Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Doug Finley out as Conservative election guru

"Doug Finley to step down as Tory campaign director."
The Conservative Party of Canada's national campaign director plans to step back from day-to-day election planning as part of a quiet shakeup of the party's senior ranks, Canwest News Service has learned.
Another Conservative source said Finley, one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's most senior advisers, told party officials at the start of the campaign it would be his last because he's "not a young man anymore."

One party source said the move is part of the "natural" reorganization that follows any election campaign. Other party officials will change roles in the coming days, the source added.

However, some officials who worked on the campaign say Finley has taken part of the blame for failing to deliver a majority for the Conservatives on Oct. 14.(emphasis added)
Close but no cigar for Finley, architect of two minorities who's now had his chance. Harper has 143 seats and wants someone to get him over the hump. Whether that's a question of a new electoral strategy to game 12 more seats or a question of whether Canadians will ever give Stephen Harper the majority reins is something we'll find out in, say, another two years, with a new Liberal leader on the scene. That will be Harper's fourth election. A fatigue factor will be present.

Meanwhile, there is some talk out there about how Conservatives can become more like Liberals in order to get there. See Andrew Steele last night, with his thesis: "To permanently replace the Liberals as the strongest national party, Stephen Harper may have to borrow their approach to the Quebec question," by becoming the federalist option in Quebec. To do this, he points out, the Liberals would have to choose a leader in the coming race that would cede the traditional federalist position of the Liberals in Quebec and make it easy for the Conservatives to step in to the traditional Liberal role. Good luck on that. If they do, they'll lose a lot of support outside Quebec. I'm not doing the article justice, Steele's ideas are interesting, as always, and are worth a read for the assessment of the parties' relative positions in Quebec, their weaknesses, strengths, future areas of growth, etc. But the absurd proposition underlying it all, that essentially, the Conservatives must become Liberals to win...well, you have to wonder how their supporters take to such notions. Besides, Harper has already invested so much in the soft-nationalist play with his Quebec nation motion. Hasn't the die been cast?

These quests for national dominance undertaken by political parties in recent years don't seem to be working out. The Republicans are living the fruits of Karl Rove's quest for a permanent Republican majority at the moment. It's not going so well. The too clever by half linking of groups into a coalition that you can manipulate with shiny objects seems to be as bright as the strategy gets. Other people have shiny objects too. It's also very difficult to anticipate events that can fracture the coalitions that you are building. Then you have to govern in a manner that inspires the confidence of a majority of the population. That's a tough thing to do. Conservatives haven't been able to do it yet. There's also the little problem of Canada being a socially progressive nation. The Conservatives are not.

But I wouldn't put anything past Mr. Harper on his ongoing quest for a majority. He did resort to using his mother as a feature in his campaign speeches in those last days, after all...