Monday, September 17, 2007

Zut Alors!

Wow. That sure sucked.

Pretty impossible to spin this one. Huge wins for the Tories and Dippers. Pretty brutal nights for the Liberals and Bloc. I don't think anything else needs to be said.


  • As someone who is not a member of either the Liberals or the Conservatives and who has voted for both in the past, here are my observations for what it's worth.

    1) This byelection over the past three days somehow morphed from a question of Stephane Dion's leadership to that of wild accusations of infighting, blogger flame wars, allegations of rogue emails sent to a certain journalist for the Chronicle Herald to overall division in the Liberal Party of Canada.

    2) Over the past three days, the Liberal party shot itself in the foot because it allowed the internal divisions to become a very public spectacle.

    3) 2007 hasn't exactly been a banner year for the Conservative Party of Canada, what with an unpopular war in Afghanistan, taking a hammering of Afghan detainees, the environment and of course, Stephen Harper's petty control freak tendencies... and they STILL won a seat in tonights byelection... in frikin' Quebec for crying out loud!

    4) The Liberal Party of Canada CLEARLY has to figure out a way to mend old wounds and rebuild itself into something that voters like me would want to be attracted to. It's not just about the leader of the party either, it's about the party acknowledging that, yes, it has made major mistakes in the past and that it has learned from them. This process might be called "Organizational Renewal."

    4) The political right in this country was just as divided as the Liberals over a period of thirteen years, and they somehow overcame their divisions, rebuilt and WON a federal election. If the Conservatives could do it, why can't the Liberals.

    5) Stephen Harper is a jerk, a petty and highly partisan jerk... but he's an exceptional politician whose political instincts should never ever be downplayed. He wants to destroy the Liberal Party of Canada and from the look of things over the past three days, the Liberal Party is helping him enroute to that goal.

    6) Over the next few days, bloggers and Liberal loyalists will foam at the mouth and blame everyone... the media, Ignatieff supporters, Dion supporters, bad journalism, Stephane Dion and probably any scapegoat they can think of without actually looking inward and acknowledging that their current predicament is self-made. The party will not rebuild until such a time that it is prepared to accept that it is badly broken and it needs to repair old wounds, bring back people who've left the party and who were critically important in its past success (ie Kinsella and others) and somehow make itself relevant to voters.

    7) Voters aren't stupid. We know that while the Tories suck at dealing with the environment, there is something terribly disingenuous about a party that signed onto Kyoto and did nothing for thirteen years, and NOW has the audacity to criticize the Tories for mistakes that were made under thirteen years of Liberal government. (This is an example... insert Afghanistan in there anywhere you want... same diff)

    My condolences to all who believed the party was well on its way to becoming a contender in national politics. The time has come for Liberals to set aside their differences and work together to give voters an alternative to the Tories.

    By Blogger Sean Cummings, at 12:36 a.m.  

  • I particularly agree with points #4 and #5, as well as the last paragraph. Interesting analysis. I've actually been debating with myself whether I could cast my vote for the CPC, were I a Conservative, knowing that Harper would be prime minister.

    But for the remainder of the night I'd rather just have a beer and talk about something else. Guinness, anyone?

    By Blogger jeagag, at 12:50 a.m.  

  • Had mine at around 6:45 after work. I actually felt sorry for Dion and the Liberals during the concession speech.

    I am quite sober now.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:01 a.m.  

  • sigh for the prediction desk yet again

    By Blogger Antonio, at 1:03 a.m.  

  • wow. talk about getting pwned.

    I could see the Outremont win coming for the ND's.

    While I was in Chicoutimi over the summer, there was a lot of talk of 'wanting-in' in Ottawa. I got the distinct impression that the people of that region were tired of sitting on the outside of the political power, making the Bloc somewhat obsolete. This is a big win for Harper, but then again it is only a by-election...

    By Blogger daveberta, at 1:40 a.m.  

  • I think Sean C. has it all, point for point, beginning to end, very, very right.

    But, I'm pleased about the result - the Liberals were fucked up the ass AND nailed to a wall tonight, which is probably how it needs to be. Too many of them still don't grasp why voters have lost interest in them. Dion's become a weakness, but - it's not just about Dion.

