Canadian Politics: What a difference a month makes!

When we last chatted about the ongoing soap opera that is Ottawa (Belinda and Peter are “taking a break”; Bizarro World of Canadian Politics), the Conservatives had just failed in their attempt to bring down the Liberal government of Paul Martin by one vote, cast by the Speaker. The Tories were extremely frustrated, because they’d been riding high in the polls and thought they had a real chance to force an election, and a real chance of at least forming a minority government. The Grits were giddily high-fiving each other, having dodged one bullet, but still very much on the defensive. The Tories were rumbling about further confidence challenges.

However, proving the adage that “a week is a long time in politics”, the situation has completely changed. There was a series of confidence votes this week, true, but the Liberals passed their main budget bill - with the support of the Conservatives. Looks like only the Bloq voted against it: Canada Gov’t Easily Survives Latest Confidence Test.

So, what’s happened? what happened to those fire and brimstone Tories, determined to bring down the gov’t? Well, uh, more polls. Bad polls, if you’re a Tory, indicating that not only have they slipped badly behind the Grits nationally, they may even be behind the NDP in the crucial battleground of Ontario, as set out in this article: Liberals Have a 14 Point Lead:

But what caused the shift in the polls? Looks like two things: the Tories may have mis-judged the popularity of the supplementary budget bill, the one the NDP demanded from the PM as a price of their support. Maybe spending money on things like the environment, low-income housing and such-like things is actually popular in Ontario. Who knew?

Second, the Grewall tapes fiasco. Apparently the Conservatives were not aware of the hard lesson that Mr. Nixon learned: if you have tapes of crucial political conversations, don’t release them if there are gaps or signs of altering. People won’t trust you.

So now it looks like the only thing that the Tories will salvage from the session will be to delay the same-sex marriage bill to the fall, as a condition of allowing the supplementary budget bill to go through without a filibuster: Same-Sex Bill will be put off until the Fall, PM indicates.

Part of the Conservatives’ reaction to this debacle is quite sensible: they’re going to send Mr. Harper out on the BBQ circuits in Ontario and Quebec, to try to improve his personal popularity. Makes sense.

However, this being the Conservatives, it sounds as if that tried and true remedy for a sag in the polls, axeing the leader, is already being considered by some in the party, according to the same article:

Like most Canadians, I’d like to see two real national parties, instead of one national party and three essentially regional parties. But I’m starting to wonder - is there a chance that the NDP is poised to become that alternative national party, not the Conservatives? Or are we just in an unusually volatile mood at the moment, and the Conservatives will be back on top in the polls by the fall? Or do voters just like Jack Layton’s mustache? :eek:

Any thoughts, Canadopers?

I think the only real downside I saw to a snap election, aside from the the possibility that my absentee ballot might not arrive in time, was the possibility that the Civil Marriage Act might be given the ax. That, it seems, is still a possibility. Dammit.

“Grits” is slang for “Liberals”? Where did that come from?

In the 19th century, there was a radical wing of the Reform Party (the old 19th century Reform Party) called the “Clear Grits”, who were mostly farmers who were republicans, supported universal sufferage, representation by population, free trade, westward expansion, and closer ties to the US. They were one of the groups that went on to make up the Liberal Party.

I’m not so sure. With Parliament in recess over summer, there’s obviously no chance of the government being toppled, and I’d guess that C-38 will be close to the top of the list of things to do come fall.

Canadian voters are like California juries, how frickin bad do you have to be before you are punished. It used to be said that Canadians don’t elect new governments, they throw old ones out. Sadly that is no longer the case. The only thing I despise more than Libs/Tories/NDP is a one party state.

From this website

Let’s face it: The Liberals are eternal. We might as well just call them the rulers so we don’t have to pay attention to politics any more.

If they can go through this and have their popularity increase, there is no hope.

Because, of course, twelve years of something cannot possible change ever.


The Liberals have been assisted to an enormous extent by sheer ineptitude on the part of the Conservatives. Just as the Reform Party was beginning to gain legitimacy, they dumped PReston Manning and then changed the party’s name to the ridiculous “Alliance” party despite the fact that they di not have an alliance with anyone, and nominated the imbecilic Stockwell Day. They thankfully got rid of Day, got a good name, hired a better leader, and did better in the 2004 election than ever before, reducing the Liberals to a minority.

And now the idiots are talking about dumping the leader again.

If they’d have the brains to stick with Harper and let the Liberals run out their term (it is, IMHO, one hundred percent guaranteed that Martin will break his promise to hold an election after Gomery) they might well win. But I’m not sure they’re smart enough to.

I don’t think it was anything the Liberals did. I think the whole Grewal thing really, really hurt the Tories.

