Saturday, August 23, 2008

Strategy Session

What goes on in Stephen Harper's mind? At the moment it seems to be any one's guess, but the strategy of calling an election now is one that deserves some attention. Like any strategy, there are pro's and con's to be weighed and if indeed he goes forward, I think it's safe to say that they believe they are on the winning side of this gambit.

On the pro side, I see the following:

- Avoiding further scrutiny into the In and Out scheme, including action being proposed to force MP's and others to appear before committee.

- Pre-empting any findings arising from the lawsuit they filed against Elections Canada. It's my understanding that the Con's have until August 29th to file their final submissions and then Mayrand has until October 10th, to respond. The Con's at that point have an option to appeal within 10 days. Who knows what they'll decide? All I can say is based on what has been in the public domain thus far, the Conservatives chances of winning this thing are not looking good.

- Another issue to pre-empt would be the decision by the Commissioner of Elections Canada to go forward with the process of laying charges against the party, based on the information they obtained from the raid.

- They avoid having to answer questions in the House about those issues and others.

- The economy is not looking good, so they can avoid the next update which they must have a feel for.

- There are more issues of avoidance and feel free to add to the list, but something stands out for me. Harper said he felt that the next government would be a minority, and while I'm sure he wants a majority, he seems to have made peace with that fact. Why?

Well, he's signalling to his base that another minority is possible, so get comfortable with that and he knows that if he wins a minority, all parties will have spent their coffers dry and no one, specifically the Official Opposition, will be able to take the government down in the near future. So, he'll continue with business as usual.

- Contrary to all appearances, they must obviously have a platform ready and one that they think will sell. Based on their 10%'er's, it looks lame to me, but we'll see.

So, what are the Con's that they took into consideration?

- Obviously their first consideration would be their chances in the election. They must feel that they are solidly in play and they must also feel that their current attack strategy is working. I think they have put all of their eggs in the basket labelled 'Leader' and they believe that they have the advantage.

- Attacks that they are breaking the Fixed Election Date law.

They are already countering that with spin. It apparently was only supposed to be used if they had a majority. Right. I guess that is why he assigned a date to it as a minority government.

- Criticism over the waste of calling by-elections. I haven't yet heard the spin to counter this claim, but I'm sure it's being developed as I type.

- They obviously know that they will be accused of all the avoidance issues I've already raised, but as is their wont, they turn reality on it's head and accuse the opposition parties of what they themselves perpetrate.

Again, I'm sure there are many more, but they obviously feel that they have them covered.

So, what conclusions can we draw from this exercise?

I think the Con's are betting the farm that they have the upper hand and the winning strategy. I don't for a minute think they haven't considered all the negatives associated with this move, but believe they can be overcome.

What intrigues me is that they are betting on the fact that most Canadians tune out politics during the summer, so they likely believe they can sweep summer happenings under the rug.

I believe their biggest weakness is how they underestimate Canadians. Yes we are passive and often unengaged but if issues are put in front of us, we react. They also underestimate the opposition's voice. They claim to have more money to spread the word, but in an election, the playing field is leveled and unless they overspend again, that's not the case.

They also underestimate Dion. Does he have the charisma of Obama? No of course not. Name me a leader who does. Does Harper possess that? No. In fact I'd argue that Harper is anti-charismatic. He is betting that he can paint Dion weak, but now that I have seen Dion in action, that is a mistake. There is nothing weak about Dion. He would not be in this fight obviously, if he was weak. If Conservatives equate heft with strength, they'd do well to consider intellect and intent, and then apply that term.

Where will all of this take us? Back to where we were months ago, so what a waste of time and money. It's also an admission that the country is not Harper's first priority. Harper's first priority is Harper. Yes, he wants to shape the country into his myopic mould, but I suspect the man has grown accustomed to the position. As you look around the world and consider which leaders believe they should be in power, Harper fits right in there.

Pro vs Con. Progress versus regress. We are living in interesting times.

BTW, Dion is ready to fight.


RuralSandi said...

Check out Red Tory on the cancellation of ships.....interesting.

Is there any file/department that this government hasn't screwed up?

Anonymous said...

Harper indicated weeks ago that the next election will be about leadership. He will undoubtadly attack the liberals as being weak every second of the day with every dollar he has.

If the Liberals accept the bait and respond he wins every time. The best response should be a set of standard replies for every candidate pooh poohing the attacks as childish and keeping the public aware that they are endless. By ALWAYS counter attacking with the Liberal platform and comparing to Harpers or asking where he stands will eventually force even our right wing media to ask the same questions. We all know how weak Harpers policies are which is why he doesn't want to fight an election on them.

knb said...

