he wants to accomplish — other than a massive new daycare scheme.

      • TwoYen…..that's because he is just visiting. He never in his wildest dreams thought of becoming PM of Canada.

        The backroom boys in the Liberal party gave him a line of bull suggesting that Harper is hated and therefore he just has to come back and he can finish his resume off by becoming PM. In other words his vanity was appealed to and he came running back. However, Mr. Harper had a different idea and Iffy is now paying the price big time for his arrogance, his lack of political instincts and his ineffective leadership of the party.

    • Yeah. Like trying to convince people that a man who never went to law school doesnt deserve to be a leader of our country. Thats a real challenge. Indeed.

  12. Far be it for me, who can't stand Liberals, to give them advice, but I can't help noticing that when they campaign to the right and govern to the left, they win. They are stupidly trying to out left the NDP and the Bloc and the mushy middle (of which I'm a part) wants no part of that so has no place to go but the Conservatives. For all of Iggy/Dion's brains, neither one of them has any practical sense. By dodging left and letting folks like Dosanj and Rae (both hated former NDP premiers) position the Liberal party on leftist lines, he's alienating the mushy middle that the Liberals always managed to dominate. I'm no huge fan of Harper but even my 12 year old can see that Harper has figured out that you need to hang on to your base (for the conservatives it is the right and extreme right) but make enough overtures to the mushy middle to get them to come to you. Harper doesn't have to do much of that these days because Iggy/Rae and Co are pushing them to the Tories.

    • Huh? re: "they campaign to the right and govern to the left,"
      in what universe? care to cite some examples?

      as a oft disappointed Liberal voter I lament that the Liberal party gets elected when they can corral enough NDP votes at election time, then move to the center or even further right after getting elected

      • I guess you are so far to the left you don't realize it. Let's see, I'll pick an easy one for you. How about the Gun Registry. In no way would they ever get elected on that one… but the Urban Leftie crowd loves it. Or my personal favourite… making the nbr of weeks earned to qualify for EI 8-12 to qualify to get 40 on the dole. I guess those must seem like NeoCon policies to you.

      • when they campaign to the right and govern to the left, they win


        Is it Opposite Day and nobody told me?

    • At the least, you've provoked some of my thinking Silly. Of course, Ignatieff would be influenced by Rae and Dosanj, and certainly some of the key Liberal positions would seem slanted left. I too am part of the mushy middle, who would prefer some kind of balance, which I think the Liberals are more capable of achieving than the CPC.

    • That's funny, I would say the opposite is true. The Liberals in relatively recent years campaign left and govern right. The Liberals promised to introduce national daycare (1993, 2004), pharmacare (1997), increase gun control (1993), reform EI (1993), marijuana decriminalization (2004), implement the Kyoto accord (2004), and withdraw/renegotiate NAFTA (1993). None of these left-leaning proposals were ever implemented; the Liberals did cut public spending to eliminate the deficit, cut taxes, reduced the debt, etc. They did some left-leaning stuff too, of course, but the major things that Chretien at least will be remembered for are things that are generally associated with the right (and a tidbit of corruption, which is common to both sides).

      In this case, I think the Liberals are far better off tacking right, though, simply from a strategic point of view. Taking a single vote from the Conservatives does them far more good than taking multiple votes from the other opposition parties. Considering how poor of a job Harper has been at fiscal management, the Liberals could probably make a pretty good appeal to the former PC fiscal conservatives to jump ship.

  13. It's a bit curious to see Chretien so smug about securing majorities, given that the division on this country's right handed him almost all of Ontario's 100 seats in every election campaign he ran. It should also be noted that Mulroney's majorities were much bigger.

    • The big M got big majorities – and his legacy was a two-seat party that got bargained away to the radical right by a fraudulent McKay.

      The big M not only played footsie with separatists, he had them sitting around the cabinet table plotting Canada's destruction from inside the corridors of power… giving rise to the Bloc. Fortunately, savior Jean (and Dion) contained the separatist threat and rendered the Bloc into an almost quaint regional party that allows nationalists to vent steam (as opposed to an being an existentialist threat) . Ironically this regional hump is saving us from the majority so coveted by Harper and his minions.

      • Yeah, it's funny how quickly conservatives forget how much easier it is to get a huge majority when you've got no BQ because Lucien Bouchard is in the federal Cabinet.

        • Wow, didn't realize my comments would evoke such defensive responses from some. In fact, I wasn't making any kind of grand judgements on either man's legacy. I was merely pointing out that I find Mr. Chretien's smugness on the issue of majorities to be somewhat unwarranted. After all, I don't see Mulroney walking around as though he won some kind of fake measuring contest. Cough.

          • I don't think Mulroney is in much of a position to brag. What with him accepting hundreds of thousands from a now-convicted felon for services that cannot be verified to have been rendered.

          • and that has what to do with being smug about majorities? Geez.

          • Andrew….careful Andrew. There is no crime in accepting cash payments. However, it is questionable when the funds are not reported properly to CRA. However, Mulroney apparently has made them happy so there is no story there.
            It does seem unseemly but hardly illegal. It will take a better man than Shcreiber to prove any illegality on the part of the former PM. Even the CBC who spent 20 years trying to "get" Mulroney on airbus failed miserably.

          • I'm being careful to stay on the right side of libel laws. Suffice to say that nothing illegal was proven to have occurred. I think we all have a pretty good idea what happened there. You can give him the benefit of the doubt if you like, but some might call that naive.

      • Not that Paul Martin bears no personal responsibility, but Chretien hardly handed his successor the keys to party in pristine condition either. BothChretien and Mulroney stepped down because they new a day of reckoning was coming.

