Sunday, October 19, 2008

Just My Two Cents

If the common sentiment in the Liberal Party becomes that the only reason we lost in 2006 was because of Adscam, and the only reason we lost in 2008 was because of Dion, then Stephen Harper is going to become the longest serving Tory PM since John A. Macdonald.


With that in mind, everyone should check out the opinions of Misters Silver and Axworthy.

As for Mr. Reid's belief that:

No. [Our goal] should be to win more seats than our competitors and ideally, more than the 155 seats required to form a stable majority government. Let's not over-think this thing, for Pete's sake. It's about getting more Liberal MPs in the next election, not increasing popular vote over the next decade.

Here's the problem. The Liberals won 76 seats. They were within 10% of winning in 33 other seats - so maybe the "quick fix" can get us up to 109 seats next election and if that's Scott's target, that's probably doable. If you're a little more optimistic and you assume the Liberals win every seat they were in second place and within 20% of winning this time, that gives us 137 seats next election. Not bad, unless you consider that using the same criteria leaves the Conservatives competitive in 208 seats next election.

What people need to recognize is that when the Liberal Party isn't even competitive in 155 seats, winning a majority government becomes kind of difficult. And unless real changes are made, it's not going to get better anytime soon, no matter what saviour descends from the heavens to lead the party.

35 Comments:

  • Good points Cal Grit. For my part a new leader should make it a major priority to make the party more appealing west of Ontario. Raising the party's competitiveness in BC, the Prairies and Alberta would alone take the party closer to being competitive in a majority of ridings.

    As it stands now, the Liberals are essentially also rans to the NDP and Conservatives in most BC ridings, and didn't do much better in Manitoba or Sask.

    When you consider your points CalGrit and the western dilemma, McKenna seems like less of a dream candidate....it would be very wise for Liberals to seriously vet and consider leadership contenders this time around.

    By Anonymous rob c, at 11:58 PM  

  • Well said, Dan. No disrespect intended to Mr. Reid.. but he had his shot already, and the reason we the Liberals, are where we are is partly due to him and "the Board" to begin with. This past election just gives him a convenient scapegoat to blame everyone else. And it's foolish to dismiss a 308 riding or 10 province strategy a la Howard Dean.

    As I recall.. the so-called Democratic strategists in the Beltway ridiculed Dean's plan (and by extension, Obama's embracing of it), and it's a good thing no one bothered to listen to their bleating.

    The same should be done here with Reid and his advice. I'd be prepared to say anything Reid says, do the opposite of.

    By Blogger Scott Tribe, at 12:16 AM  

  • Can Scott Reid be put with LeDrew in the category of egoists that have no business offering advice to anyone?

    The last thing the party needs is advice from Martin loyalists that are responsible for the parties mess to being with...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:42 AM  

  • OK. I don't disagree. But I'm getting sick of hearing it. Particularly from people who insert at the end "so, we might as well stick with Dion."

    How about some solutions? The 308 riding strategy? Fine. Sounds good. But let's get down to brass tacks.

    Explain to me what needs to be in place at the national level, and at the provincial level, and at the constituency level, and tell me what the people working in those three areas of the party are going to spend their time doing, and how they're going to do it, and what beneficial effects it's going to have.

    Because I don't see anything happening in the US that can't be pretty strongly explained by a competition for the leadership, a hated president, and a charismatic nominee.

    Which makes this "leadership/renewal" debate seem like the bigendians versus the smallendians.

    By Blogger Gauntlet, at 1:03 AM  

  • Now now, 12:42 Anon: LeDrew is actually right sometimes.

    By Anonymous Mike G, at 1:09 AM  

  • Dion sealed his fate when he refused to take the Conservatives to task in the spring for election "in out" fraud and the Conservatives attacks on Election Canada.

    Nothing is more important in a Democracy then Democracy itself.

