Thursday, January 21, 2010

Grassroots Fury

Another day, another poll confirming the beating the Tories are taking over prorogation. Perhaps an even better political barometer would be Rick Mercer:



So, the real question is - how did this happen? Why are Canadians actually giving a damn? It's not like voters were really up in arms over the Afghan detainee issue, and no one has talked about prorogation in that context. Have voters suddenly taken an interest in procedural politics? Doubtful, given all they do is bitch and moan about how juvenile the House of Commons is - surely they aren't missing that.

Is it an arrogance or abuse of power issue? I doubt it - this isn't worse than any of the dozen or so other dictactorial moves Harper has made during his 4 years as Prime Minister. And anyone who subscribes to Will Ferguson's "Bastards and Boneheads" theory will know that arrogance is more often a voter "turn on" than a voter "turn off".

No, if you scan the Facebook posts and listen to people outside of the political bubble, what they seem to be latching onto is the "vacation" element. This is being interpreted as Harper taking an extended vacation from work to watch the Olympics. And that's something voters can understand.

It's like when MPs vote themselves pay raises or expense thousand dollar meals. People will accept it when their elected MPs are juvenile, when they're petty, when they're assholes. But they hate it when their elected representatives come across as lazy or selfish. Maybe it's because, deep down, voters know that underneath all the bickering, these guys and girls are actually working hard. So when they stop working, that's when you get problems.

And there lies Harper's mistake. He assumed voters couldn't get upset about something they didn't understand. After all, to him this was just another procedural manoeuvre - it probably never crossed his mind that Canadians would see this as an extended vacation. Taken in that context, the Liberals hokey "show up to work" stunt will probably go over well, if executed properly.

At this point, the only question is whether or not this will stick to Harper, or if all will be forgoten come March.

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29 Comments:

  • Good theory. That may be why the opposition are making sure they are in Ottawa and working on January 25.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 7:25 PM  

  • Kady O'Malley posted the regional breakdown of that poll. Conservatives lead and going up in BC. Huge Tory lead in Alberta. They lead and are up in Sask/Man. Tories trending up in Ontario, in second. Miniscule uptick for them in Quebec. The Liberals are up and leading in Atlantic Canada, but so what, they're going to gain seats in Cape Breton or PEI?
    An election would likely mean the Conservatives hold most of their seats.
    It would be helpful to have the Ontario numbers broken down to Toronto and outside of Toronto.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 8:45 PM  

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    By Blogger MississaugaPeter, at 8:57 PM  

  • I agree with you 100%: "the only question is whether or not this will stick to Harper, or if all will be forgoten come March."

    Harper was in Calgary in 1988, and his dream of being prime minister during a Canadian Olympics will be fulfilled. He has only one more dream, and that is a majority government. Expect him to act accordingly.

    To divert attention, expect Harper to make plenty of announcements next week (jobs, jobs, jobs). I would not be surprised that the issue of cutting funding to political parties (due to economic circumstances) is brought up, unless he is saving it for the budget.

    On that note, WOW today: U.S. Supreme Court's decision on corporate involvement in the political process.

    By Blogger MississaugaPeter, at 9:05 PM  

  • I do think arrogance plays a major issue with this stuff, but I don't think its the entire one - your "vacation" theory does really strike a chord. I've been working with the rally groups, and the overall tone is one of "get the f*ck back to work," instead of "you're an arrogant a-hole."

    By Blogger Volkov, at 9:20 PM  

  • Its always funny when voters take a completely reasonable position for absolutely the wrong reason (Harper, and indeed, just about every MP works very hard whether parliament is in session or not).

    Perhaps the vacation meme resonates more strongly because it is one that Harper's supporters are more inclined to care about (whereas they don't give a crap about Afghan detainees).

    In that sense the facebook group (which is mostly young lefties) may not reflect where Harper is dropping in the polls. However, even Harper didn't drop in the polls, I am sure Liberal fund-raising will do VERY well this quarter.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 10:12 PM  

  • Its always funny when voters take a completely reasonable position for absolutely the wrong reason (Harper, and indeed, just about every MP works very hard whether parliament is in session or not).

    Perhaps the vacation meme resonates more strongly because it is one that Harper's supporters are more inclined to care about (whereas they don't give a crap about Afghan detainees).

    In that sense the facebook group (which is mostly young lefties) may not reflect where Harper is dropping in the polls. However, even Harper didn't drop in the polls, I am sure Liberal fund-raising will do VERY well this quarter.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 10:12 PM  

  • Huge Tory lead in Alberta.

    Nice talking point!

    Meanwhile, crunching the numbers... let's see, that means the CPC is off by about 17 points in Alberta compared to where they were in the last election, and the Liberals are up 13. Liberals closing the gap by 30 points in Alberta in a real election would mean Edmonton has turned back into Redmonton, with four or five seats going Liberal or NDP. Even the city centre riding in Calgary might be competitive.