        • "knew"

        • I agree. I think there's a tendency of Chretien and/or his supporters to blame everything on Martin, and of Mulroney and/or his supporters to blame Kim Campbell for a collapsed legacy.

  14. I don't suppose there's another way to print election speculation but an article based on what Kory Teneycke and unnamed "senior Conservatives" have to say isn't exactly iron clad information.

    Teneycke has shown he will say whatever he needs to win for his side strategically and who knows what game the unnamed sources are up to?

    • tobyornotoby……sounds like wistful thinking.

  15. What is Harper thinking?

    CPC 36-38
    Liberal 24-28
    NDP 14-16

    Bob Rae is the gift that keeps on giving.

    The Coalition is being formed around the Left. Basically the Liberals taking over the NDP party.

    Trouble with that is there are at least 50% of the Liberals that are centrists and a significant portion that are supporters and beholding to Big Business and Big Banks and could never vote socialist.

    NO CPC will be bled to the Socialist coalition
    NO NDP will leave the Socialist coalition
    at least 20% of the Liberal 25% will go straight to the CPC.
    at most 50% of the Liberals go to the socialist coalition


    CPC 41-43%
    Socialist 28-30%
    Undecided ex-Liberals 8%

    Oops that is CPC Majority 19 times out of 20

    • I agree. There is even some evidence. When the original coalition was formed, Conservative support in the polls shot up to 43%.

      I disagree that no NDP will leave the socialist coalition. There are a sizeable number of NDP whose second choice is the Cons. There was a poll done a long time ago that polled second choices and showed this.

      • I don't think any NDP will leave as the coalition will be taking 90% of the NDP agenda as the Liberals really don't have any stances to negotiate in the coalition.

        As well the Liberal leaders Rae / Dosanjh that are pushing for the coalition are basically returning to their home base. They are just Liberals of convenience to get what they thought was a short cut to power.

        The other good thing (from a CPC PoV) if the Liberals have enough of a sane anti-coalition backroom power base they will tell Rae to cease and desist. What does Rae do when they rein him in again? A semi-honourable man would lead Dosanjh , Kennedy, Dryden, and Dion into the NDP party.

        Rae is being played like a puppet by openly coming out and supporting the coalition. That genie is becoming more and more difficult to push back in the bottle.

    • I agree with your sentiments, but you are overstating your case in a way that diminishes your credibility. Under 15% of NDP'ers and Liberals consider the Tories to be their second choice (http://www.ekospolitics.com/index.php/2008/10/daily-tracking-final-numbers/). Most either have no second choice (many of whom will change their mind), or have a second choice preference for left wing parties – the Greens, NDP or Bloc (65% of all Liberals).

      A coalition could even be a political threat to the Tories if the NDP and Liberals cut non-compete agreements. By dividing up the country between them, the two parties could considerably improve their electoral efficiency. Dion was not stupid for making an agreement with Elizabeth May, he was stupid for making an agreement with May in just Central Nova.

      • 1) the poll you are using understated the CPC support the day before the election by 2.8 % Outside the MOE. EKOS is a bad pollster. Not an opinion just a fact.

        2) even in this 1 out of 20 out-lier poll the second choice of Liberals was CPC 18.8 % (I used 20%) and NDP 33.9% ( I used 50%) I am not even taking 1% of the 15.2% of the NDP that have CPC as 2nd choice. They don't have any reason to move away from a clearly socialist coalition.

        Your post points out that I have errored on the side of caution in predicting the size of the CPC margin over the socialist coalition.

        PS don't put "( )" around a link as it makes it hard to use.

      • hoser…..if the Libs/NDP try to divide up the country in a non aggression pact the reaction of Canadians will be swift and not in their favour. There is something undemocratic about parties not willing to stand on their own for election and let the electors decide. Besides where would the non agression pact be…..downtown Toronto. There is not much support for the NDP in Quebe and the West other than Vancouver for the NDP.

        Iffy is going to have to come clean upfront on whether he supports a coalition/legal framework with the NDP after an election. If he doesn't the Conservatives will pound the coalition threat for all they are worth during a campaign and that will be the focus of the campaing. No policy will matter other than the discussion of the coalition.

        • A curious comment, given the NDP's seats on Vancouver Island and in Southern Interior and Skeena. They're competitive elsewhere on the Island and in places like Surrey and Kamloops.

  16. So many sad little Liberal posters bemoaning the decline of their party. Makes me happy.

  17. Puzzlingly, Wells turns a blind eye to the dreaded(?) “C” word, as if Coalition wasn’t a real, even likely outcome of the next election.

    Wells overstates Harper’s strength & underestimates the opposition’s very real strength.
    Harper owns the right wing. The right vote is no longer split. Even with this seemingly ideal situation, Harper remains unable to muster a majority of seats or votes. He’s the chronic go-it-alone, minority man, incapable of attaining majority, or of cooperating with other parties in a coalition of his own. He delivers Canadians uncertainty & unstable gov’t.
    In this sense, Harper looks weak, not strong.

    Wells paints the situation as “Iggy vs. Harper”, but with coalition on the table, the REAL scenario is
    right vote vs. the left vote. When you view the contest in this way, the opposition (Libs+NDP+Bloc) looks very strong indeed. The left is not weak, it is much stronger than the self- isolated Tories.
    The opposition commands a parliamentary majority & represents a majority of voters. Tories do not.
    In this sense, the opposition is much stronger than Tories.
    The left is merely split, not weak. And fortunately, there’s a sure cure for this split, that will allow the opposition to finally capitalize on & manifest their undeniable strength It’s COALITION! It’s their ace-in-the-hole, so to speak.

