Thursday, March 27, 2008

Damned if You Do, Damned if you Don't

I've resisted writing about what has been going on in Quebec for a couple of reasons. In spite of it being pushed in the media as a massive breakdown, something about the players didn't make sense to me. Additionally, I wanted to see where the story would go.

Now, I'm not suggesting that there are no problems in Quebec, I'm quite convinced that there are and ultimately Dion has to take responsibility for that. What I am suggesting however is that it appears as if the same dissenters have been stirring this pot for 15 months.

Think back to last year when has-been Ray Heard started making replace the leader noises. Frulla chimed in then and has often since Dion was elected. Jean LaPierre is another one that takes every opportunity to shake his head in feigned sympathy, suggesting that Dion is not a leader. I expect other unnamed senior Liberals have kept up this drum beat and if their story dies down, they drum a little louder.

All of this obviously does nothing to unify or motivate individuals to work toward a common good. If the object of the dissension exercise is to demoralise the team, I'd say that they almost accomplished their mission. The lack of foresight in such a strategy is stunning though.

That said, I think there are lessons to be learned and hopefully Dion's meeting with the group today will go some way in doing that. I don't think that the objections raised by Pinkus for example should be ignored however, I think it's equally important to look at why it happened.

At the news conference today Dion did not mince words about what was needed. More discipline which I interpret to mean, let's keep our internal business to ourselves, let's not pass along information to those who we know are working against us and let's prove the dissenters wrong.

If as Pinkus said, he has been trying to make the point quietly but to no avail, well that has to change immediately. Will it?

Well that remains to be seen of course but given all the publicity that this has generated, I suggest that it would be awfully difficult to keep a lid on who is behind the obviously organised attempt at a putsch.

As for nobodies like Pierre-Luc Bellerose, who cares? He's been outed as loon and as far as I'm concerned, any media outlet that is prepared to give him a further platform deserves to be called on that.

Is all of this going to go away? Given how it's been reported it's unlikely that the usual media suspects will let go of yet another way to go after Dion, however, if this cautionary tale actually ends up producing results then the oft repeated mantra of Dion being underestimated could/should be reinforced.

Dion has had every conceivable wrench thrown his way and he is still the Leader of the Official Opposition. Being portrayed as something you are not, does not make it fact. Yes I know, perception is everything, but until Dion has an opportunity to square off against Harper, he's not being given a real chance to dispel the nonsense.

He's already being criticised today for coming out and discussing this issue. One commentator asked, why would a leader need to demand discipline? Aside from the question showing a complete lack of understanding of how large organisations work, imagine if Dion had not spoken out?

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.


Red Tory said...

Back in the day, I was a John Turner supporter and became quite disaffected with the party after they way they gave him the bum’s rush. Then, after a period of relative calm, came the long, dark period of bitter infighting amongst the Chrétien and Martin camps over who would be leader. That nasty and ultimately futile conflict was an absolute turn-off and I lost all interest in the party for the entire duration of it. After the government fell and Martin resigned, it had been my sincere hope that no matter who emerged from the painfully tortuous exercise of the protracted leadership campaign that followed, they would surely be able to finally unite the Liberals against the clear and present danger of the Harper Conservatives and perhaps be able to craft a new vision for the direction they wanted to take the party.

Sadly, it just hasn’t happened. It seems we’ve got the same petty tribalism and pointless bickering and squabbling amongst the presumptive leaders and their grasping apparatchiks as always. Well, I say fuck them. Fuck them all. They’ve got not vision, no plan, no ideas, not a single fucking clue between the lot of them. Let them bloody themselves to death with their wearisome, asinine, Machiavellian games. I’ll reluctantly take my support to the Green Party and let these pathetic asswipes sort themselves out because it’s pretty bleeding obvious they don’t give a good God damn about this country or where it’s headed, being as they’re vastly more interested in satisfying their own narrow-minded, self-serving agendas.

James Curran said...

Well said Red. Well said.

Anonymous said...

It's the same actors pointlessly bickering again. Not only are the same actors doing it, but their sons and daughters are caught up in the game. This ensures that these Machiavellian games continue for another generation.

Maybe the Grits need a name change. What about the Liberal Democratic Party? Political bickering is one thing the Old Guard has certainly learned well from their Japanese cousins.

