Friday, May 08, 2009

Back to political reality

Putting aside the partisan sideshow for a bit...some opinion pieces to ponder today.

Michael Den Tandt up first: "PM's chances fade." Like the title, but not too much new here, we know the state of affairs. Den Tandt does put his finger on an intangible Ignatieff is bringing to the federal scene, however. As between Ignatieff and Harper, he asks, why pick one over the other?
Answer: Because you like one better. It's not so much that Canadians admire what Iggy wants to do. They don't know that yet and the Vancouver convention shed little light. But growing numbers of Canadians, the polls confirm, like that Ignatieff is not Harper. They like his credentials and they like that he seems suited to leadership, in that indefinable way we all understand intuitively from the moment we step onto a playground as kids.
Now if you agree with that assessment, that's very hard for Harper to match.

Second up, Chantal Hebert on why an election is not in the cards for the summer, for many reasons including Conservative poll numbers in Quebec. Offers up the thought that Mario Dumont might make a difference for Harper in Quebec:
If Dumont ran for the Conservatives in the federal version of his former provincial seat, there is little doubt he would land safely on the government front bench in the Commons and become a game-changer for the party in Quebec.

More than anything, Harper needs a champion to go head-to-head with Gilles Duceppe and Ignatieff in the next campaign and Dumont is the only one that fits the bill.
Dumont might be a game changer for a sorry Conservative party in Quebec but I am more inclined to agree with what L.Ian MacDonald said the other day:
There's also something called the Big Red Machine, which Charest controls, the only federalist ground game of any consequence in Quebec. The federal Liberals are trying to rebuild their organization, and under Denis Coderre's management as Iggy's Quebec lieutenant, their prospects are looking up in the polls, candidate recruitment and organization. The Conservatives played a double game in last fall's election, relying on Mario Dumont's guys as well as the Quebec Liberals, but after the ADQ got taken down in December's election, Harper should have no further illusions about what the ADQ can deliver. Only the provincial Liberals can help the Conservatives be competitive off the island of Montreal. (emphasis added)
Agreeing with MacDonald far too much these days..:) Dumont's star has risen and firmly fallen, just as likely to be met with reactions along the lines of, "oh no, not him again...."

Finally Josee Legault pointing out the other big dynamic at play that we saw the beginnings of this week, the Bloc gearing up to attack Ignatieff during the next election, with this noted mathematical challenge:
Ignatieff needs more than the Liberals' 14 seats in Quebec to defeat the Tories, so it will be interesting to see how he'll fire back. The Liberal leader might do well to study how the Tories lost Quebec during the last campaign, whispering nice love words to Quebecers, while taking actions that showed their complete misunderstanding of this province on such issues as culture and crime while attacking the political legitimacy of the Bloc.
That numerical point is a good one, for all the talk about Quebec, which will play a big role in determining the next government, things really have to be shaken up for it to move, the Bloc has a presumptive stranglehold. Will it be visionary ideas, as MacDonald suggests that can move Quebecers (and other Canadians)? Hard to see Harper becoming a convincingly visionary leader, he's "transactional" man, MacDonald puts it. Driving a wedge issue here (Dhalla), dumping infrastructure money there (new PC Clerk has been brought in to oversee), yet such tactics still not taking Harper beyond his minority government percentage ceiling. No sign of that dynamic changing either.

No big conclusions here, just lots of angles to play with. For all the noise of the latest wedge issue, these columns give you a sense of the bigger picture reality that's in the background, waiting for this one too to blow over.