    I’m amused at the pervasive meme among pundits that Iggy’s “weak” & a “loser”.
    And here I thought pundits were perceptive & sagacious & able to see below the veneer!
    Apparently they are thicker than I thought.
    ‘Cause Iggy’s “weakness” is his hidden strength, a blessing in disguise. Why? Because Iggy’s lacklustre poll #s force Libs to face reality: i.e. Coalition’s the only viable path for Iggy to oust Harper from 24 Sussex Dr. Iggy’s. This means Libs are more likely to view coalition as an imperative, & get serious about planning for it.
    Iggy’s “weakness” makes coalition much more likely to happen. Bad news for Harper.

    So long as the opposition can keep Harper to another mere plurality minority, coalition’s virtually in the bag! Short of majority, Harper cannot stop it next time. He has good reason to fear. This is why he’s revived the C-word fear mongering campaign. He realizes coalition’s likely to do him in, that he’s a PM on borrowed time.

    With all the Tory scandal, embarrassment & polarization (think abortion) this year, the prospects of Tories managing to take their game to a new level & gain majority is far fetched indeed. Therefore a Lib-NDP coalition, Bloc supported, is a near certainty.

    Hello Prime Minister Ignatieff & Deputy PM Layton!

    • Prime Minister Ignatieff & Deputy PM Layton!

      Are you a CPC plant!! That one line says why Harper is comfortable leaving the Liberals time to get this coaltion off the ground.

    • your coalition dream would work if the bloc were not required to form a clear majority. as long as they are, there is simply no chance of any such coalition being able to govern… ie, agree on policies, budgets, etc, and actually vote them through. so the question becomes, can the liberals and ndp gain that kind of support? the answer is: only if they can take quebec. and the bloc will take quebec as per usual.

      also, you should be aware that "hidden strength" ignatieff is busy swearing up and down that he would never ever ever agree to a coalition. but i have to agree with you on this one: iggy is as big a liar as they come, so coalition is at the very least, a possibility.

      • not to mention that it's electoral poison. The LIbs/ NDP don't have enough support (with the solid Conservative flloor) to form government. The Bloc is a neccessary ingredient. Canadians find that anathema and it would very quickly become the ballot question. They showed that by giving nearly 45% in the opinion polls to the C's immediately following the coalition of losers debacle. Paired with a reviving economy, it's an open and shut result.

    • ''Coalition's the only viable path for Iggy to oust Harper from 24 Sussex ''

      Absolutely, positively a true statement.

      The LPC must accept defeat.
      Liberals can not win, so they must 'arrange' for Ignatieff to be paracuted into 24 Sussex.
      The seduction of the NDP into the 'arrangement' being Dippers get to serve themselves up a half dozen cabinet positions,
      something that Canadians will never do,
      if asked.

      • wilson demonstrates how rattled the Cons are by the coalition suggestion. What's happening in Britain is obviously seen as a threat to them.

        • What happened in Britian was the experts calling a Labour-LibDem govt a coalition of losers, and rejecting the idea as illegitimate.
          Spinning it as anything else is poppycock.
          FYI Cons supporters are excited about the next election, Conservative vs Coalition.
          It's the first time Harper get's to fight one opponent instead of 4.

          • I agree with you Wilson, they are handing Harper a majority on a silver tray!

    • Why would Layton be deputy PM? Duceppe will almost certainly win more seats than the NDP, and could conceivably want the spot for himself.

  18. For me, as a former Liberal, there are a number of reasons, and no I don't think it's something that can be fixed – at least in terms of Iggy. First of all, he was parachuted in by backroom dealmakers – NOT by any above board democratic process; someone, ANYONE, would have to be pretty superb, and go to GREAT LENGTHS to demonstrate his integrity, to overcome that huge first strike against him. His actions of appearing to support Dion while simultaneously throwing him under the bus reinforces that his character resonates for more to "backroom inclinations" than integrity (of which I've seen zero evidence by the way).

    Secondly, he (or his handlers) appears to be extremely narcissistic. Everytime I have the misfortune to go to a Liberal website (including the 150 conference) all I ever see are HUGE pictures of his face. Seems it's not only Harper who wants to be Emperor.

    • Thirdly, the fact that the LPC hasn't been in the least successful at weeding out the "backroom" boys who only worry about policy in terms of whether it can get them and their corporate friends power, rather than trying to actually govern for the good of Canada, represent its citizens, and make this a better place to live, doesn't allow me to "hold my nose" over the presence of Iggy and vote for the party.

      • I think you've got something Smith.

        This focus on the leader is a distraction. The Liberals continue to support the bulk of the government's bills and policies. The howling in QP is not enough to differentiate the Liberals from the Cons.

        IMHO, the decision to tack to right of centre was a mistake – true righties won't swing to them from the standing government and in any case they are not most Canadians. And the centre-to-left majority won't warm to them until they articulate policy that resonates. Given that, the messenger becomes less of a problem.

  19. The only flaw in this analysis is that Kory Teneycke says that Harper won't call an election anytime soon. Which makes this Sunday evening the most likely timing for an election call…

    • lol, yes it is time our media, as smart and articulate as some of them are,
      resign to the fact, there is no getting inside of Harper's head.

    • hey
      just how do you get a -42 point score???

      • I commented on a Mark Steyn article. My first comment has gotten voted down 235 times since yesterday, and the next four got me another 100 demerits. Impressive, isn't it? Hop over and vote if you like – I'm curious where this will end up.