Karen said...

RT, while it's hard to argue your overall point, I still do not see real insiders putting up this fight.

I see the media sniffing for blood but honestly, Frulla, LaPierre, Heard...they are all has beens.

Does the fratricide go on? I suppose, but the Ignatieff and Rae junk is just that imo. It's the invention of the media.

I buy none of it.

I hear your frustration, but I'm surprised that you would lean to the facile arguments in the press to support your point.

This is fabricated crap in my view. Those involved are of no use, in my view

We know the history of the party and we all want to change it. I respect your decision to go to the Greens, but gawd man, how precisely does that help?

Less votes are not going to have an impact...that happened last time. Not a motivator in my view.

Hey, you know how much I respect you, but I think you're wrong in this case.

It's time Liberal's stood up and said F the dissenters and move forward.

No vision, no plan, no ideas? Do you really believe that?

If you do, do you also believe it approriate to pronounce policy pre-election?

I'm surprised. I didn't see you as someone who would give up and give in.

Karen said...

Great James. I moved from Beamsville to Mississauga last year.

What was missing down that way were voices that spoke out against Harper.

I know you tried but to speak out now against what you supported...well I just don't get it.

Red Tory said...

I’m completely fed up with this circular firing squad nonsense. If the aspiring leaders, their operatives and/or dissidents amongst the party establishment want to have a leadership coup then I suggest they do it quickly and ruthlessly. Get it over with already. Otherwise, they should put a sock in it… shut the fuck up and try, just for once goddammit, to make things work, instead of throwing monkey wrenches into the gears at every opportunity and undercutting Dion (as if he needed much help in that regard, thank you very much).

Hey, here’s an idea… how about some POLICY for a change!? Could Mr. Kennedy pull his head out of his ass for a while and tell us what’s happening in that regard with his review commission? Or how about a full-frontal, vicious assault on this ideologically bankrupt, morally corrupt, douchebag government we’re probably stuck with for the balance of the year? How about coming out with all guns blazing in the RIGHT direction for a change? Is that too much to ask? Geez, the Liberals piss me off sometimes.

Steve V said...


I think the policy is there, and that was clearly alluded too today. The problem, people have concluded that it should be kept under lock and key, until an election. I don't agree with it, but that's the mindset, that's the calculation.

I thought Dion was good today, he did what he needed too. I liked the visual, and it wasn't by accident, Dion surrounded by supporters, he appeared in command. Kudos to the director.

There was some crap coming out here, but some of the points had factual basis, they spoke to real, on the ground problems. Moving forward, this looks to have lit a fire, and if that is true, people will be better prepared for an election.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that some are trying to find blame for the problems the QLP has...
It's easy it's the fucking QLP organizers and representatives in Quebec - not Dion.

They are a bunch of whiners who can barely organize a beer run to the dépaneur next door to the party office.

Dion at least has a plan for Quebec.
If Dion, Iggy, Rae and Kennedy got together they could do great things - instead they let Harper and his band of idiots call the shots...

Red Tory said...

KNB — I’m generally a very patient man. After all, I implored folks not fly off the handle after the debacle in Outremont when many were adamantly calling for Dion’s head, suggesting that the outcome was more of an exceptional fluke than anything else. I’ve steadfastly supported him throughout all his dodging and weaving around the Conservatives’ election-seeking maneuvers. Notwithstanding the degree of shame involved, I’ve generally been in favour of his playing fox to Harper’s pack of barking canines. And I too have been inclined to slough off the rumours of internal dissent as just the media hungrily sniffing around the wrong trees.

But enough is enough.

Perhaps along with others, I was disturbed by the outcome of the recent by-elections. Although Vancouver-Quadra isn’t exactly the invulnerable Liberal fortress portrayed in the media, that race was, to use Wellington’s phrase “a near run thing” — and quite needlessly so, in my opinion. Likewise in the contest in Saskatchewan. Had Dion simply allowed the nomination run its natural course instead of intervening, the Libs would have taken that seat handily — much of the native vote, who enthusiastically supported David Orchard, sat on their hands. Personally, I would very much have liked to see Orchard elected and to have had his voice influencing policy, but that’s another matter… Betraying him, and cutting him off at the knees to satisfy Goodale’s ego was a very BAD move as far as I’m concerned. Very bad. He will regret that.

