Sunday, June 21, 2009

Game Theory in Canadian Politics (3)

HoserToHoosier offers the definitive look at the Harper/Ignatieff stand-off from a game theory perspective. Based on his assumptions, the Nash Equilibrium from the current conflict suggested a compromise (which we got), but Ignatieff is almost certain to force an election in the fall.

Given this, I would take it one step further, and argue that the rational play for Harper would be to strike a deal with the NDP or Bloc. The drawback there is the high cost (political cost, not monetary cost...what's another 1 or 2 billion at this point?) associated with the deal, given the harsh words we've seen over the past year. I mean, I'm already relishing the idea of posts titled "Harper's separatist coalition", or "Gilles Duceppe looked in the mirror and saw Stephane Dion".

So, for any deal to happen, the "humiliation cost" would need to be less than the "electoral cost" of going to the polls. Or, failing that, if the Bloc or NDP could milk enough out of Harper such that the "results of people/Quebecers benefit" outweighs the "humiliation cost", it might be in their best interests to deal.

So, the long and short of it is this: if we do see a deal to keep this parliament alive past Christmas, it won't be with the Liberals, and the payoff will be a whole lot more than a blue ribbon committee.



  • Don't you think Harper will just go on the offensive this summer? I think we will see attack ads coupled with "feel good" announcements from the government in an attempt to change the polling numbers.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 10:44 PM  

  • Gayle, yes and no - it is a risky approach.

    On the plus side it could soften Ignatieff's numbers and prevent Ignatieff from defeating him.

    If there is a Fall election, Harper will enter it having defined his opponent.

    However, it also does a lot of negative things. If the ads fail (or worse backfire), it helps Ignatieff frame Harper as "causing" the election. This deprives Harper of a major issue (some 78% of Canadians opposed a summer election in one poll I saw).

    Secondly, attack ads on Ignatieff improve the polling numbers of the NDP and Bloc, emboldening them to defeat Harper.

    Thirdly, while attack ads can have an impact, it is usually a fairly short-term one. Lets look at Lispop's polling archive for the Dion example.

    Dion became leader with solid numbers, ranging from 32-37% in early/mid January 2007. The Conservatives launched attack ads in late January, which brought Dion down to 26-27% by late February (with Harper as high as 40%).

    However, Dion's numbers quickly recovered and remained in the low 30's range for most of his tenure as leader till Fall 2007.

    If Harper's ideal timing for an election is one year from now, attack ads may not be the best approach. Dealing with the NDP will be, and attack ads will undermine this by improving the NDP's standing in the polls (and desire for an election).

    I think there is an additional nut in it for Harper if he goes that route. Harper has been PM for 3.5 years - he doesn't have much as a legacy to show for it. Like Pearson, Harper can compromise with the NDP to create some institution that we forever remember as Harper's gambit.

    What would I give the NDP? Probably some kind of sweeping electoral reforms, plus senate abolition. Heck, we could see Harper giving us childcare.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 1:46 AM  

  • For NDP support, it would be hard to bridge the idealogical divide - so, given that, I agree something electoral reformy might make sense.

    For the Bloc, he can just shovel cash at the forestry industry, or give Quebec "compensation" similar to what Ontario got for HST.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 10:26 AM  

  • Electoral reform would make sense for the NDP but there would have to be some red meat too so they could show they were looking out for "working families".

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:03 AM  

  • This is all erroneous what you're writing.

    By Anonymous escort marbella, at 3:11 PM  

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