    The LPC made a lot of puffed up noise about "renewal", a bullshit word which always means nothing when it comes from a bunch of suits on high. It's just corporate double-speak -- and we're not idiots, thanks. But, I think the Liberals are getting closer to ultimately questioning, "Why is it we exist? What do we want to offer, and what do we want to *do*?" They've gotten a free ride of broken promises for too long - as long as I've been an adult, anyway. The party is in dire need of soul-searching and commitment (and no, I don't mean the Jason Cherniak idea of commitment to the party, I mean commitment to Canada).

    I know Liberals are bummed out today, but in the long run - it's always good to be bummed out so long as there's some reflection and meditation. This could be exactly what Liberals, and Canada, really need.

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 8:51 a.m.  

  • Great summary Sean.

    Two comments:
    3) On his very worst day Harper could never be as bad as his opponents and press said he would be. So on his worst day, he is still a pleasant surprise to voters, and his support will go up.

    4) (the firstone) What has to happen for the Liberal Party to finally realise this? Generally speaking, we all want your party governing, but we have to live with Harper until you get your act back together. Hurry up! So we can vote for you again!

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 10:17 a.m.  

  • I don't think this is as devastating a blow to the Liberals as some are making it out to be. As lord kitchener pointed out on BCL, Libs have been sliding in popularity in Outremont the last two elections, so that's nothing really new. Also, Mulcair was a Lib MPP - environment - so that could be part of the popularity, that he is already well known, and more regionally. By-elections tend to be more regional in their focus and outcomes. Lebel was mayor of Roberval, and a popular mayor at that. I got the sense that just since nationally, there is little change in voter preference, QC voters went almost entirely regional in their vote, and went with what is most familiar. Lac, I can't say, because she is newer, but then that riding was bloc and remained bloc.

    People saying over and over that this is a big defeat for the Libs can turn it into one, however, and they definitely need to re-examine how they package their message and work on tightening their inner party support.

    This one didn't drive me to drink.

    By Blogger 900 ft Jesus, at 11:00 a.m.  

  • Could the NDP become a threat for the Liberals? If you look at the numbers a bit more closely, the Liberals only lost a handful of points in Outremont, most of the NDP voters were taken from.... the Bloc, which has become totally irrelevant in that riding.

    What's scarier, though, is Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot, where the NDP beat the Liberals. You're talking about distant suburbs here, not Montréal. If the Liberals can get beaten by the NDP in semi-rural Québec... that's something to worry about. I feel bad for Coulon, though, as he's a quality candidate, an Outremont man, and a very decent human being. But, hey, that's life.

    Then again, it's better to lose now, in a by-election, than to lose the general election. As Jason said, the party might've needed to get raped... and I might as well get raped by one or two ridings than have the lot of them take their turn in a general election.

    By Blogger jeagag, at 11:06 a.m.  

  • Does the conservative win now mean that all Fortier needs to do now is sit back in the Senate?

    And I'll agree that a byelection is far better to lose than the beating the dippers and Conservatives took years ago.

    By Blogger Scout, at 11:18 a.m.  

  • This does not seem to me to be an occasion for soul-searching.

    Dion is not liked in Quebec. We knew that at the convention. That, plus the fact that Outremont is a "Liberal Stronghold," screwed the party over.

    You don't learn to run an effective campaign in a stronghold. You learn to run an effective campaign where the campaign will make a difference.

    I think the campaign was incompetent, and they should be criticized for that. But looking at the result, I'd suggest the Dion factor was larger than the incompetence.

    By Blogger Gauntlet, at 11:19 a.m.  

  • In my blog in May '06 I said Lapierre stepping down would open Outremont up for an opposition party. The Liberals are dead in Quebec.
    Another big loser is Elizabeth May. Green support disappeared, Kyoto was irrelevent. Liberal Bush-bashing also counted for zip. Afghanistan was a non-issue.
    Do the Liberals-gasp-actually need some new ideas?
    Look for the NDP to be really strong in Toronto Centre in that by-election.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 11:35 a.m.  

