Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Why Stephane Dion Really Needs an Election in 2008

Submitted for your approval...

This is the world as you "know" it: the Canadian Liberal party shares its most natural affinity with the American Democratic party, while the Canadian Conservative party is more closely acquainted with the Republican party.

Now, imagine a world wherein a Conservative government in Canada and a Democrat government in the United States could get along.

Don't be so quick to assume you've stepped into the Twilight Zone. This very plausible scenario may well partially be behind all the rush by the opposition parties to attempt to force a 2008 election.

A recent poll, conducted by the Canadian Press and Harris Decima, has concluded that most Canadians will support virtually any Democrat who contests the presidency in November 2008. It doesn't even matter much if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama get the Democratic nod. If Canadians were allowed to vote in the presidential election, they could count on a significant bounce at the ballot booth.

Of course, Canadians can't vote in the American election.

Canadians polled preferred Democrats to Republicans at a ratio of 4 to 1. 49% of Canaidans described themselves as fond of Democrats, compared to a mere 12% for Republicans.

Part of these results can certainly be attributed to the sometimes-exagerated but not-entirely-unjustified perception of George Dubya Bush as an international bogeyman. When you're probably the most unpopular man on the planet, it wil certainly in time rub off on those you associate with.

And therein lies the dilemma for Stephane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe. So long as they can find something -- anything -- to equate Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Bush as closely as possible, they risk losing a massive messaging advantage over the Conservatives -- one that may well account for the Tories' inability to make way into majority government territory.

As such, there is one thing that these three men need -- an election, and pronto. A rhetorical disaster could emerge should Stephen Harper be seen by the public at large having a constructive relationship with a Democrat President.

That would certainly represent eight years of hard rhetorical slogging swirling right down the political drain.

Of course, should they lose a 2008 election (that, let's remind ourselves, is far from guaranteed to occur) this is a scenario that could come true regardless. With Stephane Dion himself languishing in the polls right along with the Conservatives -- in a statistical tie -- Dion needs to find a winning issue with which to defeat the government.

He may have a few at his disposal. Afghanistan, climate change and nuclear safety could turn out to be quite good choices to frame the next election around. Then again, considering the Liberal party's commencement and continual support of the Afghanistan mission, failure on global warming, and astounding flip-flops on the nuclear safety issue, none of these should be considered safe choices.

The Liberals will have their work cut out for them. But the opposition will only have to work that much harder should the Conservative government survive beyond November 2008.

It'll be harder for them to reinvent the world as we "know" it should they fail to prevent its unravelling.


  1. Yes, he does. But I sincerely doubt he's going to get one, because, try as I might, I just can't come up with a scenario that puts all three Opposition parties on the same side in the same confidence vote.

    You know, the change to fixed election dates is growing on me. With the Government forced to tie itself in knots to lose and go to the polls early it looks more and more like a minority Parliament will last a full term just as a non-Chr├ętien majority would.

  2. That's why I really liked Harper setting the date of the next election (provided his government survives) when he came into office. It may not be a legislatively-entrenched election date (at least so far as I know, I may be mistaken), but it sends a message to Canadians: no Pearson-esque searching for an excuse to call an election and pursue a majority. You've given us a mandate, and we will act on precisely that.

    I really do hope the government survives 2008. I wonder what people like Ralph Goodale will do once the bogeyman is out of office in Washington and safely relegated to the misadventures of history.


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