Now we learn, much to our unsurprise, that apparently we’re right back to the bad old days where we started several years ago. Yes, you can blow it all off as a few anonymous cranks in the backroom venting their spleen if you want, but this has been going on for a very long time now. It takes an enormous leap of faith not to accept that “where there’s smoke there’s fire” when it comes to the apparent fissures within the party, especially in crucial areas needed to win an election. Presently we see virtual chaos and total disorganization in Quebec, a weakened and fragile presence in the West (the Libs’ seats in Victoria and the lower mainland are all far from “safe”), a blow-out on the prairies, a general sense of not being ready for an election, woeful shortfalls in fundraising, and so on.

If the danger before us isn’t enough to galvanize these selfish assclowns into some sense of comity and united purpose, then I just despair for the fate of this party. Clearly, they deserve to lose — big time. Maybe our Conservative friends are correct. They simply have not learned their lessons; they haven’t been sufficiently punished. Perhaps another eight years in the political wilderness will bring some sense to their thick skulls.

Red Tory said...

Steve — Oh, joy! Policy was “clearly alluded to”… Hallelujah.

Red Tory said...

Steve — More seriously, yes, I know that’s the calculation and was told as much last year by party officials when I queried them on this point. I thought it was wrong then, and even more so now. While I can appreciate the reasons for keeping it under lock and key, it seems foolish at a time when many are wondering what it is the Liberals actually stand for these days, aside from not being the Conservatives.

If their policy is prone to wholesale theft by the government, then perhaps they need to re-think whether it’s one worth having. If on the other hand they feel it won’t stand up to scrutiny, or will be wildly distorted by Conservative hacks and used against them, again… they need to consider how it would be spun in the short space of an election campaign.

In either case, their thinking on the matter doesn’t appear very sound to me. Can you imagine if the U.S. presidential candidates played coy like this with their policies? It’s completely unthinkable. And, I would argue, unconscionable.

So Dion was “good” today. Well, la-di-dah. Like 99% of the electorate I would imagine, I didn’t see Dion today. Most people aren’t political junkies and don’t follow the day to day stuff, or the inside baseball crap for that matter. We get general impressions formed from bits and pieces of information that fall into our lap from the nightly news, the daily paper and maybe the odd story or two on the Internet. Right now it’s less than impressive. For those mildly aware, it looks even worse.

Anonymous said...

"He will regret that."

Note the spin being given in Grit circles over Sask. It was a safe Conservative seat. We would rather lose the seat than have David Orchard representing the Grits in Ottawa. This was what I heard from some rank and file members. RT, good on you for calling the Grit party out today. I will remember this so I can go and sob at your blog if there are worse days than this.

"Although Vancouver-Quadra isn’t exactly the invulnerable Liberal fortress portrayed in the media, that race was, to use Wellington’s phrase “a near run thing” — and quite needlessly so, in my opinion."

This is where Dion's judgment needs to be questioned. Grit insiders told me this was going to be a 1000 vote victory. Not good, but nothing like the avoidance of defeat it was made out to be. Joyce Murray was Dion's favourite candidate. One of the very few Campbell Liberals who lost her seat the last time due to questions on her environmental record. How can Joyce convince BCers that she is a spokesperson for Dion's greener Canada after a near escape such as this. Maybe Dion needs to tell Christy Clark and Mark Marrissen that they blew it big time. This must not happen again or RT will not come back to the Grit fold.

So yes, Dion deserves to pay a price for the Ides of March
17. I will continue to support him, but need to get this point across. It is better not to see the glass half full, lest we begin to slack off in our efforts to support Dion.

Red Tory said...

Mushroom — I know that “conventional wisdom” says that Orchard is a flake, a loose cannon and a polarizing figure not to be trusted (these were typical of the opinions voiced on my old blog when I put the matter out there as to whether his running was good or bad thing). At the time I deferred to the general consensus and didn’t think much more of the matter. But I’ve since reconsidered and now feel that I was deeply wrong in simply rolling over like that. His message is a heartfelt one of traditional pride that the Liberals would be wise to pay some heed to. Perhaps like many, I find the current, aimless sort of “drift” the party seems to be in quite insufferable. Maybe some are happy at just sniping from the woods at the Conservatives and picking away at their trivial blunders. That’s all well and good as far as it goes, I guess, but there’s sadly lacking… It’s not much to stir the heart or soul. This is why I keep harping on about the need for policy and a clearly articulated vision that goes beyond inane platitudes. Mr. Dion may not be the most blessed or gifted individual in terms of being a messenger, but without some kind of actual “message” he’s… what?