        • If you want the lowest score possible I would recommend…
          1. Disagreeing with Mark Steyn in the Steyn posts
          2. Cheer-leading for Harper on the Wherry and Feschuk posts
          3. Coyne and Wells tend to get a mix, so you have to go by the title. Conservatives will tend to read the ones with good news for them, Liberals the ones with bad news.

          I believe that if you follow that basic formula, you can easily make it to -100, while making well-reasoned, substantive arguments.

          • Yes, I think I cheated a bit by calling Steyn an idiot – still minus 249 and climbing on a single comment is more extreme than anything I've seen on the other comment streams.

          • The Steyn article got Instalanched. (Instapundit.com, Glenn Reynolds' blog.)

            So you've got about ten thousand American conservatives an hour clicking through and reading the article. A bunch of them are logged in on WordPress and therefore can vote.

            And that's how you get your -250.

          • Heh. Indeed.

        • I think the problem is you assumed Steyn was writing for the general public. As is clear from his title, he was writing specifically for his audience.

  20. Further on coalition, Tory supporters will fear monger & claim “Canadians will simply not accept coalition!”
    But that’s strictly a rear view mirror view. It’s true coalition was unpopular last time it was proposed, but that was a different time & different situation. The situation’s changed. What’s changed?
    -Britain is showing us coalition’s perfectly legit & non-scary. Even desirable, as instead of an uncertain unstable minority as we have in Canada today, Britain’s coalition is delivering stable gov’t in a formal 5 year deal.

    -Many Canadians opposed coalition last time partly out of sheer, inexcusable ignorance of how our system works, aided & abetted by a sleazy Tory disinfo campaign. This time around, Canadians will have the British example, plus more time to learn facts:
    (Parliamentary lesson for today):
    We elect MPs not PMs. Parliament decides how it wants to form gov’t, not voters.Contrary to Harper’s cynical disinfo campaign, winning a mere plurality minority does not give a party an automatic right to assume power. By sheer circumstance & luck , Tories have gotten away with a minority gov’t, for too long a time, only because the opposition has grudgingly supported them – NOT because voters gave Tories a plurality minority! Majority rules Parliament, always. The opposition majority can decide to cooperate an form a coalition gov’t . This is their constitutional right.

    -Many Canadians are growing tired of Harper (he can’t get near the 40%+ he needs for majority), &
    tired of the instability of minority gov’t. Coalition will mean a cooperative stable gov’t again.

    -Red-baiting about the “evil” socialist NDP won’t fly any more. Layton’s NDP will junior partner to the Libs, i.e. Lib policies will dominate. Anything resembling radical socialist will be off the table.
    Plus, polls show voters largely trust Jack Layton as a reasonable & desirable leader. Contrary to Tory spin, he is not feared as some “dangerous fanatic” liable to expropriate & nationalize your house,car & all your toys!

    Perhaps the best argument against the “voters won’t accept coalition!” gnashing of teeth is that , short of (an unlikely) majority, Harper cannot stop coalition. Voters will have spoken, by giving the left vote yet another majority (Libs+NDP+Bloc votes = a clear majority). As long as the opposition signals before the election that coalition’s a possibility (which it will), voters will have been fairly warned. So, a formal multi-year coalition deal will be signed & coalition will go ahead, quite legitimately (contrary to the demonizing screams & disinfo Tories wil be spewing).

    Coalition will be a done deal. Voters will have 2, 3, 4 or 5 years to get used to their new Lib-NDP coalition, Bloc supported.
    So voters will get a chance to experience coalition gov’t 1st hand. We’ll have LOTS of time, years, to find out whether “Voters won’t accept it”, or not!
    …But I predict that after a few years of coalition gov’t,most Canadians will view Harper’s confrontational, uncooperative, power-abusing, unstable minority as a distant, unpleasant memory, and will have come to LOVE cooperative, stable Lib-NDP coalition gov’t!

    • you're dreaming in technicolour Hermes. The Bloc is anthema in the ROC. Furthermore, any thought of Layton as trusted and a good leader will evaporate as soon as Canadians consider that there is a possibility, no matter how remote, that he gets a role in government. It would be like giving a toddler control of tractor trailer rig – socialist mayhem.

    • Canadians are not against the concept of a coalition, they are against the CONTENT of particular coalitions. The NDP-LIberal-Bloc alliance was clearly a nonstarter in most of the country (as a PC-Alliance-Bloc-NDP coalition/alliance would have been).

      An NDP-Liberal coalition would have less support than either the NDP or Liberals running independently of one another. For some NDP'ers a coalition would be a sellout of NDP principles. Such voters would be more likely to turn to either the Green party, or to not vote. There is a reason NDP'ers don't already vote Liberal.

      For some Liberals, a coalition would bring serious doubts about the management of the country. Many Liberals I have talked to admire the NDP for its principles, but wouldn't trust dippers to run a lemonade stand. Other Liberals are relatively conservative, ideologically. For instance, there are a reasonable number of Ontario Liberals that voted for Mike Harris provincially (look at their poll numbers and the ridings they hold). Those Liberals are likely to switch to the Conservative party.

      A coalition should be a non-starter for the simple reason that the coalition being proposed is not electable, nor does it have enough support as it stands to win more seats than the Tories.

      What the Liberals should start thinking about is a merger (and with the Greens before the NDP). A merger would cost the party support, no doubt, but it would increase the electoral efficiency of the ensuing alliance.