    By Anonymous i can count stuff good, at 10:31 PM  

  • i can count stuff good said,

    Liberals have been hoping for Calgary-Centre for 30+ years. Not happening with a Calgarian at 24 Sussex.

    By Blogger MississaugaPeter, at 10:44 PM  

  • MississaugaPeter;

    Not Calgary-Center, but Calgary West - possibly the most Liberal-friendly riding in Calgary. Its got the University, it has lots of Liberal provincial support, it also has a semi-popular candidate... that could by far be the best riding for Liberal competition.

    By Blogger Volkov, at 11:02 PM  

  • Attend your local rally on saturday!!!

    By Blogger JimTan, at 11:21 PM  

  • Nuna's really trying to spin this hard as a good poll for the Conservatives.

    Unfortunately for her, the Ekos regional seat breakdown from this poll would have the Liberals getting three more seats then the Cons; 117-114 I believe was the projection.

    Where it was a month or 2 ago before Harper's prorogue; I think the Liberals would take that and will take that as something to grow on.

    By Blogger Scott Tribe, at 11:21 PM  

  • @ Volkov: Calgary—West is perennially thought of by outsiders and idealists as the riding most likely to give, yet it's been held every election by someone who is widely perceived as one of the weakest, least effective, and most unnecessarily controversial MPs in the Conservative caucus. Bronconnier and Pollock had huge local profiles when they ran against Anders (from City Hall and the school board, respectively), but none of the Liberal candidates has made much of a dent. People in that riding are clearly voting for the party and not the person, and I have no reason to believe they will budge now—certainly not on a perception of arrogance.

    From a strictly strategic perspective, and with the asterisk that I don't really keep up with this stuff, my reading is this: Harper's best PR weapon in the current news cycle is the emergency response to the Haiti earthquake. This isn't to say that any other party would have conducted itself differently, but it's easy to point to as a show of competence.

    By Anonymous Nick, at 12:15 AM  

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    By Blogger MississaugaPeter, at 12:34 AM  

  • 2008 Election result for Calgary West:

    Rob Anders (CPC) - 57.4%
    Jennifer Pollock (Lib) - 21.9%
    Randy Weeks (Green) - 11.2 %
    Teale Phelps Bondaraff (NDP) - 6.4%

    Even a pathetic CPC candidate quite easily takes Calgary West. No change while Harper is leader.

    By Blogger MississaugaPeter, at 12:48 AM  

  • Hey, I'm not predicting, I'm just saying, if any Calgary seat could fall to the Liberals, it would be Calgary West.

    By Blogger Volkov, at 1:38 AM  

  • Iggy promised in December that if Harper were to Prorogue, he would cast it as a "scandal".

    The media followed the script the Liberals handed them, and told folks they should be outraged. The "vacation" meme was enough to get them upset, and they responded in kind.

    I have yet to find a single person who is mad as hell, who can tell me exactly what it is that they're upset about.

    By Blogger paul.obeda@, at 6:10 AM  

  • paul.obeda, I have met many people who are madder than hell and can say exactly what they are upset about, and it even makes sense.

    Correcting an earlier comment here - folks on the CAPP site aren't "mostly young lefties." A study done just the other day shows most are over 40, and fairly active in keeping up with politics.

    Those I've spoken with say they are angry because while Harper is allowed to prorogue, his reasons for doing it undermine democracy. They are angry that he is ignoring their will, trying to define them, shutting out their right to participate in their own Parliament through their elected officials, and angry because they see where this could all lead.

    They are overwhelmingly concerned by the systematic erosion of our democracy as people like Tinsley and Keene are being stomped on and tossed aside.

    Sure, there are many who are reacting to the holiday thing, but many of those are learning about the real issues, the larger concerns.

    Many people use the Net to reach others, share information, and present arguments. Why do we blog, if not to have some kind of impact on others, to effect change?

    I wasn't sure what, if anything would come of CAPP, but now I see that it has successfully become an avenue to educate others, to co-ordinate efforts, to network, to build ideas, and more. It has also changed the discourse surrounding prorogation. Inevitable, as more people grew to understand it and the implications.

    By Blogger 900ft Jesus, at 9:14 AM  

  • This is a bit off-topic, but the best Liberal chance in Calgary would be if they redraw the old Calgary centre when they redistrict in a few years.

    That's the riding Joe Clark won and, under the right circumstances, the Liberals could take it.

    With the ridings as they are now, North East has some interesting demos too but, realistically, there aren't any winable seats out there.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 10:12 AM  

  • CG is right: Calgary-Centre is more vulnerable than Calgary-West.

    And H2H is right. I think a lot of this movement is bandwagon-jumpers who don't actually know what's going on. Hating Harper/right-wingers/conservatives/Bush/Republicans/Bush/etc is very popular and some people do it just to fit in. Doesn't mean they're going to vote that way (or at all).