Red Tory said...

KNB — Thanks for indulging my crankiness and frustration on your blog, btw. Maybe I'm out to lunch, but something has to change... We can't keep stumbling along like this.

Northern PoV said...

Everything said here is fair comment.
I am a Liberal (and Dion-supporter in 06) and am currently very unmotivated.
But then I punched a few words into Google and cheered myself up. Look what I found on CTV site (just change the names and it could have been written yesterday -except for the wont-take-questions part ;-) )

Harper snubs dissidents, says hard work ignored

Updated Fri. Sep. 23 2005 5:54 PM ET

Canadian Press

OTTAWA -- Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is refusing to respond directly to critics who have been trying to chip away at his leadership, setting his sights on the media instead.

Harper said former candidates, staffers and organizers who have spoken out about him make better stories for a media that purposefully ignores his hard work.

"Any Conservative, anywhere, at any time, can, by criticizing other Conservatives, become an instant and enormous media star. That's just the way it is, we'll have to get used to it,'' he said in a speech to party staffers Thursday.

Harper, who last spoke with the national media at a caucus meeting three weeks ago in Halifax, did not take questions.

His staff made sure no questions would be asked Thursday by moving reporters out of the way before his arrival and then to an area away from him for his speech.

The Conservative leader was assailed this week by Carol Jamieson, a top Conservative official in Toronto, who said average Canadians would never vote for him and urged him to quit.

Northern PoV said...

oh well it sells newspapers ...errr.. websites

RuralSandi said...

We all seem to forget that prior the last election Harper didn't set out any real policy - just hints. He unravelled his policies one by one, day aftr day during the election.

Kinsella has a solution - take the memberhships away from those troublemakers - sounds good to me.

RuralSandi said...

I know nothing about the Quebec press but a friend dropped by this morning to pick up something from me. She said that she heard a couple of lawyers talking on the VIA Rail yesterday and apparently (don't know if it's true) La Presse is somehow connected to Power Corp. (Bob Rae's brother on the board or something) and Chretien's daughter is married to a Power Corp. family member. They said the Chretien was for Bob Rae and this it could possibly be a scheme to make Dion and Ignatieff look bad and Rae come up the winner - hmmm.....more conspiracies than you can shake a stick at.

Where is Bob Rae these days?

Karen said...

RT, you know your comments are always welcome, cranky or not.

In fact, I suspect sentiments such as yours are needed to firm up the resolve of those charged with turning things around.

Karen said...

Interesting find Ron.

Karen said...

Sandi, I don't recall any party ever setting out policy prior to an election, but I stand to be corrected.

As for conspiracy theories...that one is quite the stretch, I think.

As to where is Rae these days? My guess is he's apartment hunting in Ottawa, ;).

Karen said...

cherniak_wtf Dion at least has a plan for Quebec.
If Dion, Iggy, Rae and Kennedy got together they could do great things - instead they let Harper and his band of idiots call the shots...

Do you think he'll be able to sell his plan to Quebecers?

All I ever read about is how he is reviled. Is there any press in that province that is friendly toward or at the very least balanced about Dion?

RuralSandi said...

Opposition syndrome: Can the Grits survive the rumour and intrigue?

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

Lawrence Martin
March 27, 2008 at 3:38 AM EDT

Isn't it interesting, a Liberal MP was saying yesterday, that Bob Rae offered to help Stéphane Dion pay off his leadership-campaign debt - a whopping $850,000! - but the help has not been forthcoming.

"It's like, he, Rae, wants to have Stéphane on a leash, beholden to him," said the MP.

Isn't it interesting, said another party insider, that Jean Chrétien hasn't come forward to defend the feckless Mr. Dion? Mr. Chrétien, as the official noted, is close to the Rae family. Bob's brother, John Rae, an executive at Power Corporation, was Jean Chrétien's campaign manager.