In a word Sandi, no.

knb said...

anon, your premise is bang on. I'm not convinced that the media will follow your lead, but I understand where you are aiming.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Anonymous has the right approach.

kody said...


the previous post speaks of Harper "turning his back on democracy"

yet the notion of Harper putting his government to the test in a vote, the very foundation of a democratic act, having the people vote,

is viewed in this thread as some nefarious plan, devoid of legitimacy.

Loraine Lamontagne said...

Kody, I agree with you that the notion of putting the "government to the test in a vote, the very foundation of a democratic act, having the people vote," being viewed as a "nefarious plan, devoid of legitimacy" is ridiculous.

However, I remember it was a notion put forward by Stephen Harper and his Conservatives following Chretien's decision to go to the people of Canada in 2000. I also remember that Harper, Duceppe and Layton signed a preemptive joint letter to the Governor General asking that she refuse to dissolve parliament should Martin try to engineer the defeat of his minority government. That was just before the Martin minority government even had its first speech from the throne read in the House. That was another of Stephen Harper's countless ill-advised, shooting from the hip initiatives. Harper has proven time and again that he is incapable of formulating intelligent policies.

catherine said...

I've been wondering why Harper is making this threat. My hunch is he won't actually do it, but wants some reaction. Perhaps he is hoping Dion will react like he did with Martin, which Harper could then use against Dion.

Harper first tried out the "Dion is going to wimp out" theme and then moved on to this new threat. So far, Dion's response is good -- Harper should respect his own legislation/past words, but the Liberals are ready if an election is called. Calm reason in the face of puzzling panic.

Anonymous said...

Catherine, I think this time it's the real deal. Paul Wells thinks so and he's good at slicing through political spin as anybody.

I think Mr. Dion should have listened to Mr. Rae and Mr. Ignatieff and forced an election in late spring, the Conservatives were reeling from the Bernier resignation and that's when they were at their weakest since the last election. I don't know if they foresaw that Harper would backtrack on his own legislation, I know I didn't, but the fact is that the Liberals could have seized the initiative, now it looks like the Conservatives have it.

Also, I don't think we should have unveiled the Green Shift strategy until the election, it's just allowed the Conservatives time to attack it while they keep their own electoral platform safely under wraps.

wilson said...

So for 2 1/2 years Liberals have been screaming for an election, and now the pros and cons should be considered?

Dion should have come out of the starting gate with 'party renewal' as a theme instead of 'getting back into power asap';
taken until 2009 to get the LPC election ready.

Dion should back down one more time. Abide by the fixed election law that the HOUSE voted unanimously for, and renew the party.

But, that would take real leadership, admitting renewal is necessary before government is possible.

Gayle said...

"So for 2 1/2 years Liberals have been screaming for an election, and now the pros and cons should be considered?"

Pardon me? Did you miss that stuff last year when the LPC allowed Harper's legislation to pass in order to AVOID an election?

KNB is simply analyzing the pros and cons of Harper's apparent decision to violate another election promise and call an election when it is to his advantage to do so. She is wondering what advantage the CPC see in calling an election now.

I realize you think it is your duty to the Party to try and provoke fear and dissatisfaction with Dion on Liblogs, but your post really has nothing to do with KNB's (not to mention the fact it is completely baseless...again).

KNB- I think Harper's motivation is simple - now is his last chance to get a majority before the economy tanks. As you say, he also wants to avoid any negative outcome of their lawsuit and the EC investigation.

In the meantime, Dion is coming across as more and more Prime Ministerial while Harper continues to isolate him self and face criticism for decisions like his refusal to go to China.

I am sure he feels that during a campaign he can outshine Dion. We shall see...

Anonymous said...


In a Toronto Sun article this morning, of all places, Harpers GST cuts were described as "worse than useless and probably dangerous". So even the right wing media can be crtical thinkers if they want to be.

The point of the article was that we don't need an election now because it would change little in terms of seats. This confirms one of your points of whether this election is designed to drain the other parties pockets to get the status quo. With no money for a new election they would have to continue propping up the mad man Harper in virtually a majority government.

Hopefully the LPC will be smart and put half of every dollar they have and receive onto thier debt till it is paid off. I don't see a need for a national advertising campaign especially in the west where there is little hope of seats. By concentrating on candidates having daily scrums with local media and strategic advertising in areas they need to shore up or might gain seats they can maximise the bang for he buck. If Dion and other senior Liberals do daily scrums with national media and put down Harpers attack ads and more importantly question what the Conservative plan is while offering the Liberal plan woyuld be more effective than all the ads in the world.

A message of hope given freely will be looked upon more favourably than a tightly scripted message of hate that says nothing. Lets face it th media are just as lazy as the rest of us and how would you reacte to those two alternatives?

Gayle said...

One more thing - I think the CPC would like the election to be before the LPC's convention in December. What better way to ensure disarray and disunity amongst the LPC than to have another leadership review?

