Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Preview Of Coming Attractions

As the Ontario election campaign runs down, Kathleen Wynne says that a vote for the NDP is a vote for Tim Hudak. And Andrea Horwath says that Ontarians don't have to choose between "corrupt" and "crazy."

The dilemma facing Ontario's progressives, Chantal Hebert writes, will raise its head again in next year's federal election:

More so perhaps than any recent federal election, it will feature a fight to the finish for progressive voters between Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau.

Based on the pattern of the provincial campaign, the NDP/Liberal federal battle for Ontario will be Trudeau’s to lose.
As much as many left-of-centre voters fear a Tim Hudak government, that pales in comparison with the trepidation that the possibility of a fourth Stephen Harper mandate often inspires.

If we had a system of proportional representation, there would be no such dilemma. But that solution is far away:

Meanwhile, as Ontario goes, so must apparently Canada.
Thus irreconcilable differences between the NDP and the Liberal Ontario clans have gone a long way to bring both sides to all but rule out a pre-election rapprochement between Mulcair and Trudeau.
The enmity between the two opposition parties in the House of Commons increasingly runs higher than their common dislike of the Conservatives.

And so we, the voters, allow ourselves to be manipulated for the most cynical of reasons. Ontario is a preview of coming attractions.


Scotian said...

I've never been sold on PR as the best fix for our electoral process, there are a lot of changes this brings and requires a very actively engaged electorate to have a hope of being brought into our system. I've always preferred the ranking ballot change as a first step so as to require that any MP must have the support of the majority of the voters in their ridings and not just the plurality. It would have been enough to prevent the Harperium from ever rising, because it is very unlikely that a majority of Harper MPs could ever have been elected if they had to be the second choice as well as the first and needed an actual 50%+ success rate to win both seat and control of the House. One of the things I like about the ranked ballot is that it does not require massive legislative changes, it is an easy change to the current system, it does not change the powers and relationships between the parties and the political infrastructure unlike PR while still making real and significant change to the electoral process itself. If it ends up not being enough then one can push for more radical changes like PR (I mean radical solely in terms of degree of change, not as a criticism or a political flavour, but compared to what we have now it is clear a massive and fundamental change that is clearly a radical difference fro m what we use now), but as a starting point I think it is the easiest and therefore the least difficult starting point.

To be honest with you I think PR has been bought into by too many reformers of the system as the only real change that can make a difference/be democratic, and I find that bit of a worrisome mindset. While I agree it can be so it is far from the only possibility, and not the one most compatible with the systems of government we currently use, and when it comes to making fundamental changes to how we govern ourselves I am very much a conservative person as in I prefer to start slowly with gradual changes and then if that is not enough then increase, not go jumping right out of the gate to max speed.

Owen Gray said...

As I wrote, Scotian, PR is a long way off. But a ranked ballot would be a relatively easy change to implement -- something like Trudeau's cutting Liberal Senators out of the party caucus.

Scotian said...

Now, as to your main point about the coming attractions, can't disagree. I'm sure you know where I come down on it though given all I have had to say already but I'll just make these points for now. The federal NDP clearly does not have the ability to gain enough voter support to credibly take the government, at best they can manage is Official Opposition, which means the only two credible choices for government be it minority or majority is Lib or CPC. Under that reality then the choice makes itself obvious for those more concerned with Harper being removed than they are for which party they would support in more normal times. That if the NDP had the ability to overtake the Libs it would have already happened in the past three elections, and the only reason they beat the Libs for Official Opposition last time out was the combination of what was arguably the most flawed and worst leader the Libs have had in my lifetime, Ignatief while at their weakest politically speaking, and the NDP's most charismatic and trusted leader in history, Layton. Even then aside from Quebec they barely did any better than they ever have, and it takes much more than Quebec to make a government in our system.