    • Sorry, Hermsacat – the election in Britain set two precedents. One, that the party that wins a majority of seats is acceptable when combined with a second party; two, that separatist parties should not form part of a coalition as the very fact they are for the breakup of the country does not provide stable government. If we accept the fact that stable government is the definition we are looking for, the losers and the separatists are not liable to form one. Gordon Brown attempted to hang onto power but he realized that after losing the government, forming a coalition with the third losing party with the prop up of the Scottish Nationlist Party would not go over with the English, let alone the British. He had the good sense not to pursue when Nick Clegg turned him down as he realized the Lib-Dems and Labour still did not have a majority. The Rainbow Coalition (including the SNP) would not provide stable government.

    • If the Liberals and NDP manage to collect a majority of seats between them, the coalition goes ahead. Harper will still likely have right of first refusal since it's very doubful that the Liberals will pick up more seats that the Conservatives will, although the opposition would presumably force the issue if a two-party coalition was in the cards. Three party probably isn't–otherwise, there probably would have been a vote of non-confidence already, and even if they go ahead, they could really get pummeled in the following election if the Bloc starts flexing its muscles.

      Honestly, the strongest and most stable coalition would be Liberal-Conservative. The parties are close enough in policy that it wouldn't be that hard to make a go of it; the Libs are far closer to the Cons than the NDP or the Bloc on most practical matters.

  21. Hermesacat says "So long as the opposition can keep Harper to another mere plurality minority, coalition's virtually in the bag! Short of majority, Harper cannot stop it next time. He has good reason to fear. This is why he's revived the C-word fear mongering campaign."

    Hermes admits that a minority win by the conservatives WILL bring about the coalition. But if Harper points out this, he is fear mongering.

    This foreshadows the next election campaign. It will be about the coalition, but the Liberals will try to deflect any way they can. Example: Hermes ever so nuanced (stupid) statement above.

  22. Aside from the electoral redistribution mentioned by Wells, there is another reason that time is on the Conservatives' side: Canadians are inherently averse to change. This was Harper's biggest obstacle when he first won in 2006. The thinking (and spin) at the time from the LPC/media was that this was a brief blip in their electoral history, that Canadians were just getting Adscam out of their system, and that the Liberals would be reelected in short order and return to their post as Canada's Natural Governing Party.

    Harper was a "Scary Guy", remember? Not electable. Better the devil you know than the one you don't. I lost count of how many times I heard this from colleagues, friends, and family.

    Every year that Harper remains in office is another blow to that meme. He becomes the status quo, the non-scary guy who has been in power for years while the Apocalypse has somehow failed to materialize despite all the dire predictions. He becomes more Prime Ministerial, if that means anything, and he wins the support of those who vote based on image rather than policy.

    For the Liberals, it's damned if you do and damned if you don't. If they go into an election and Harper wins a majority, they'll be in the political wilderness for years. But the longer they wait, the better his chances are of winning that majority when the writ inevitably drops.

    • The more I see of Harper, the more he scares me. Harper, if he wins a majority, will likely:

      – Cut public funding to political parties, thus crippling democracy and giving parties supported by the rich a distinct advantage;

      – Increase funding for the police, the military and prisons while decreasing funding for social programs;

      – Ignore the environment completely (Conservatives, deep down, don't believe that humans can affect the climate);

      – Heedlessly run up deficits if it is to their political advantage to do so;

      – Become even more secretive than they currently are;

      – Attempt to stack the Senate with loyal Conservatives, thus rendering it useless as a chamber of sober second thought (this might not quite work, as some supposedly Conservative Senators have become more independent upon appointment).

      This doesn't even count any possible attempts to impose a Reform-style social conservative agenda (such as restricting access to abortion, or capital punishment). Or any aspects of Harper's personality (I, for one, don't want to be governed by someone who seems to be angry all of the time).

      He might seem like a non-scary guy to you, but all of that sure scares me.

      (Also, this talk of an inevitable Conservative majority is a rhetorical tool.)

      • "Cut public funding to political parties, thus crippling democracy and giving parties supported by the rich a distinct advantage;"

        Unless Harper also plans to do away with the caps on personal donations to political parties, I don't see how being rich matters. A more fitting description would be "…giving parties supported by those willing to put their money where their mouth is a distinct advantage;"

        • People who are struggling to get by can't afford to give any money to a political party, cap or no cap.

          If the choice is between, say, supporting the progressive politician of their choice or saving for retirement, the prudent option is the latter.

    • Gaunilon is no fool.

      • Never overestimate a man's intelligence just because he's phenomenally good looking. Word to the wise, my friend.

    • I suppose you had a sudden lapse of memory when there was a NDP induced scandal surrounding Paul Martin in the run up to the election. Something to do with:..an…income…trust…s-c-c-cand-al?

      People of Canada are afraid of change is hogwash. People are afraid to see someone they love and support suddenly demonized.

      Oh no I get it, blow hard Martin was always the hated one wasnt he?

      BTW, theres a way to spell adverse with a 'D' you know, smart guy!

      • BTW, theres a way to spell adverse with a 'D' you know, smart guy!

        Was that a bad joke, or do you need to look up "averse" in a dictionary?

    • Well said, Gaunilon. Although I deplore personality politics, Harper has done a very good job becoming the official face of Canada as a nation. And since he's such milquetoast, there's definitely little perceived risk in staying with him at 24 Sussex Drive.

  23. It's very interesting that the parts of the country that are growing the fastest are also the ones that predominantly support the Conservatives. That says something very profound about both our politics and our society.

    • I'm not sure that I agree with this assessment.

      As I see it, the parts of the country that are growing fastest are the cities and the oil patch. The city cores are the least Conservative parts of the country (though some of the new suburbanites tend to oscillate between Conservative and Liberal, at least in Ontario). The oil patch is, of course, resolutely Conservative.