  • I think what I'd be most upset about were I a Liberal (which I am not), is the fact that internal division are being highlighted so much in the aftermath of the losses.

    Frankly, I find it a bit of a stretch that Ignatieff, for example, would actively undermine his party in this by-election. There are several accounts that he's given a good bit of time to the Outremont campaign. While I know that there are still deep divisions in the LPC, and lots of questions about Dion's leadership, to suggest that Iggy is going for the throat is, I think, a bit rich.


    By Blogger Matt Bondy, at 11:55 a.m.  

  • It's an open question whether the NDP win in Outremont is an abberation or more a signal of Quebec voters ever-flexible preferences. The last (and first) time the NDP won a by-election in Quebec, they beat the Liberal candidate by 20,000 votes, and the party had reached a record number of seats in the Commons. Three years later, the PC party collapsed, the NDP had their worst election in their history, and the Liberals won a thumping majority.

    I'd say it's a bit premature to read anything into these by-elections.

    By Blogger Josh Gould, at 12:33 p.m.  

  • One other thing I forgot to post in my initial comment:

    My thinking is that Stephen Harper launched his "Stephane Dion is not a Leader" attack ads not to convince Canadian voters, but rather, to bait Liberals into questioning whether they elected the right guy at that convention last December. Harper, who understands what it's like to live and breathe in the formerly divided right, might have said to himself...

    "No... no way the Liberals have healed the Martin/Chretien wars, there is just no freakin way they've sorted that out yet. Now they've got a poindexter who can barely speak a word of english as their leader, damn it man... I am sooo gonna test my theory. Let's put out some attack ads and see what happens to the Liberal party."

    It's six months after the ads came out and the past three days has seen political infighting make headlines across the country AND the media reported (and still reports) this by-election was a test of Dion's, GASP... "leadership".

    I suspect Harper is sitting in a big leather chair somewhere watching this unfold. Know what he's saying?


    By Blogger Sean Cummings, at 2:58 p.m.  

  • Re: Josh Gould

    The timing of that 1990 NDP by-election win in Chambly is why they took it (and by such a large majority) - a lot of Quebecois were fed up with Federal politics and the failure of the Meech Lake accord, and wanted to lodge a protest vote. The NDP were perfect for that, and were poised for some historic gains in Quebec.... least until the Bloc Quebecois became a force and fielded candidates in all 75 Quebec ridings in '93.

    What I'm saying is that this Outremont by-election victory is something quite different - it's as if Montreal voters don't quite want to go Conservative, but they're tired of the Liberals and Bloc (which is the trend throughout the province, considering Roberval was a Tory landslide and St-Hyacinthe was surprisingly narrow given it's historically a chateau-fort of the BQ)

    You know that fortune cookie "May you live in interesting times"? That's the political landscape in Quebec - it's like trying to look at tea leaves figuring out how where all the pieces will fall not only in the next federal election but for the next two decades.

    By Blogger Mike, at 3:59 p.m.  

  • Matt, I agree that, while fun to imagine Ignatieff (or anyone else) masterminding a vast cloak-and-dagger conspiracy in Ottawa a la James Mason or Alan Rickman, it more than likely just isn't so...

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 4:08 p.m.  

  • it's as if Montreal voters don't quite want to go Conservative, but they're tired of the Liberals and Bloc

    I'm not from Montreal but those are definately my feelings as well. I'm so sick of the Bloc's "We want to destroy Canada" and the Liberal's "Only We can save Canada!" For that reason I welcomed the Conservative breakthrough in Quebec last election even though I strongly disagree with most of their policies. Its nice to see this wasn't a blip and that so many in Quebec are bored with that narrative.

    As much as the MSM and Sean might want to make this all about the Conservatives and the Liberals, I think the collapse of the Bloc and the non-existance of the Green vote are more important. With so many voters unimpressed with the two big guys, its becoming clearer that the NDP are the most credible alternative, maybe now even in Quebec.

    By Blogger Emerys, at 5:13 p.m.  

  • Sean, I think you have a compelling case. The CPC made sure that Ignatieff was displayed in the ad, and against Dion.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 9:11 p.m.  

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