Now though the NDP are led by a man who lacks Layton's ability to connect and reach beyond his traditional base, and the Libs do have such a man at their helm. More, the name of the Lib leader has powerful connections/resonance for many Canadian voters (not to mention having watched him grow up and therefore is a known quantity to them and much harder for his opponents to define as they wish), especially older voters of a time when politics was not practiced with the ugliness that has crept in over the past couple of decades and run rampant under the Harper years. The problem with Mulcair isn't competence, it is his nature, and that he is yet another lawyer and worse feels like one instead of someone that people warm up to.

If Trudeau is so weak and not a credible threat then why does he take so much media focus, and why do both the CPC and the NDP act like he is the real threat for them to have to beat, despite being the leader of the third ranked party in the House? The actions are what show Trudeau is more substantive a political threat than he is cast by both his political opponents, and he clearly does not carry the baggage Wynne did because the federal Libs have had their time in the wilderness/penalty box unlike the Ontario Libs. That makes for some different dynamics, and the voters have seen what Harper is truly like now, it is not theoretical, and many may well wonder why the NDP let him through (and I suspect there are also some who still wonder how many senior Dippers knew Layton was that sick while he campaigned as if he was ready to become PM in the last election, I've heard more than a few grumblings about that after his death about it being rather dirty pool, and there may still be some residual from that as well).

Bottom line, I think the damage the ONDP have done to the brand with this election and Horvath's actions will help more than hurt the federal Libs and seriously hurt the ability of the Mulcair NDP to even hold their own in Ontario. Not to mention the resonances this has to 2005 that I think are being felt, which underscore I suspect for many just why the NDP are not longer the party of principles first like they claim and why they should be as distrustful of them as any other party driven by expediency and lust for power, which seriously undercuts the traditional NDP sales pitch.

Owen Gray said...

McGuinty left Wynne with a a huge mess, Scotian -- and both the OPC's and the NDP are trying to make her wear it.

But Ontarians know the mess Mike Harris left behind. They should remember that when they go to the polls.

As for Trudeau, he is both an echo and a break from the past. He could well be the next prime minister -- if he doesn't do something stupid.

Toby said...

My concern is that the Liberals and NDP have to understand that their main job is to slay the dragon. So far, they show no sign that they do. Layton and Dion did when they tried to form a coalition. There were obviously elements in both parties, especially the Liberals, who would rather continue with the dragon in power than to cooperate with each other.

On my local level I see no sign from either the Liberals or NDP that they even know an election will be coming. They are going to wait until the Writ is dropped and then go into panic mode. The Conservative MP has a weekly column in the local rag and is frequently in our face. Guess what is going to happen.

We're hooped.

Owen Gray said...

The Liberals and the Dippers don't like each other, Toby. But there is such a thing as The Greater Good.

Scotian said...

Owen Gray:

The thing of it is I believe Trudeau when he said in the past he didn't want to be the leader this soon, that he wanted time in the ranks before moving up, but the reality that if he did not run when he did for leader there might not be a Lib party for him to stay in forced the issue early. So I expect some mistakes as I would from anyone still new to the job and a first time leader, and I suspect that will be true for a lot of people. Another thing is I am not as convinced that the so called "bozo eruptions" are being read the same way in the general public as they are by the political class. I suspect at least some of them read more as someone being upfront with their opinions even when they might have some political damage potential, and after the level of political management we have been seeing this may actually be wearing well. The business about abortion policy and candidates for example I think was actually a strong selling point for Trudeau and for the party, not a mistake at all, especially given this was only a statement of established policy and not something pulled out of the blue.

I also think it is smart of him to work more on the left flank than the right, because there is almost certainly more to be gained there than the right flank, everyone there is either committed totally to Harper and the CPC or has already moved, his polarization of the political environment has already done this. The center, center-left, and left though (inasmuch as these terms still retain meaning) is far richer ground for Trudeau and the Libs to mine, especially with how the NDP has redefined itself. The hand-wringing on the nominations issue and how the Libs stopped being the party of the Charter because of the free speech issue fails to recognize that in the structure of freedoms the right to control one's own body is where all the rest start from. I expect women certainly noticed that there has been a double standard there that Trudeau eliminated, and that certainly also helped show that the Libs are party with specific principles and bright lines and not just a say/do anything to gain power party as has been portrayed especially by the NDP in the recent past.