      But it's not as if Kory Teneycke is exactly an unbiased observer of the Canadian political scene – he's an out-and-out Conservative. (On the Socialist CBC, even!) I take anything he says with a fairly large quantity of salt.

      • It depends upon your definition of a city. The Tories dominate in Canada's medium-sized cities and do well in the suburbs of Vancouver and Toronto. The growth in Canadian cities isn't in the core (which can't grow much more anyhow), it is in the Toronto surburbs, where the Conservatives are competitive. Since 1991 the population of the GTA rose by 1.3 million. The population of the city of Toronto only rose by 225,000. The one city that truly is a barren wasteland for the Tories is Montreal. However, the Liberal heartland on the Island of Montreal is actually in decline in terms of population.

    • Support for fast growing BC for the Conservatives is exactly like forcing someone to take a suppository. Its hardly the epoch of profundity to make immigration regimes and schemes more attractive to people "likely" to vote Tory. This is called vote buying! But as about as "interesting" as the pick apart leaving a carcass attempt to salvage anything from the gun registry.

  24. In 2006 Harper won 25% of the vote in Quebec and approximately 39.7% in the ROC. In 2008, Harper won 21% in Quebec and about 43.3% in the ROC, making big gains in Ontario and the Maritimes. The coalition crisis has widened that gap even further.

    Contrary to the argument that the road to majorityville goes through Quebec, however, this is not necessarily bad news. Harper's support in Quebec is not very electorally efficient, being concentrated largely around Quebec city. If 20% of Bloc supporters voted Tory instead (making the Tories and Bloc roughly tied for support in Quebec) Harper would only gain about 7 seats. By contrast, if just 10% of Liberals in Ontario switched to voting Tory Harper would gain about 12 seats.

    As Harper's support becomes more concentrated in the ROC, it becomes more electorally efficient, and more ideologically cohesive. In Harper's first term he essentially tried to replicate the Mulroney coalition of soft nationalist Quebec, western conservatives and traditional Tories elsewhere. The approach failed, however, once the opposition began to exploit the ideological divide between Harper's Quebec supporters and western supporters (the same divide that led to Mulroney's ultimate collapse).

    • The Conservatives' dream is to one day have a majority government without representation from Quebec or Toronto. And without having to actually explain what it is they plan to do with all that unchecked power.

    • Note too that in the last 2 elections (and by elections) the BLOC has lost a few seats to federalists.
      That trend will continue, when Quebers see their BLOC MPs can no longer 'bring home the bacon'.
      case in point
      the National Securities Regulator, 30 years in the making, about to become a reality

  25. What's funny in all of this coalition talk is the assumption that every Liberal would move to the 'coalition of the left'.

    Newsflash kids – a good chunk of the Liberal support comes from centrists. Fiscal conservatives who are socially liberal. And if they look at the track record of the last few years of Tory government (the real track record, as opposed to the fairy-tale Harper=eeeeevil track record most of the deluded on this board would try to talk about) they'll see that while the country has moved right towards the Tories, the Tories have move towards the centre.

    You're going to see a bunch of those Blue Grits (and they're out there, I know a few) saying "Well, I'm not a fan of Harper, but letting the NDP have any power over taxation scares me a hell of a lot more".

    Many of us fiscally conservative, socially liberal Tories are looking forward to it.

    • You should really take a look at what the NDP actually does while in power at the provincial level.

    • …which is precisely why the Tories will pick up a big chunk of seats in the 905 area code n the next election.

    • Re: "fiscally conservative, socially liberal Tories"

      Haven't you heard? Both those descriptions are now unallowed behaviour in the Conservative party.

    • Many of us fiscally conservative, socially liberal…

      … people should maybe start up a political party or something!

      • … or perhaps we could just resurrect the old PROGRESSIVE Conservative Party of Canada. If THAT party were still around they would have been in majority territory long ago.

        My vote is for Peter MacKay as the stupidest man in Canadian history. Either that, or the most duplicitous. It takes some set of **** to sign an agreement with David Orchard that gives him the leadership under the agreement that he will never merge with "CRAP", and then immediately make a bee-line for Stephen Harper.

    • So youre saying a slight majority of so called right tilting Liberals will sacrifice a shred of idealism so long as they dont have to be seen camping with Layton? Good luck with that I mean it. You should know, or someone should gently tap your shoulder just as a helpful reminder that capital 'L' Liberal social policies are so at odds with your fiscally conservative "measures" that all it will take are a few government department cuts, tax breaks to corporations and a hey::))))))) a reduced deficit!! to bring about the sea change necessary to bring a little rosiness to the cheeks of Canadians again. Since the media wont be filling in and are avowed to keep silence like omerta is to the mafia, we Liberals will work twice as hard at bringing the message to the people: town hall meetings, group discussions, petitions, everything that makes a country truly democratic:)

  26. Rick cited my post in order to create a non-issue & straw man he, stupidly, can call “stupid”!

    If he’d read my posts more carefully, he’d see I’m not faulting Harper for simply mentioning that opposition coalition threatens. That’s not what I refer to by Harper’s C-word fear-mongering.

