Friday, October 02, 2009


Let's not lose our heads here, Michael Blisses of the world. Telling us on a Friday morning that the Stephen Harper Conservatives are about to become Canada's "natural governing party" in an historic shift feels like an overstatement of the present circumstances. It may be a ripe moment for movement but that's a big wager Bliss is making.

Missing from Bliss' analysis...a good reason as to why Canadians will give a majority to Mr. Harper next time out. It seems to be a "by default" kind of situation he argues for Harper:
Neither colourful nor lovable, Mr. Harper is emerging as a master strategist. He learns from his mistakes and is growing on Canadians as Prime Minister.
Really? The master strategist that nearly set his government alight in a bonfire in November/December of last year. But he did pull it out of the fire, by inflaming Canadians and running from Parliament. Master strategist that he is.

The master strategist that sent his party into schisms this past spring when he launched a vendetta against the old PC's by pettily hanging Mulroney's membership out to dry. See, he has these tendencies. And he's due. Any day now. Master strategist that he is.

As for that claim that he's growing on Canadians, what, all 36% of the Conservative support? "Growing" implies growth. He got just over 37% in the election this time last year. Perspective please, not wishful thinking. That's all that meme has been to date. We see the polls from time to time on the Harper negatives, they have not subsided. He demonizes his opponents to deflect. That needs to be turned back on him more.

Bliss says Harper is moving to the centre:
It's a truism that Prime Minister Harper has abandoned his Reform Party dogmatism and is trying to govern Canada from the centre. In one area after another – stimulus spending, foreign policy, support for the arts, economic development, co-operative federalism, as well as naked pork-barrelling and shameless self-promotion, the Conservatives are implementing policies that might have been drawn from the Jean Chr├ętien-Paul Martin songbook. (emphasis added)
It's a "truism," folks. Hard to argue with that. Well, actually...let's. Those of us who saw that little videotape this past month don't actually think that the Harpmeister has abandoned the "Reform Party dogmatism" at all. Why would we when he speaks it so clearly. There's a big swath of Canadians who are inclined to believe him when he says it on videotape.

And none of the items Bliss lists, other than say the pork-barrelling and shameless self-promotion, are areas which Harper has enthusiastically or willingly embraced. He had to be dragged to the stimulus spending party. And now that he's done it, so incompetently, he's shown that he's favoured Conservative held ridings over others. So it's a bit of a stretch to characterize Harper as a convert to the centre of the political spectrum and applaud him for this as if it's occurred in a context free vacuum. He may be pretending to bide his time there, unwillingly, at the moment. But there's no evidence to make Canadians trust that he'd stay there in a majority situation. It's hard to accept the claim that he's in the centre anyway. Not when they're axing words like "humanitarian" out of "international humanitarian law" and losing "gender equality" from our foreign policies, for example. Not so centrist. Very Reform-like, in fact.

Further, if you review the Ekos results from the past month, you'll see that the numbers really haven't been moving that much. Granted, it's one pollster and there has been movement in Quebec of late that's a concern for Liberals. But there is a trend in the broader polls that puts the Conservatives around 37, maybe 38 and has the Liberals at 30. That's close to what the result was last year and maintains to this day. (And for NDP friends out there, 13.9 in that Ekos result yesterday is not exactly anything to be yelping about, if Liberals are feeling some heat at the moment, there's plenty of that going around these days). When a party is on the verge of becoming Canada's natural governing party, surely a great shift in numbers must be on? No?

Historic shift, more of the same or a ripe moment in which anything can happen? Guess it depends on whose eyes you're looking through.

It's true that Liberals and Ignatieff need to connect better with Canadians on differentiating themselves from the Harper Conservatives. Yesterday was a good moment in that effort. Ignatieff's speech in the House of Commons is worth watching. Watch from 7:00 - 9:00 and ask yourself if this guy doesn't have fire in his belly for what he's doing at the moment. And from then on, at the 11:00 minute mark too. I think someone is willing to fight quite hard to ensure that the mantle of becoming Canada's governing party does not fall into the hands of Stephen Harper.