Trudeau would have to manage some fairly spectacular acts of stupidity I think for it to seriously harm him, and so far I haven't seen that. I've always felt that watching his fight with Brazeau was a microcosm of how he would fight as a political leader. He took the initial onslaught and prevented any knock-outs, jabbed back and forth while letting the other side punch themselves out, and then took over and dominated the match until it was called in his win. If it hadn't been called then it was almost a certainty Brazeau was going to be KOed, he really was on the ropes by then. So far his leadership has felt much the same as that match to me.

Owen Gray said...

I don't think his stand on abortion was a mistake, Scotian. After all, it is the law of the land.

As for "Bozo eruptions" it's pretty clear that was an example of Nixonian dirty tricks.

But that should serve as a warning to him. The Harperites are obsessed with his father. And they will stop at nothing in their quest to destroy his son.

Scotian said...

Owen Gray:

Oh, I fully agree with you, but the problem for the Harperites is that their obsession with all things Trudeau triggers some serious overreach and I believe seriously risks undercutting their strategy at best, and at worst for them massively backfires. This is not to say that I think Trudeau should not be concerned or on guard against them, but I really don't think he is acting like say Kerry did against Bush43 in 2004, and I do think he is gambling that the CPC will find it much harder to define him as they want because of how well known he already is to Canadians. I also think he is being careful not to swing back at every punch but instead is picking his choices at where he thinks it will be the most effective, and if so I think that is probably the best strategy for someone in his circumstances, which are admittedly a bit unique. Trudeau showed in the ring how good a counter-puncher he is, and I suspect that skill will translate into the political realm.

I also think the Harper tactical approach of character destruction of leaders, namely Lib leaders may have run its course as well. Dion was not that easy and it took Mike Duffy to finally make it work in the waning days of that campaign, and it exploited his lack of full comfort in English, not anything truly substantive to do it. Ignatief, well hard to imagine an easier target for such than he was.

Trudeau though comes after both of those smear campaigns have been employed and I think a combination of fatigue with the approach plus an overreach that I suspect will happen because of the Harper obsession with anything Trudeau combined with a fundamental belief in their own misperceptions of him will seriously weaken that tool for the Harperites. I think they really do think he is an empty hat, a shiny pony, an weak sister, and I think that is a fundamental misread of the man. Also, the Harper regime is suffering from what helped them beat Martin, namely governing fatigue from the voters in that they have governed for so long that people want them gone just on general principles even leaving aside the issues this government in particular has created for itself.

I really think the Harper, indeed radical right wingers in general obsession with all things Trudeau will cause them to seriously misunderstand Justin, how Justin reads to everyone not in their camp, and cause them to make some serious mistakes of their own. Fatal ones, I can't say beforehand, but I will be very surprised indeed if the Harperites don't make some serious ones in this area thanks to their own inherent blind spots.

Owen Gray said...

Their blind spots are well known by now, Scotian. We'll see if the Trudeau team can take advantage of them.

e.a.f. said...

Not a fan of PR. I'd rather we go a system then of some one having to get past the 50 plus one post, so we'd have run offs. I could live with that.

The Liberals and NDP had better get their act together because at this rate they will hand harper and his herd another majority. The boys and girls in Ottawa had better put their egos in their pockets and think what is best for Canada, not which one of them is going to make the new P.M. and cabinet.

The enemy is harper and his herd, not the other parties. If the two boys can't get over themselves, perhaps Ms. May is an alternative for P.M.

Owen Gray said...

If Mulcair and Trudeau can't get their act together, e.a.f, the only hope we have is with Ms. May.