    No. I’m concerned about the DISINFORMATION Harper spewed before & will spew again ABOUT coalition in his fear-mongering campaign. (See my prior posts for examples of Harper’s disinfo. he has used to try to put the fear into voters).
    To answer another point: the “Separatists at the gate!” fear mongering about coalition.
    That reminds me, in my last post, I could have included this point re. “What’s changed now” vs. the time of the previous coalition proposal:

    -Harper fear-mongered that the separatists are at the gate & implied they would be active coalition partners. But next election, voters will have more time, despite Harper’s disinfo, to get facts straight:
    The Bloc will NOT be part of the coalition, it will merely SUPPORT a Lib-NDP coalition, by formally agreeing to give its confidence for a specific period of time. There will be no Bloc cabinet ministers. Duceppe ruled that out last time. It will be a Lib-NDP coalition, NOT a Lib-NDP-Bloc one. The Bloc will have no more influence or veto power than it has now under Tory minority gov’t.
    Re. the notion “centrist” Lib voters will flee Libs at the mere thought of “Deputy PM Layton” (eek!), & that fiscal conservative social liberals who might vote Liberal will be scared away by pinko “Comrade Jack” & will run into the arms of Steve!

    NDP will be the junior partner, which means Lib policies will dominate. No extreme socialist legislation will have a chance. Iggy himself is often viewed as a centrist, not a lefty-Liberal.

    Furthermore, I question the theory social liberals who are economic conservatives will migrate from the Libs to Cons over coalition fears. Especially now that Harper has so severely alienated social liberals this year with his abortion ban to aid for 3rd world women, which only serves to put women’s lives at risk, as 3rd world health experts & most other western nations keep telling us.

    Social liberals are appalled Harper would risk poor women’s lives in order to pander to his extreme
    evangelical base. Another example is Harper’s mid-east policy of Israel-can do-no-wrong-even-when-it-drops-cluster-bombs-&-white-phosphorus-on-civilians. Unlike Harper, social liberals tend to believe Palestinians & Israel’s neighbors have territorial & human rights just like Israelis have. What a concept!
    Such a one-sided Tory policy, again pandering to evangelicals, as well as to the hawkish Jewish vote, infuriates & alienates social liberals from Harper’s Tories.

    Arguably, Harper’s done more to alienate social liberals in the last few months than ever before, which makes it very questionable that centrist social libs/fiscal conservatives who voted Lib last time, will switch to Tories next time.

    I think a more likely outcome is just the reverse: Namely, fiscal con/social Libs who voted Con last time may feel sufficiently sickened by Harper’s 3rd world aid & other extreme social con policies, that their consciences won’t allow them to hold their noses & vote Tory, just be cause Lib-NDP coalition’s a possibility.
    …Which reminds me, I’m surprised at Tory voters who, despite all evidence to the contrary, still have this unshakable fantasy a Tory gov’t will somehow deliver their cherished “fiscal prudence”. Never have, never will.
    Mulroney & Harper have both proved to be Big Spenders,NOT fiscal conservatives. As reckless with money as a drunken sailor on a cocaine, whiskey, & busty hooker binge!
    Face fiscal cons., the ONLY gov’t of modern times with balls & competence to be financially responsible & slay deficits was the Chretien Liberals with Martin as Finance Minister.
    Federal Tories talk a fiscal conservative line, but never deliver.
    So, judging by historical track records, fiscal cons have a better chance of getting fiscal prudence out of Liberals than Tories! Wake up.

    • I think the main reason previous CPC voters would vote for the Liberals would be due to the aweful abuse of power by the PMO and the serious threats to our Parliament and democracy. Unfortunately, I don't think many Conservatives will move from their stances on abortion; I have more hope for the Israel debate.

  27. Newsflash: Conservative party flack Kory Teneycke thinks the Conservatives and Harper are great and have a solid chance to hold power well into the future. This isn't exactly earth-shattering stuff, Wells. A weak, unbalanced column relative to your usual standards.

    • This isn't exactly earth-shattering stuff, Wells. A weak, unbalanced column relative to your usual standards.

      Every time Wells writes a column that points out that Harper is likely to stay in power for quite some time, you dismiss it as "weak".

      • Every hard hitting comment posted on this board pointed at Harper that doesnt engage in foot massaging is deleted.
        If this remains the status quo, censorship will accepted broadly as a way of limiting opinion. Weakness has its rewards when you are at the feet of a leader and sycophants are usuaully the first in line. If you expected more, write your own critiique and dont reply on handouts from Macleans.

  28. Dear God

    Please give us not a TheoCon Majority for we know that they will force out of their caves all their fervent Apostles of Republicanism and allow the Tea Parties in Ottawa, with gross baby fetuses and "keep our women pregnant and barefoot" posters, to have Dominion over us!

    We have witnessed what our American cousins have suffered through from the time of Reagan's "Less Government if Better" ideology to the unimaginable horrors of Bush Jr.'s evangelical War on his own people and sovereign countries that did that moron no harm.

    We have witnessed what Mike Harris' bunch of Apostles of Less Government, Educational Revolt and Healthcare Demolition have "accomplished" in our hospital corridors and our drinking water.

    We have witnessed the insidious, slow-turning erosion of our democratic institutions (according to that "socialist" rag the Economist's January issue) and loss of human rights, misogynist policies directed to hurt and regress women's progress ordered by our Great Leader Steve Harper.

    We have witnessed and living through THE most regressive, abusive Parliament in our history and, if this pseudo-economist who denied we were in a financial meltdown Sept. '08, steals power and becomes our very own Mugage on the Hill, we shall surely suffer untold miseries and perhaps we will be that "socialist welfare country like North European ones" as Stephen described Canada to Fox News!

    Bless us with a strong Opposition that will defy the Cavemen on the Hill led by that a"Ruthless Tactician" (according to the Economist) that have for the last 4 years been slowly performing cultural hara-kiri on our Canadian nationalist psyche and destroying our democratic institutions while embarrassing Canadians to the rest of the world!