    By Blogger Socially Active, at 1:36 AM  

  • Without being overly cruel, I'd say that if anybody on Martin's team had "over-thought", Reid included, the man might have actually WON his election.

    While I disagree thoroughly with much of what the man says, I am becoming increasingly convinced that Kinsella has a point about these guys' political acumen. The Board ran an absolutely terrible campaign; if scuttlebutt is to be believed, they ran TWO.

    And gauntlet, the development of the "netroots" preceded both Bush's declining popularity and (by a long margin) Barack Obama's presidential run. It's about having local political activists be engaged with the party both online and offline- enough so that they're willing to flip a few bucks to candidates and parties when they can. That started with DEAN, not Obama; the tools are a lot better now.

    (Here's a question: Why don't Liberals appear to have any sort of dedicated social networking site? Forget Facebook, where's the Liberal equivalent of MyBO?)

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 1:50 AM  

  • The Axworthy piece was excellent, by the way. The most important thing for the Liberals is to re-engage with the grassroots, and the best and fastest way to do that is to give them a real voice in policy formation. The "thinker's conference" he proposed should be open to those Liberals who wish to speak, but then local riding associations should have the opportunity to discuss it.

    (Possibly using localized controlled-access networking sites?)

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 1:53 AM  

  • You sir & Rob C are 100% on the money, I have been saying this since we have lost. When we are finishing fourth behind the greens in some ridings, I don’t know how it can’t be obvious to everyone there is a major problem.

    To me the one thing that the Cons did right this election that they could not do in over ten years was hide their bogeymen. There was no talk of privatisation on bible driven policies. The Libs need to take a page out of this book.

    I would state that this is not a Man-West problem entirely but also a rural urban one. Primarily the green shift hurt us, which is unfortunate because I think it is a good policy but it needs serious modification. We also need to stop talking about gun control, that doesn’t mean we renounce it but no new changes. The big big city issues are what getting us in to trouble IMO. Something real for farm and forestry would go along way as well.

    By Blogger DeanC, at 2:25 AM  

  • Dan,

    You are missing something interesting going on here:

    Liberals (and others) Opposed to Stéphane Dion's Removal as Leader
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=40161095228&ref=mf

    Not everyone in the party agrees that Mr. Dion should step aside and we resent that members are not being consulted about this. We are exhausted from the election campaign. That is why all these "anonymous senior liberals" are pouncing now. That's why the right-wing media is in such a HURRY for Mr. Dion to leave as soon as possible. They want to leave no time for a backlash of his supporters. And I think there are many more of us that the media and the anti-Dion forces within the party realize. He ran an inspiring campaign. We believe in him. We do not believe now is the time for another leadership contest from hell. That would be playing into Harper's hands.

    By Blogger Jean Proulx, at 3:03 AM  

  • As I see it there are a few things the Liberals need to do as a precursor to any strategizing.

    1. End the recurring leadership battles (Trudeau-Turner rippled through the ages). That was always why the Tories kept self-destructing (it is called minority party syndrome) - until 1993 when they actually destructed into their constituent parts.

    2. Build a party machine capable of actually raising money. Work on small donations online - if Obama can raise 150 million dollars in 1 month, presumably the Liberals could raise 20 million plus in 4.5 years, with their subsidy paying for everyday costs. This may involve targeting youth.

    3. Envision a winning coalition of voters that Liberals could conceivably assemble to win a majority government - speaking to CG's point. Right now, the Liberal coalition is: urban Canadians and a few Atlantic Canadians. This is not surprising since you guys ran on "Harper is a bad man". It is a dramatically weaker coalition than the classic coalition of centrist English Canadians plus federalist Quebec.