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 10:43 AM  

  • What ridiculous spin. Robert, you are grasping at nonexistent straws. My dad - who has never given the slightest inclination of being interested in Facebook - joined specifically so he could join CAPP. Thousands of people around the country came out today.

    By Blogger Josh, at 6:39 PM  

  • So I repeat my previous assertions: people are claiming to be upset by something which has occurred more than 100 times since Confederation. But the previous 100 times didn't upset them, only this time.

    Barely a decade ago, all Parties decided to reduce the number of days they were scheduled to spend in Ottawa, in order to spend more time working in their ridings. Now, two of those same political parties are suggesting through the media that the only place they work is in Ottawa.

    Hypocrisy knows no bounds.

    By Blogger paul.obeda@, at 1:41 AM  

  • The hypocrisy would be where? I was not a fan of Harper's previous prorogation either, done as it was to avoid a vote of confidence. Of course, I don't much like how power has become so concentrated in the PMO either, something that certainly didn't start with Harper but has become that much worse.

    I further don't care for fat faces like Jason Kenney who argue that Parliament is an impediment to getting things done - the argument of an authoritarian who seems to consider our elected representatives as legitimately providing little more than a rubber stamp.

    Harper has been behaving like an autocrat for most of his time in power - this was simply the last straw and it is time to curb the abuse of arbitrary power that has become a feature of prime ministerial action.

    By Blogger Josh, at 5:00 PM  

  • This "centralisation of power in the PMO" meme has gone on for a couple years, and bears some examination.

    I don't agree that it applies in this instance. Rather, we have Opposition Parties attempting to claim powers for themselves which they have not been granted historically.

    I challenge anyone to find an example in history where the Opposition determined whether or not to Prorogue. Sure, some Prime Ministers have chosen to consult more than others, but for the Opposition to claim the authority over the House which they suggest they should be afforded is ridiculous.

    We do not live in a Republic: Governmental Authority is granted to the Ministry (through the Prime Minister), and exercised by the Queen on his advice, through her Representative the Governor-General. This idea of Opposition MPs serving as "checks and balances" to the Government is cute, but poorly founded.

    By Blogger paul.obeda@, at 1:33 PM  

  • Nonsense. The Opposition constitutes (currently) a parliamentary majority and parliamentary supremacy is a cornerstone of the Westminster system and has been so for over three centuries.

    "Governmental authority" is not "granted" to anyone, but is vested in the legislature to which the cabinet is directly responsible. That's responsible government, in which the executive government derives its authority solely from its ability to maintain the support of the legislature. This is an unquestionable constitutional principle.

    We have to go back a ways to find a pertinent example of a Parliament refusing to be prorogued or dissolved, but that one lasted longer than the King.

    By Blogger Josh, at 9:33 PM  

  • Nicely stated, Josh, but incorrect.

    Governmental authority is vested in the Crown (King, Queen), and is exercised in her name by the Ministry (aka the Government).

    The Legislature is the elected (responsible) body from which the Prime Minister is drawn (not that s/he must be a member of the Legislature, but that the results of the election are indicative (but, actually, not determinative) of who should serve as the Prime Minister.

    That the Ministry is typically drawn from among members of the Legislature confuses the issue, but is not required.

    Thus, we are in the 28th Canadian Ministry, although we are in the 40th Canadian Parliament (soon to enter the 3rd Session of the 40th Parliament).

    By Blogger paul.obeda@, at 12:12 PM  

  • Just to be clear: the Government of Canada is distinct from the Parliament of Canada, despite what your Grade 10 teacher told you.

    By Blogger paul.obeda@, at 12:13 PM  

  • Constitution Act, 1867:

    9. The Executive Government and Authority of and over Canada is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen.

    17. There shall be One Parliament for Canada, consisting of the Queen, an Upper House styled the Senate, and the House of Commons.

    *****

    Executive authority is vested in the GG, who acts "by and with the Advice of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada". The PM is the nominal head of the government, certainly, but this is only a conventional position. The Ministry does not need to be drawn from the legislature (which in this country certainly isn't all elected), but it absolutely requires the "confidence" of the legislature, without which it has no "authority" whatsoever. I trust you won't need responsible government explained yet again.

    By Blogger Josh, at 2:16 PM  

  • to paul obeda:
    Your statement of there being over 100 prorogues in Canadian history is misleading. Technically, whenever a parliamentary session ends there is a prorogation, however, proroguing being used as a political tactic is rare. Very rare.
    Regardless, I'd like to hear how you'd defend it. Surely, it can't be defended as a sensible part of democracy. I don't care how many times it has happened, for whatever reason it is in the spotlight now, and this should be occasion for both liberals and conservatives to come together and protest this bizarre practice.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:33 AM  

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