Little Fish in a Giant pond

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Looking on the bright side

Now that some of the dust has settled from the elections, I thought I'd take a minute to evaluate things.
Before I go any further, I want to make one thing perfectly clear. We Liberals lost these elections big time. It is our worse showing since Confederation. I am a strong believer that it never pays to quit when the going gets tough, but it is also equally important not to dillute one's self about the gravity of the situation.
Having said that, even though I have long since completed my studies at Ottawa U's History program, I remain a perpetual student of history, and I am particularly well acquainted with military history. As I examine the makeup of Canada's latest Parliament, I am reminded of the situation of the American Navy immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor. History is cruel and ironic and Pearl Harbor was no exception. The irony of the situation was that even though the aerial attack had left most of the American fleet under water, with few casualties for the Imperial fleet, the venture had also been a disaster for the Japanese.
As fate would have it (some conspiracy minded historians have argued that fate had nothing to do with it), both of the American Aircraft Carriers were away from Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack. Far more valuable in modern warfare than the battleships that were sunk in Pearl Harbor, the Carriers led the Americans to the victory at Midway, which turned the tide of the Pacific War against the Empire of the Sun. The Japanese also missed several important submarines and an oil refinery at Pearl Harbor.
The paralel here is that like Admiral Yamamoto, Prime Minister Harper has failed to strike the killing blow that he needed to survive. For the third consecutive election, Mr. Harper has failed to win a majority government. He has come close, but his chances of going any further are limited at best.
If you add up the votes collected by each of the Liberals, NDP, BQ, and Green, you get 61% of Canadians who did not vote for the Prime Minister. Now this worked fine politically for Jean Chrétien, because he was a centrist who could win votes on either side of the political spectrum. Harper can only attract the right. Since the Liberals swung pretty hard to the left under Dion's leadership, there isn't much room for the PM to grow. If his party lets him have another election (and I suspect they will), it will be his last chance to win a majority.
Not quite convinced? Think of it this way: 61% of Canadian voters want the government to live up to its Kyoto obligations. 61% of Canadian voters want a socially minded government. Stephen Harper can't offer this.
Rumour has it that Stéphane Dion is set to resign as leader of the Liberal Party tomorrow afternoon. If that's his decision then so be it, but I remain more convinced than ever that it's the biggest favour he could possibly do for the Conservative Party at this juncture. The last thing we need right now is to go through another divisive and costly leadership debate. Even if we don't tear each other apart, the PM will just call a snap election before the new leader has even had a chance to move into his new office.
Prime Minister Harper called this election when he did because he knew that rough months were ahead. I can't say that I blame him for that. It is a trick used by Canadian politicians from all parties for a long time, but he was the one who introduced the fixed election date legislation under the guise that it was supposed to stabilize things. The least he could have done was engineer his own defeat on a confidence motion and at least show some respect for one of his own laws! (but I'm getting off track).
The Cadman affair, Schreibergate, and the Election Spending scandal are all issues that could blow up in the Prime Minister's face this fall. If anything is uncovered that could render it impossible for the House to have confidence in the government, then they should be removed from office. Unfortunately, it appears that the Liberal caucus will be too divided and unprepared to fight an election. My hat is off to the PM for some shrewd political movement, but if Dion is willing to tough it out and fight, the Conservatives could be in for a nasty surprise.
I've heard a lot of talk about what a catastrophe these elections were for the Liberals. As I said before, there is no escaping the fact that we came out the losers in this election, but it was no catastrophe. As Rocky Balboa would say "it's not how hard you hit that counts, but how hard you can get hit and still keep getting up". We should consider ourselves lucky that we did not get the same treatment Kim Campbell received in 1993, when she went into an election with a majority government and favourable polls, only to have her party blown clear out of existence. That is a catastrophe. We should not throw in the towel and sacrifice a good leader because of one loss. This is not the time to be fighting amongst ourselves. Canadians have elected Stéphane Dion to be their leader of the Official Opposition, a vital and important role in Canadian democracy. Our party owes it to Canadians to fulfill this role to the best of our ability, rather than to spend our time squabbling amongst ourselves.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The People Have Spoken