    One possibility is to explicitly target young voters - the generation of people new to politics. If you look at the current split, it isn't pretty for the Liberals. Looking south of the border, I do think that my generation can be compelled to vote with the right message. Young voters are the easiest to target because there are so many ways to get information about them (facebook), and because they are more conducive to taking part in open-source platform-building. Moreover, winning over young voters gives you more votes in the long run than doing so with old voters who eventually die. I have a few policy suggestions though:

    -stealing from Tony Clement's leadership campaign, implement a lifetime earning system of taxation. It is defensible - it wouldn't penalize those with irregular incomes (eg. actors, farmers, etc.), and thus is fairer. Expenses tend to peak early in life (buying first home, having children, paying off student loans). Finally, it helps keep the best and brightest here in Canada. Each year they stay in Canada for low taxes early in life, they are more likely to say, marry a Canadian, or become really attached to the local community.

    -the environment is obviously THE issue, the question is how to sell it, noting that people are stupid. Now the NDP environmental plan (auctioning emission credits) was, effectively the same as a carbon tax (with some disadvantages, but the advantage that you can set the actual level of emissions). Because it isn't a tax, and doesn't look like a tax (they surely raise prices, but it looks like you are just making polluters pay) voters can buy it. Moreover, you can set a third-party organization that controls it, similar to an independent central bank. If the last 11 years have shown anything, it is that politicians can't be trusted on the environment. Decimating the Green Party would also help win over environment voters.

    -young people would also benefit from good old fashioned government largesse. Does that mean funding universities more? No! First-off you can leave that to the provinces for the most part. Secondly, though, in many cases their parents pay their tuition anyhow (and they don't seem to care about non-tuition related aspects of funding). Instead, talk about subsidizing industries likely to employ younger people - IT, biotech, and so on. The beauty of that is that they are defensible subsidies (we are generating leadership in high tech industries). The Conservatives and NDP have a lot of support in the auto/manufacturing industries - which are in decline in Canada. Far better to hitch one's wagon to a rising star.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 3:28 AM  

  • "We believe in him"

    Jean,

    Unfortunately, the voters don't believe in dion.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 3:33 AM  

  • jimtan,

    They don't know him yet like we do

    Harper will have to try different lies next time. Might not be so easy.

    By Blogger Jean Proulx, at 4:26 AM  

  • h2h - I was just talking with someone last night about the "coalition" thing. Be it immigrants, seniors, single women, or whatever, the party needs to find some target demographics to focus on - then, based on these demographics, you target some of the seats in the West that play to this.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 8:25 AM  

  • I really have to take issue with Scott's quote. If it was just about focussing on 'winning' more seats than all we'd have to do is buy everyone a 'beer and some popcorn' -- and then everything will be just fine.

    The only mistabke that we could make that is bigger than choosing Dion is to turn around and listen to the fools from Martin's "Board".

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:13 AM  

  • The renewal process is something that needs to come from within. The mentality of the party members needs to change. The arrogance and ignorance of the idea that we are somehow Canada's "natural governing party" needs to be purged.

    But a major reason we are in the position we are is because of what Team Martin did to the party. The fact that Dion sought advice and debating tips from the team that obliterated the party says a great deal. When a hockey team goes from winning the cup 3 years in a row to sucking big time, they might make a few trades, but the coach and the management who oversaw the collapse get fired. But those who not only oversaw, but who actually helped cause the collapse of the party haven't been removed from positions of power and are still making important decisions and playing/filling critical roles for the party. Is it any wonder that the party is in the state it's in if this is the case?

    The other key issue in my mind is that though the leader has to change, it has to be about more than who the leader is. It has to be about policy, and it has to be about principle. Put another way, people need something to believe in. If people are going to get out and vote, if they are going to give their money and their time, then it has to be about more than who the leader is.

    One final thought, it also has to be about more than what our party is. It has to also be about what the other parties are. The CPC need to be shown for what many of their MPs are: Anders, Gallant, Vellacott. These are people that should have no place holding a position of honour and power. It's not so much that we need to aim to take 308 seats, but we need to let people know who occupies some of those 308 seats.

    I've written far too much.