Such is the state of rumour and intrigue in the Liberal Party of today that such stories have gained currency in caucus. The Rae camp says it's all patently untrue. "The Ignatieff supporters are trying to knock Bob down a peg," said one Rae adviser, "before he even takes his seat in the House."

Just read this a few minutes ago...

Omar said...

The Liberal party doesn't need rural Quebec to win government. Nice to have, but not the end of the world. Much ado about nothing.

~Jesus, Martin, relax all ready and keep that vote from the grasp of a party that is only going to facilitate the Conservatives in the election.

Niles said...

I have to wonder if the growing frustration with Dion is the strange psychology that makes administrators and other kids blame a 'bullied' for not smacking a bully in the 'nards when harassed, despite knowing the bully invoked such a provocation so he could justify to the administrators why he proceeded to wipe the schoolyard with the bullied.

We want the righteous underdog to win, to be witty and spry and secretly a karate champion -- and if that's not immediately forthcoming, well, the bullied is actually a wimp and deserving of scorn. Nevermind his intellect, or his likeability, or the fact he's right about the bully, or his awareness he'll be hamburger if he makes the slightest wrong move. If he's not the 'good beast' to the bully's 'bad beast', he just won't do.

There might be something pragmatic and Sun Tzu about fading away in front of the enemy until it's a battleground of your choosing, with your supply lines and allies finally in place, but dammit, it ain't heroically Alamo!

That said, the concern that the 'gray ghost' strategy is turning into a full rout is on my mind as well. Perception of strategy is as important as actual strategy. I want to see what happens with the two new 'leadership team' people in the House now. Does a skilled team work against a charismatic despot, or does Canada's fate have to be decided between strongmen individuals with subservient staff while the electorate prays one of them feels 'noblesse oblige' towards the non-corporate sectors?

Red Tory said...

Sconed — Yeah, I know. I get a little intemperate sometimes. As much as I admire Dion’s commitment to an amicable “collegial” style of leadership, I dearly wish he’d knock some heads together and put a bit of stick about, if you know what I mean.

Omar said...

As much as I want to see (which isn't much) the newly aligned Liberal front bench with the likes of Rae and MHF, I wish Dion would reach deeper into his caucus and promote a few people. I watched Massimo Pacetti on Politics the other day and was really impressed. Why do I not see more of this guy? I am concerned that having Dion surrounded by former leadership contenders is leaky logic and leaves the door wide open for the government to point out his so-called leadership shortcomings. I'd also get myself a new deputy. I've never really been comfortable with Ignatieff at that position and wouldn't mind his being bumped for someone else. But that's just me.

Karen said...

sconed, while I don't entirely disagree with your sentiment, ditching Ignatieff would spell trouble imo. It would be trouble for Ignatieff himself, unless he landed another significant role, but his already too vocal supporters really would revolt.

Pacetti is pretty impressive, especially on committee. I think I'm correct in saying he's part the right wing of the party and perhaps that keeps him less visible?

If nothing else, I think it would be smart to showcase more of the entire team if only by having more tv and panel appearances etc.

Omar said...

Pacetti is to the right is he...hmmm, that I did not know. Too bad. I have one of those in my riding. A social conservative in West Nova shouldn't have too many bones about voting for Robert Thibault. He is likely further to the right on social issues than the former NS progressive conservative running against him. It kills me to have to vote for this guy.

Karen said...

sconed, I think Pacetti is a fiscal conservative, not sure about social but I don't think so.

Thibeault is a social conservative? I didn't know that, but I sympathise. My MP is Paul Szabo.

Anonymous said...

All I ever read about is how he is reviled. Is there any press in that province that is friendly toward or at the very least balanced about Dion?

Does it matter? Chretien was hated in Quebec, yet still did okay because he stuck to his principles.

Omar said...

Thibault voting with this nefarious government on Bill C-484 was an icy slash to the heart of this household. If his decision was not one born of conscience then it was purely a political maneuver aimed at the more pious in our community. Both scenarios are pretty much unacceptable. Thibault knows this riding is just salivating to go Harper and after his over a decade as MP, a want of change may be his biggest enemy to securing what would be a rather impressive (but unlikely regardless) 4th election.
With NDP votes available as the result of a popular candidate not offering this time out, Mr. Robert panders to the right at his reelection peril.