Crawl Across the Ocean

Friday, November 25, 2005

This Surface May Seem Calm Enough, But Underneath, But Underneath

Well, the fog has given way to plain old rain, so things are back to normal here in Vancouver, which I guess means that it is time to return to writing about federal politics. I've been planning to write some posts about various federal policy issues (because there's no better time to talk about the issues then during an election campaign), looking at each issue from a non-partisan perspective and then comparing my analysis to the position in each party's platform, but that takes time, which I don't have a lot of at the moment. So for now, here's a passing thought about the election which occurred to me today.

Back when George Bush nominated his personal lawyer Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, Josh Marshall had an insightful comment that he wouldn't be surprised to see the nomination withdrawn - not because there were people opposed to it (there would be people opposed to any nominee) but because there was nobody willing to go out and defend the nomination. Sure enough, it wasn't long before the Miers nomination was withdrawn, and I didn't hear much complaining when it happened.

Wandering around blogland reading Warren Kinsella, Andrew Spicer, James Bow, KevinG and in particular this excellent column by Paul Wells, I'm starting to think that the same thing is true about the federal Liberal party. All the people I just mentioned are fairly centrist and pragmatic rather than ideological, and while obviously they're not all going to vote Liberal every election, they are pretty representative of the natural Liberal constituency (in my opinion). And yet they all seem to be hoping for, if not actively working towards, a Liberal defeat this time around.

Looking at the polls, it seems that there is still a large reservoir of Liberal support out there, but I suspect that the only dam left on this reservoir is the fear (after so many relatively prosperous years of Liberal rule) of putting someone else in power. And each day I see a few more cracks in that dam.

Changing metaphors, the Liberals have increasingly started to remind me of an old monarch, once respected but now corrupt and over the hill, desperately trying to hang onto power by bribing and threatening people, but increasingly deserted by all the independent powers in court and only supported by a few diehard personal loyalists and an ever shrinking group of hangers-on and sycophants who are only there for the largesse.

Maybe I'm out to lunch (or reading too much Shakespeare!), or maybe I'm right and the Liberals will manage to seal up the cracks and the dam will hold for one more election, but I think there is a bigger chance than most people realize that the Liberal dam could burst and we will see fewer Liberals elected West of Montreal than anyone is currently expecting.

Time will tell, I guess.

Title taken from Dream Thrum by James (the band, not Bow).


  • I don't know how it will play out but I think your analysis is right -- Liberal support is soft. I think there are many, many voters who, under other circumstances, would support the Liberals but who won't in this election.

    I think it will be a contest that is won in the last two weeks. The Liberals have already said they'll go negative in a big way in the last phase of the campaign. If they are successful in painting Harper or his policies as crazy again they'll win, if they can't they'll lose.

    By Blogger KevinG, at 6:50 PM  

  • I don't mean to sound like a capital L liberal (I'm not), but Steve and the rest of the no-longer progressive Conservatives _are_ scary to a social liberal like myself. And I get the feeling there are lots of people like me. I also refuse to believe people will significantly increase their support for an NDP government, but maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised this time around!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:31 PM  

  • What do you see happening if the Conservatives win the most seats, but not a majority?

    How would a minority Conservative government govern?

    Is a Liberal-NDP coalition (i.e. not an NDP-supported minority Lib cabinet) out of the question?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:23 PM  

  • Kevin - Even if the Liberals make Harper look crazy he'll probably still hold everything we won last election (maybe lose a few in B.C. or the prairies, but nothing significant) but I could see them losing a bunch of seats to the NDP in this scenerio (potentially).

    Philip - It's funny, I do find Conservative social policy on stuff like gay marriage offensive, but my feeling is that they would be scared to really do too much on this front if elected. I fear they would do more damage economically.

    With tax cuts combined with increased spending on the military and rural interest groups pushing us back into deficit, big oil and gas subsidies pushing us in the wrong direction w.r.t to both peak oil and global warming, and thoughtless ideology-driven privatization decision along the lines of the 407 sale Harris & Co. did in Ontario.

    Matthew - I think the Conservatives would probably try to run the same sort of government the Liberals are running now. That is, sticking to policies where they know they can partner with at least one other arty to get enough votes to get it passed. Likely to join with the NDP and Bloc for 'reform' measures, with the Bloc for decentralizing measures, and probably focussing on a mix of tax cuts and safe political spending (fuel rebates and the like). I coud see us going back into deficit in this scenario, which is depressing.

    They won't want to be seen as being in a coalition with the Bloc so they will probably try and get either the NDP or Liberals onside for most votes.

    As for a true LIB/NDP coalition, I honestly don't know about the precedent for mixed cabinets (ouside of wartime coalition governments). I think if either the NDP/Liberals got the most seats they would be asked to form a government and you would have the same situation we have now. Perhaps if the seat totals were really close we would see a few cabinet positions given to the coalition partner. But this is pure speculation on my part.

    I do think they would work together as a coalition government, I'm just not sure how much authority the junior partner would be given, beyond constantly threatening to bring down the govenrment.

    The Liberals might choke on their pride before joining a coalition led by PM Jack Layton but I think they would do it (a very unlikely scenario, of course).

    By Blogger Declan, at 2:09 PM  

  • It's funny, I do find Conservative social policy on stuff like gay marriage offensive, but my feeling is that they would be scared to really do too much on this front if elected.

    See, this is what completely baffles me: if Harper (well - Harper's handlers) had any sense, they'd steer cleer of the same-sex marriage issue, because their position (and obsession with it) is going to lose them more supports than it'll win. But that's not how it's playing out so far. When the House of Commons voted favourably on SSM last summer, that was Harper's chance to bow out gracefully. It was his chance to say "well, we tried, and we respect the legisature's decision", shut up about social issues, and focus on the economic ones - the aspect of the Conservative platform that, as you say, has more potential to gain traction.

    But, no; man can't take a hint. Which is why I'm not worried about a Conservative government this time around - I strongly suspect that Harper's not going to manage to avoid shooting himself in the foot.

    By Blogger Moebius Stripper, at 9:14 PM  

  • Yeah, front page headline in the Vancouver Sun today, "Harper will revisit same-sex marriage", and I thought to myself, 'that's OK, they weren't going to win any seats in Vancouver anyway!'

    By Blogger Declan, at 8:54 AM  

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