Well, I can't say that I agree with their choice, but according to Elections Canada, the people of Canada have decided that the Conservative Party of Canada shall have 143 seats in Parliament, with 37.6% of the popular vote, just 12 seats shy of a majority government. The people have also decided that Stéphane Dion will remain as their leader of the Official Opposition with 26.2% of the popular vote and 76 seats in Parliament. The NDP have surged to 37 seats, with 12% of the popular vote, and the BQ managed to grab 50 seats with 16.2%.
Sadly Elizabeth May and the Green Party were shut out of Parliament completely, even though they managed to get 6.8% of the popular vote. Nearly a million Canadians voted for the Green party, but they will have no voice in Ottawa.
Interestingly enough, two independent MPs were elected, including Nova Scotia MP Bill Casey! It appears that Prime Minister Harper did at least pay a price for breaking the Atlantic Accord, since he was also completely booted out of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Liberals also managed to hold our ground in Québec, by winning 13 seats!
To all of my friends and fellow bloggers out there who belong to other parties, I would just like to say congratulations! You all worked very hard and the people of Canada have rewarded you. I look forward to seeing how well our respective leaders can work together.
As for us Liberals, we can take pride in having fought a hard fight to the bitter end, and most importantly to having held the Conservatives to a minority. I have heard a lot of panicky chatter about uniting the left, sacking Dion, etc. The bottom line is that we have lost an election. As much as we like to think that we have some control over our destiny, it is the voters who made their decision yesterday and we must respect it.
In particular, I think that a change in leadership at this point would be a sign of desperation more than anything else. Stéphane Dion is a solid leader, and I have every confidence that he will be a great prime minister. We would be unwise to abandon him over a single defeat. In all likelihood, another leadership race would simply divide the party even further, and Harper would easily pounce on us before we are ready for an election as Chrétien did on the newly elected Stockwell Day.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Leadership debates

Well, I can't say that last night's debate was as much of a victory for the Liberals as it was during the French debates, but I still think Dion held his ground pretty well.

Duceppe was the most dangerous one out there as he usually is in the English debates, because of course he has little to lose. It was fun to watch him answer the question about the first thing he would do if he was elected Prime Minister.

Layton was pretty solid, but he brought the debate down on the intellectual levels every now and then by making personal attacks against Harper and his "sweater vest" (in fairness to Mr. Layton, some of them were funny).

Elizabeth May was marvelous! I can't say that I agreed with everything that she said, but I thought she did a good job of casting off the "left wing nut job" label. With a little luck, her party may actually pick up a seat or two! Unfortunately, Mrs. May is doomed to have her ass handed to her by Peter McKay, but I would be among the first to jump for joy if she managed to pull off a miracle and defeat him!

The PM did a much better job of defending himself last night than he did during the French debates, but usually the best he could do was attempt to make the Liberal plan look bad. In fairness, I have always believed that the best defence is a good offence, but in politics a good offence means having a something to propose (at least in my opinion). Prime Minister Harper had no such plan. At the best of times he relied on his record during office, and the rest of the time he was content to just make misleading attacks against Dion's plan.

In my view, at least Dion had something to offer Canadians, whereas Harper had little more than "more of the same".

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Le débat des chefs

C'est pas mal optimiste de ma part, mais je crois que Stéphane Dion vient de faire un gros coup hier soir lors du débat des chefs!

À mon avis, Dion était de loin le meilleur de tous les chefs. En observant les débats il était clair que seul les Libéraux ont une vision pour amener notre pays dans la bonne direction.

La première question par un membre du public a été posée sur l'économie, et seulement le Premier Ministre Stephen Harper et Stéphane Dion ont fournit des vraies réponses. Ce premier disait en effet que tout allait bien au Canada et qu'il n'y avait pas de besoin pour prendre des mesures proactives. Tout comme son idole George Bush, il préfère la stratégie "laissez faire". Stéphane Dion a répondu en donnant un plan aussi détaillé que possible dans le temps alloué sur la stratégie libéral.

Les autres parties de l'opposition ont quand même fait des bons coups, tel que Gilles Duceppe qui a réussi à faire connaître le bon record de sa partie face à l'environnement. Jack Layton en a fait des bons arguments concernant le crime et les jeunes contrevenants. Élizabeth May a bien fait en répondant à toutes les questions qu'on lui posait sans donner l'impression que sa partie n'est bonne que sur les questions de l'environnement.

Il faut quand même que j'avoue d'avoir remarqué qu'il y avait une certaine inégalité entre les deux parties principales hier soir. C'était clair que les parties de l'opposition s'entendaient pas mal entre eux. Ils attaquaient le Premier ministre sans pitié, et ce dernier avait beaucoup de difficulté à se défendre contre les quatre autres chefs.

Ce qui m'a surprit le plus, c'est que Duceppe est même venu à la quasi-défense de Dion lorsque Harper a attaqué le record libéral sur l'environnement. Selon Duceppe, pour Harper, les quelques efforts qui ont été rendus par les Libéraux de Jean Chrétien et Paul Martin ont été trop, et maintenant le PM leurs accusent de ne pas avoir fait assez. J'en croyais pas mes oreilles ni mes yeux! Mais il paraît que même les autres parties ont embarqué sur le mouvement ABC de Danny Williams("Anybody but Conservative").

Je sais très bien que les débats ont rarement un impact sur le résultat des élections et donc je refuse d'espérer pour des grands résultats, mais je suis prêt à souhaiter que ceci puisse remettre le vent en faveur des Libéraux.

Pour moi j'étais pas mal convaincu d'avance que Dion allait gagner les débats en français, car il est de loin plus intelligent que le Premier Ministre. Le vrai défi pour Monsieur Dion aura lieu lors des débats en anglais. Si Dion est capable de tenir tête contre Harper et les autres chefs, il pourrait réussir à vraiment changer la dynamique de cette campagne électorale.

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