    By Anonymous Luke, at 10:05 AM  

  • Let me try to understand your argument.

    Scott Reid is wrong because he says we need to aim for 155 seats to win a majorty.

    You say instead that what we really need is to win 155 seats to win a majority.

    See you all at the thinkers' conference. I'll be at vendor's alley peddling nostalgia.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:26 AM  

  • Obviously we need to aim to be able to win 155 seats. But considering we weren't even first or second in 155 ridings, it's not something that just a facelift will fix.

    Scott Reid's view is not about rebuilding the Liberals, it's a short-term vision. Barring Barack Obama coming to be our leader, we won't be competitive in 155 ridings without a major change to the party.

    By Blogger UWHabs, at 11:07 AM  

  • I agree there has to be grassroots involvement, improved fundraising and a national strategy, but before all those we need a leader that will invigorate all those processes. Dion is respected and admired by many, but that stops for many Canadians when it means making him the PM. In my Toronto riding of Trinity-Spadina the #1 issue I ran into with Liberal supporters was concern with Dion. Many at the door said they liked the Carbon Tax and Green Shift but didn't like Dion. Further, our # of volunteers was down from past elections and I believe it was apathy with the party among our traditional supporters.

    Dion didn't cost us the election - we were never going to win this - but he did bring us down in support. Dion should be the environment minister in a future Liberal government. We need a leader that will inspire the grassroots, make people want to contribute, and who can harness input from across the country to forge a new strategy. In these tasks Dion has utterly failed in two years, so he must go because we don't have time for him to grow. This means the new leader cannot be a Trudeau, Turner, Chretian or Martin clone, because all of them failed to unite the party and/or were lost when corporate funding options were cut. The Liberal Party will not find a new infrastructure and renewed vigour without a leader to rally and inspire the membership toward change. Dion tried and kudos to him for doing so, but he's clearly not the person to get the job done.

    By Anonymous Davey's Politics, at 11:20 AM  

  • While that Silver guy is an obvious idiot, I think your analysis is bang on ;)

    By Anonymous Rob Silver, at 11:40 AM  

  • cg: making about "demographics" is part of the problem.

    You can't just pick and choose policies based on whether they "fit target demos". Those demos can change, they can be unpredictable, and they can end up supporting some other guy when (not if, when) he comes up with a policy that targets those demos too.

    You have to stand for something. Create policies based on sound public research, yes, but the public research is best used to understand how to sell, package, and refine those policies. Policy-by-polls is what the Dems kept on trying to do, and it doesn't work.

    (It sure as hell won't help you fundraise or attract activists.)

    STAND for something, damn it.

    (And, yes, there are seats you'll never win. Accept it. Obama wasn't going to win Texas; if he tried, he'd alienate more people than he'd attract. Harper knows this: remember "Zoe"?)

    davey: no leader will do all that. Even Obama needed to stand for something, and since when has Harper been inspiring to anybody?

    Once again, you focus on the leader, you lose.

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 12:56 PM  

  • (And remember, Davey: no matter who your guy is, he's going to get swiftboated. Dion WAS popular. So was Kerry.)

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 12:58 PM  

  • I've written a short list, "What the Liberal party needs to do", on my blog.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 1:13 PM  

  • Axworthy's comments about volunteers are quite accurate, but this comment, as with nearly all of his previous commentary, particularly galls me:

    "On election night I watched the returns with Barney Danson, Dorothy Davey and several other veterans of past Liberal campaigns."

    On election night, I didn't watch returns come in. I was scrutineering at a voting station until after 11pm, all the while ignoring blackberry messages from "die-hard liberals" who wanted to know where they could meet me to watch television.

    Sure, David Emerson may be a "Liberal of convenience", as Axworthy suggests, but liberals of convenience are also those whose only willingness to do anything associated with the party is writing a column and reminiscing about the old days, running away when there's work to be done. That's convenient.

    Has anyone seen Tom Axworthy at a Liberal riding association AGM lately?