    • The Just for Laughs Festival is not for another couple of months, so remember to save your material.

      • More sad than funny, really, from my vantage point.

  29. I sincerely hope they do Dan. Canadians are not deaf or dumb like you and your chosen hero seem to think. Harper is not liked, will never win a majority and IMO, and might not even win a minority ever again. But dream on if that's what gets you through the day. Canadians in general do not like or trust Harper and he has only himself to blame for that.

    Canadians are not as short of common sense then you Con supporters are. The party who is dysfunctional in Parliament is the Reform-Con party who will not even talk sensible to the other 3 parties which hold a majority. I see you are guilty of drinking that blue Kool Aid. The Con agenda from day one is lie, twist the truth, spin and do all that they can to irritate the opposition. Remember, there will be a time when Canadians will say enough already and get you're a** out of our lives. Maybe they will protest and with hold the taxes they pay or maybe they will rebel in a violent way provoked by this inept party and their losers.If spending 1 billion dollars on a three day meeting is not disturbing to you, I think you had better give your head a shake because people like you do not deserve any respect

  30. “Beats the hell out of opposition. I don't think Harper's going to call an election on himself at this point in the mandate. I could see three years in, or something, going to the polls.” That would take this government to October—of 2011, not 2010.

    team harpie fans, did any of you actually care about ending snap elections? your leader, as was already obvious in 2008, clearly isn't arsed, not withstanding his 'principles' on the matter.

  31. Call me a romantic, but I kind of like the idea of fixed-term elections. Harper should wait out the full term if he can.

    I can understand that Harper needed to call an election last time to discredit Dion and his coalition of losers but there no such need now.

    Ignatieff is his own worst enemy. As long as Harper can continue to govern successfully with Ignatieff as opposition leader, he doesn't need an election.

  32. The "Liberal Loonies" are truly grasping at straws. Notice they don't like to talk about the Liberal/media generated "scandals" and "outrages" that went absolutely nowhere with Canadians. It's all about the Liberals finding a supposed "scandal", and letting their sheep in the media spin it to ridiculous proportions. The real challenge for the Conservatives is the media, and so far, thank goodnes, Canadians are wise to the game being played by the media. The media in Canada is, for the most part, pathetic.

  33. Your magazine is pure ridilicum! Chretien and Harper on the same page? League? Age category? What? Are you looking to patent 'absurdity' this early in the millennium? Were you even AT THE OFFICIAL UNVEILING OF THE PORTRAIT? Harper looked like a kid with his college sweater on BACKWARDS and he looke d and acted like felt just as comfortable.
    I could swear he was afraid his stomach was going to burst out of this throat and the stuffed polticat would show little yellow feathers showing through his gritted teeth! Clearly outclassed, and flanked by over 200 years of combined political experience, I hope he learns to LOOK FORWARD TO THOSE SPARSE OPPORTUNITIES TO DISPLAY some humility in the future. Chretien having served, capital s, his country for forty fucking years before he became a Prime Minister. And Harper is only the 2nd PM to have ever NOT gone to or attended law school. I hope these people that have built our world famous and widely respected country keep their gums ready for when they are needed, as to me, theres already a pasture for Mr Harper, its called your past political life and good luck on the lecture circuit! Still plenty of time in the new millenenium to work on your absurdity patent. Just report that Harper is one of 19 children and has faced some hardship and adversity in life. I bet you'll get it then

  34. I used to laud your magazine and now I find that since censorship is your best defence from hard nosed criticism, you truly deserve to have one less reader.

  35. "What Harper's thinking" is a contradiction of terms.

  36. I am curious what people's opinions are on what type of blowback Harper will get over the HST in Ontario and BC. I don't see Harper backing down to what I suspect he considers two bit nobodies like Bill Vander Zalm.

    When are Paul and Andrew going out to Vancouver as they promised when they did CPAC: The West is in now what. Will they have Bill Vander Zalm onstage.

  37. A low ceiling of what? About 80 IQ?

  38. Canadians must feel more comfortable with Harper because he's fat. Ignatieff needs to pack on a few pounds – he's too lean and healthy looking.

    • Reflects the population – Harper's doughboy looks.

  39. As long as the opposition parties have weak leadership and are disorganized Harper has de facto majority. Why anger voters by calling another expensive election?

  40. Harper zeros in in "Chretien knew what it takes to win" . Thats a dark age gone by Mr. P.M. – we want you there to work for us not to win for yourself – thats not PUBLIC service what Chretien called the 'noble' M.P. – although debatable how noble Mr.Chretien was.

  41. Why should he call an election! He is dealing with the important issues and letting the other parties wade through all the globby stuff and hanging themselves clumsily in the process. Go Harper!!!!

  42. It ain't gonna happen. Harper can't think on his feet, refuses to answer questions and uses cheat sheets during debates. The next election will throw Harper into the political cesspool of history and then this nightmare will be over.

  43. Interesting piece by Paul Wells. What no one has been able to offer analysis on is why the Conservatives continue to make long-term gains in polls despite every scandal/controversy that erupts. Surely anyone who follows politics in Canada even casually should view the government with a healthy dose of skepticism by now.

    Especially given Mr. Harper's promises about transparency and accountability, his secrecy and stonewalling should be clear violations of voters' trust. Perhaps it's just demographic shifts working for the Conservatives and against the Liberals, but you'd think the centrist party would have a larger political base (or floor) than what the Liberals are experiencing.

  44. The right wing Macleans strikes again. Why don't they rename the "magazine" so that it reflects the political bias which reeks throughout?

    Nice to see the "journalistic" integrity in calling Mr. Ignatieff "Iggy."