Anonymous said...

the liberals are terrified of an election,

for two principle reasons:

1) the personal numbers of Dion when combined with the liberal generic vote, spells disaster for them at the polls, and

2) Dion took a gamble with his ridiculous plan to raise the price of fuel when high prices threatened to cripple our economy, thinking that it could be some thought provoking discussion (a la the professors' lounge in the average arts faculty) without ever really being tested in reality. Harper's gladly taking Dion into the political reality that Dion takes every opportunity to avoid.

The outcome will be disasterous for the Libs, and you all know it.

Everything else is just the stuff you need to make yourselves pretend you can avoid the inevitable.

Gayle said...

"1) the personal numbers of Dion when combined with the liberal generic vote, spells disaster for them at the polls..."


You can believe what you want there anon, but I am not concerned.

see you on election nt said...

Gayle I honestly believe you.

Perhaps you are right and Dion will be a leader people choose to vote for.

Let's meet back here the night of the election and reflect on the results.

Anonymous said...

I've just gotten back from holidays and absorbed the news that Harper's calling an election. I don't know why he's doing it but thought he couldn't call one beccaue of his fixed election date legislation. I'm shocked.

knb said...

anon @09:19, I hear you on the unveiling of the Green Shift, but I still think it was the right thing to do.

It completely changed the channel and serious people are evaluating and discussing the plan. It also highlights what a non-plan the Con's have.

knb said...

wilson, do you purposely misread everything?

I'm not talking about the pro's and con's of an election, I'm speaking to what might have been weighed by the Con's in potentially calling for one.

Oh, and if you don't think renewal has been going on in the party, well I just hope your hero is equally naive.

knb said...

Gayle, you may be right but I'd love to know what their reading to believe they have a shot at a majority.

I agree that Dion's image is shifting and while that too may be a worry for them, ironically their attack responses only serve to intensify that image.

knb said...

anon @11:13, I saw that article too. Actually, there seem to be more and more conservative friendly press stating the obvious lately. I don't know if that will be the case during an election, but it's a good sign.

I have no doubt that the Lib's will be very strategic with advertising and getting the message out.

Indeed, hope and speaking to our future will go futher than attacks and fear mongering.

knb said...

the personal numbers of Dion when combined with the liberal generic vote, spells disaster for them at the polls, and

eh, what? I don't even know what that means.

The rest of your comment is nothing more than a re-posting of standard talking points. Meaningless.

knb said...

anon @2:15, I'm not sure if anything shocks me concerning Harper anymore, but I can appreciate that if you've been away, it's quite the news to come home to.

Anonymous said...


most of the polls which show the election being "close" are the ones that refer to the parties. "which party do you prefer" ect.

Those will generally always be close given the fairly even split at this time in history between those who consider themselves "conservative" and "liberal".

But we don't elect leaderless generic parties. We elect leaders.

Every poll examining who the best leader is, or which leader one prefers Dion has very, very low support (the last one Ispos [or angus can't remember which one] Ried showed Harper over Dion by a two to one margin - while in that very poll the generic numbers were identical).

The party's internals drill down to voting liklihood, rather than general leanings. The leadership press polls are a good indication of what the more expensive internals are showing: a commanding lead for Harper - perhaps even a two to one advantage as cited in the last press poll.

THIS is why Harper's going now. He knows he's going to win and win big. Conversely this is precisely why Dion is putting himself in the awkward position of being an opposition leader(who should be seen as dying to overthrow the government he's mandated to oppose) as vehemently, fighting calling an election.

I know as a Liberal supporter this is tough to hear, but this election will not even be close.

Harper knows it, Dion knows it, and in a few weeks you will all know it too.

Sorry to be the harbinger of doom.

But I gotta calls em as I sees em.

knb said...

Tell me where Harper's numbers were at before the last election.

The poll's you quote in this context mean nada.

Calling what you see means little when you are wearing blinders.

Anonymous said...

Well I guess we'll find out who had the blinders on in a few weeks, won't we?

Sleepy time,


Anonymous said...

Anon: "THIS is why Harper's going now. He knows he's going to win and win big."

"Leadership" (i.e. bullying) counts more in the US than here. It's too bad Steve, Guy and Kory are relying on this flawed premise. They will have their asses handed to them on e-day.

Demosthenes said...

knb: "anonymous" is just another (quite possibly bought-and-paid-for) conservative troll, focusing on the sole low number to avoid awkward discussions of the other ones.

I'd suggest following the example found on Eschaton: simply ask for "smarter trolls, please" and move on with your life. Doing anything else will just validate the strategy of soaking up so much of your time and energy that you don't pay attention to what's really important.

Demosthenes said...

(As for you, anonymous; you might have a point if the site were written in America. It isn't. Canadian elections are as party-centric as they are candidate-centric, and your own boy Harper had lousy leadership numbers until he became PM.)

knb said...

demosthenes, you're correct of course and usually I can do that, ignore.

Human fraility sometimes get's the better of me. What can I say?