    I somehow doubt it.

    The people who are the first to call for great thinkers' conferences, etc. are generally the same ones who only want to attend if they get to own the podium. It gets tiresome after awhile.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:58 PM  

  • They're using Dion as a scapegoat. Would they have done much better with Rae or Ignatieff? I don't think so.

    The Liberal party has lost touch with Canadians. They've grown so arrogant and entitled that they haven't listened to the (predominantly liberal) people of this country. The answers are all around them, they just need to pay attention.

    Frankly I think it's amazing that they've held on to as much as they have. When the Tories did the same thing, they were busted down to 2 seats.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 2:37 PM  

  • Swiftboating only works if you let it. Blaming Dion's demise on Harper is like saying, "we could have won that hockey game if the other team hadn't kept the puck in our end all the time." The Republicans are trying to Swift Boat Obama and it's not working. A strong leader, which we so desparately need, cannot be so easily knocked down.

    Would Rae or Ignatieff have done better? I'm not sure because they have plenty of fodder for attacks and are polarizing. I'm looking for new leadership that will unite and inspire the party.

    By Anonymous Davey's Politics, at 3:20 PM  

  • The Conservative ads worked because Dion’s English was not good enough and half of Dion’s sound bits were incomprehensible. His inability to communicate turned him into a blank slate on which the Conservatives could write anything they pleased. The Liberal support in English Canada went down nearly 950,000. The Conservatives tried to pull the same thing off in Quebec, but Dion speaks French. The Liberal vote went up 94,000 there. The next Liberal leader must be able to speak both official languages flawlessly. That rules everyone from the last leadership convention out except for Rae and Ignatieff.

    By Blogger Koby, at 5:11 PM  

  • Leadership does matter, even in rebuilding.

    The reason the Conservatives are where they are today is because of (1) sharp policy focus (at least in opposition) and (2) strong clear leadership to give sharp focus to policy but also to give leadership internally in rebuilding their party. For years, Reform/PCs drifted in the wilderness without that combination.

    Having good policy is not enough without leadership and good leadership is not enough without some good policy.

    A good leader will be someone everyday Canadians, not just the politicos, can identify with, think 'yeah, I don't agree with everything he says, but he gets what's important to me'. It is also someone who knows how to priorities and lead internally: re-organize and renew the party infrastructure, decision-making, policy-making and fundraising.

    It is a lot to ask. Especially in a minority government situation. But you have to start with basics: and that starts with finding a proven leader with moderate and centrist leanings, not someone (with all due respect to those this excludes) who will vaguely be "the future" or who have some great "vision" of the direction of the country or of uniting the left. It also has to be someone who thinks beyond strategy and tactics because focusing on strategy and tactics is part of why you should ignore Reid's comments.

    By Blogger Ted, at 6:02 PM  

  • Pretty much. My comment on Reid's school of thought is that it was that kind of thinking that was innate in the Dion Liberals- this ideal that it was a temporary problem that required a band-aid solution- and we saw how well that worked.

    Party renewal requires a lot more than quick fixes. It took ten years and the stitching of two parties as one to repair the Conservative movement, and they spent thirteen years out of power in the process. And even as we speak, there's still room to grow and improve. It may take less time with the Liberal Party, but they aren't immune to the same problems, and therefore have to attack them the same way.

    By Blogger BCT 2.0, at 6:13 PM  

  • Peoples vote is dependent on both platform and Leader. People primarily want the platform but don’t want to buy it from a used car salesman. They don’t want it from a high school dropout either. Politics is making your opposition look like one of the two and strategy and tactics is the way you go about doing it. It's all relevant. Mr. Dion is far from stupid but the Cons did a phenomenal job of making him look that way.

    By Blogger DeanC, at 8:02 PM  

  • "You have to stand for something. Create policies based on sound public research, yes, but the public research is best used to understand how to sell, package, and refine those policies. Policy-by-polls is what the Dems kept on trying to do, and it doesn't work."