On the one hand, I understand this. The whole thing made my skin crawl - he’s got tapes, but he won’t release them, then he’ll release 8 minutes worth, then 2 hours, but soon the irregularities are being noticed by audio experts. I don’t see how it’s possible to conclude anything other than that he set out with the intention of entrapping Dosanjh, and then edited the tapes when it didn’t work out the way he wanted. Even if that’s not what happened, that’s how it now appears.

On the other hand, it’s pretty small potatoes. Evidence that one Tory is a backstabbing jackass. Big deal. Lots of politicians are backstabbing jackasses. The whole affair really shouldn’t sway any votes except for those of Grewal’s constituents, and yet there’s been a huge, huge swing in Ontario, and I don’t think it has much to do with the NDP budget amendment.

What this tells us that any support the Tories pick up in Ontario beyond ~25% is extremely soft, and apt to disappear at the drop of a hat.

[QUOTE=Northern Piper]
Like most Canadians, I’d like to see two real national parties, instead of one national party and three essentially regional parties.[/quoting]

Switching to proportional representation might help.

Ooh, that’d be so cool! :smiley:

It won’t happen. The NDP is pretty close to the highest level of support they can realistically expect. Already a lot of people inclined to vote for them in the next election (like me, for example) are outright opposed to much of their fiscal policy, but are fed up with the Liberals and won’t consider voting for the Tories for social policy reasons.There just aren’t enough Canadians who share their ideology to become the mainstream alternative party, unless they modify their platform a fair bit.

Trade ya, Sam.

You know, it’s perhaps a little bit ironic that Sam is making that particular complaint, given that he thinks the Alberta government is worth emulating. The Tories have ruled Alberta with an unbroken string of majority governments since 1971, and prior to that the SoCreds had an unbroken string of majority governments dating back to 1935. Alberta really is a one-party province. Canada, not so much.

Gorsnak, that raises something I’ve wondered about. I understand there’ve been a lot of polisci types from UCalgary writing about the dangers of one-party rule at the federal level, the need for a strong second party, etc. Does anyone know if those same folks write with concern about the situation at the provincial level in Alberta? Or are they cool with one-party, unbalanced legislatures so long as the conservatives are the dominant party?

I’ve said it once I’ll say it a million times: urban Canucks will never support social conservative political parties.

Add in the nice guy maxim (Canucks don’t like personal attacks in their politics), and you see why the Reform/alliance/conservative party isn’t gaining ground.

If Harper and his crew would shut up, they’d have a chance of governing, but instead they play to their core group and offend the RoC.

If a group of politicians shuts up, how can they expect anybody to know who they are?

Winston Churchill is said to have told his supporters after losing the 1945 election that “nobody wants to listen to us right now. I shall go abroad and make some speeches.”

The Conservatives don’t have to shut up completely, but they do have to shed the well-deserved image of being nattering little turds. They always seem to be in a big rush to win the last election.

After the Liberals won their first of three majorities in 1993, the Reform Party leader of the time, Preston Manning, seriously started claiming that the Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, was insane. The evidence presented for Chretien’s insanity, or senility - it changed from day to day - essentially amounted to the fact that Chretien did not agree with the Reform Party on issues of policy.

This wasn’t merely an off-the-cuff remark; Manning and the Reformers seriously talked about it for a month or two, openly remarking to the press that maybe the Governer-General should do something. The general public perceived this was being outright sore loserdom, and it flopped, so they dropped it. You got the sense that they simply could not accept that they had been beaten, that they had to figure out a way to re-win the election RIGHT NOW.

The ridiculous name change from “Reform Party” to “CRAP” to “Alliance Party” was just more of that. It’s sort of similar to how the Blue Jays change their uniforms every few years, as if somehow it will make the ballplayers better. The difference is that the name change actually hurt the Reform-Alliance-Conservatives. It made them look quite silly.

If the Cnservatives want to win, they’re going to have to try to present the public with the image of a stable national party, rather than a bunch of sore losers who throw the baby out with the bathwater every few years. Present us with what THEY stand for and stop whining.

What exactly do they stand for? It’s such a new party in its current formation – have they clearly decided, yet, whether they are primarily a social-conservative party or an economic-conservative party?

It’s hardly a secret what their platform is. I waded through the policy platform here.

The problem for the Reform/Alliance/Conservatives is

  1. They’ve already shifted the economic centre of Canadian politics.
  2. They’re perceived as a hick-ish regional party
  3. They dump leaders far too often
  4. They expect everyone else to be as outraged at the government as they are. (Yeah, I know, I’m guilty of this)
  5. For reasons unknown they’ve opted to never discuss their policy views. They instead bang on about how nasty the liberals are. Makes them look like amateurs.