Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gun to their Heads

Radio ads target Liberal MPs who broke ranks on gun registry

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives launched a radio ad campaign today, targeting the ridings of the eight Liberals who voted with them to scrap the gun registry.

In the ads, the Tories say the eight MPs have been ordered by “Liberal boss Michael Ignatieff” to vote to keep the registry.

The ads emulate a news story, featuring the anticipatory-breaking news music and the booming voice of a radio news anchor: “We have breaking news out of Ottawa,” it says. “Plans to scrap the wasteful long-gun registry are now in doubt. The reason? Local member of Parliament (the name of one of the eight MPs is inserted here) has been ordered by Liberal boss Michael Ignatieff to vote to keep the registry.”

The voice then urges “local citizens” to call the MP with their concerns. The MPs’ number is provided, with the ads tailored to each individual riding.

I don't have a problem with this in the least - it's mostly issue based, and there's nothing wrong with targeting MPs who get whipped into line on a vote they'd rather oppose.

The real question is how effective this campaign will be.

Here are how the Liberal Eight fared last election:

Scott Andrews (Avalon): Beat CPC 45% to 35%
Larry Bagnell (Yukon): Beat CPC 46% to 33%
Jean-Claude D'Amours (Madawaska--Restigouche): Beat CPC 47% to 33%
Wayne Easter (Malpeque): Beat CPC 44% to 39%
Keith Martin (Esquimalt--JuandeFuca): Beat CPC by under 100 votes
Anthony Rota (Nipissing--Timiskaming): Beat CPC 44% to 32%
Todd Russell (Labrador): Beat NDP 53% to 24%
Scott Simms (Bonavista): Beat everyone else 'till they were black and blue all over

So unless the Danny-effect wears off in Newfoundland, Keith Martin is the only MP in danger of losing his job over this. And given Martin's maverick streak, it certainly wouldn't surprise me in the least to see him break ranks on this one.

Andrews, while safe, has also shown a rebellious side before - he's the only other MP who I could see flipping (I assume Easter is onside, given how public he's been on this issue).

But, as mentioned before, this vote really comes down to the NDP. So the question is: if Jack whips the vote, would a similar advertising blitz scare enough Dippers?

Well, looking at the 20 NDP MPs who voted for Hoeppner’s bill before, 6 of them won by under 10 percentage points last election.

Malcolm Allen (Welland): Beat CPC by 1.6%
Dennis Bevington (Western Arctic): Beat CPC by 3.8%
Bruce Hyer (Thunder Bay Superior North): Beat Liberals and CPC by about 10% each
John Rafferty (Thunder Bay Rainy River): Beat Liberals by 8%
Jim Maloway (Elmwood Transcona): Beat CPC to 5%
Glenn Thibeault (Sudbury): Beat Liberals by 5%, and CPC by 9%

Allen, Bevington and Maloway certainly don't want to see an ad blitz run against them - you can bet they're strongly urging Jack to hold off on whipping the vote, behind the scenes.

So it seems likely that even if Ignatieff and Layton whip the vote, we'll see a few MPs flip. To put the math into context, there are 144 Conservatives and a pair of Tory independents in the house - they'll need 8 MPs to flip in order for the legislation to pass (or 16 to call in sick...).

It's going to take a huge amount of party discipline to shoot this bill down - and I'm skeptical that Ignatieff and Layton have a strong enough hold on their MPs to accomplish that.


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