    Harry Truman once said he would give anything for a one-armed economist, because they kept saying "on the other hand..." Public policy typically supports multiple policy solutions to problems, each of which have pluses and minuses. It is thus not difficult to put together a defensible platform that targets key demographics.

    "Standing for something" is not enough on its own. The Liberals had a bold policy initiative in the Green shift - but they hadn't really marketed it appropriately. The green shift largely targeted urban left folks that already vote Liberal.

    I should add that ad hoc coalition-building has worked great for Harper. Harper has taken a middle approach between Paul Martin and Stephane Dion (a fox and a hedgehog). Harper has core priorities (less Ottawa, lower taxes, "support the troops" and get "tough on crime"), bolstered by micro-targeting micro-targeting micro-targeting.

    Peter Kent managed a 20-point swing in Thornhill. That had little to do with Harper's grand vision, or Kent's star status (Kent did poorly in St. Paul's) and everything to do with Harper's outreach to Jewish voters. Instead of broad tax relief, Harper has opted for smaller, more targeted tax cuts that benefit people more likely to vote. It is a more efficient way to build coalitions than proposing broad-based tax relief to many people that are not likely to be swayed by tax cuts.

    People are ultimately driven by interests, not ideas. The failure of the Green shift is the perfect example of this - urban Canada, the net gainers of the shift, stuck with the Liberals. The carbon-intensive lifestyle of those outside the urban parts of Canada precluded its workability.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 8:18 PM  

  • "Peoples vote is dependent on both platform and Leader."

    I don't think it is possible to separate the two. Nobody believes 100% of any platform will get enacted, so even if you agree with the platform, you need to trust the leader. Harper's failure to get a majority reflects this - nothing he campaigned on was especially offensive, but many folks don't trust Harper, believing that he has a hidden agenda.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 8:28 PM  

  • H2H,

    Harper ran on a platform of good government this last time because he had a record. 3 things prevented his majority, he blundered culture in Que, ABC ran strong in Nfld and I would say a lesser extent in N.S. and the banking crash came at the absolute worst time for someone who does not believe in market intervention.

    By Blogger DeanC, at 8:35 PM  

  • yes dion was the worst retail politician that the liberals have had as leader in 50 or more years, horrible communicator, socially inept, arrogant etc etc.

    But he never bothered to renew the liberal party, he just wanted power. he didn't think it had to be fixed and he was proud of the liberal record.

    Yes the party needs a leader that can actually communicate and persuade and not be socially semi illiterate.

    Yes they need better financing and organization and more volunteers.

    BUT they'll need to give Canadians a reason to give them more money, more participation and that need to be more than just powerlust and a charismatic leader.

    they need to rebuild their policies and start asking Canadians to get involved in participating in policy discussions and debates not just ego podium speeches but actual grassroots participation. actually listen to what people want and make them feel that they have a stake and can make a difference. One reason the party lost was because it was out of touch with Canadians.

    if they don't it doesn't matter who leads them.

    Scott beer and popcorn reids advice is a sure prescription for failure. The party need to reflect on why they lost and dion was a big part but not the only part, the brand is damaged and a new driver and a new coat of paint ain't enough to hide the rot from the voters, it needs to be honestly and brutally examined and dealt with, and denial/minimization hasn't worked very well.

    Also liberals should read this post by Stephen Taylor, i don't agree with all of it, and it's a bitter read, but he has some painful nuggets of truth in their that liberals should pay attention to or suffer another defeat a few years down the road

    http://www.stephentaylor.ca/2008/10/sincere-advice-for-the-liberal-party-of-canada/

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:22 AM  

  • All is well. Rae will make a great leader. Just bring Scott Reid back and you'll be fine.

    Y'all were too harsh on Dion, be nice to Bobby.

    By Blogger Hey, at 4:03 PM  

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