Monday, December 05, 2005


The Canadian federal election is fully underway with hardly a step being missed by each political party, both in tone and message. Out of the gates first are the Conservatives, whose consistency and discipline has enabled them to frame the debate thus far.

Stephen Harper and his outfit have done an excellent job getting out message faster than the Liberals. For example, the proposed GST cut is undoubtedly a policy chestnut the Conservatives have been holding on to a for while now, and in the midst of the holiday shopping season functions more as a psychological boost than sound economic policy.

Jack Layton has stuck to the tried and true NDP hobbyhorses, health care, the environment, and education. But his electoral fortunes look to be much worse than if he continued to prop-up the minority Liberal government. Mr. Layton is no longer the most powerful man in Canada.

In the sponsorship scandal’s fallout, Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc are polling strong in Quebec, and no less a character than AndrĂ© Boisclair, the PQ's newly elected leader, makes the prospect of Separatist resurgence very real.

Paul Martin’s Liberals are doing what sitting governments mired in corruption allegations do, staying out of the headlines.

And it’s not exactly hurting them either. In a CPAC-SES poll conducted last night (Random Telephone Survey of1200 Canadians, MoE ± 2.9%, 19 times out of 20) the Liberals have 38% of decided voters’ support, a pick up of 4%, while the Conservatives have 29% of decided voters’ support, a drop off of 1%. This even despite last week’s strong campaigning by the Conservatives. Even more troubling for the Conservatives is the strong polling for Unsure, 20%, for Best PM, surpassing Stephen Harper’s 19%. And when it comes to trust, competence and vision on a Leadership index, it’s not even close: Martin is 30 points ahead of Harper, who seems to be losing ground.

This brings me to what Iwanted to say -- prefaced and couched as it is with the skeletal of bare journalistic requirements. Earlier this morning, Paul Martin gave what I think was a terse and piquant speech that should crystallize the Liberal message for the remainder of this election. His essential point was that leadership matters, or leaders matter – which ever way has more purchase. For all his otherwise charming deficits, Paul Martin projects the characteristics most closely associated with leadership better than Stephen Harper. One simple metric could be who wants the job more. Stephen Harper has always been a reluctant leader, quick to cut himself from party doyens. Paul Martin, on the other hand, has wanted this job since lord knows when. Another metric is international visibility, which Martin wins hands down – this isn’t a fair match for Harper.

So if the Liberals want to do well, I believe, they have to change the scope of their message. Healthcare is a dead metaphor, literally. There is a fatigue and growing malaise anytime the subject to brought up. It’s neither comprehensible as a general election question -- it’s too over wrought -- or palatable for reasonable dialogue. It is the stuff of antiseptic bromides and ridiculous tautologies. (“Fix HealthCare for a Generation”) Leaders, in light of our particular historical situation, matter. When international tumult threatens to damage the already threadbare international order [fill in obligatory analogy] who we elect reflects what we believe. Our Prime Minster must not only lead Canada, but represent Canada to the world. Now here there are obvious undertones of Bush and America’s perception throughout the world. (This tact must be navigated adroitly and great expense must be taken not to directly critique Bush – oblique criticism is permitted) Martin and the Liberals win this way. Liberal Message needs to raise the altitude coming into January.

I felt very strongly about getting this idea to the Liberal party, so much so that I called the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) which is a listed number on the Government of Canada’s website, and asked to speak to David Herle, a Liberal campaign strategist. To my amazement I was put through, or at least I assumed I was. His assistant informed me that he was on the other call and would get back to me when he was free. I was slack-jawed, although still very skeptical. Not to appear of bad repute, even though in their eyes I most certainly am, I left my real name and real number.

It turns out that my call may have been transferred to the PCO (Privy Council Office) which ‘provides public service support to the Prime Minister’, and security no doubt. Why do I think this? Well, it turns out that a recent visitor to my site works at the Privy Council Office and was likely checking the nature and content of my blog; this hardly bothers me – I welcome all eyes.

They justifiably assumed that something was amiss. A man calling the PMO and asking for a Liberal strategist? As if that’s possible. That I could call and be transferred to the Liberal War should be a testament to the accessibility of our country’s political machinery. But that’s too much to ask, and a service no political party should even entertain. Yet, there is something to be said about taking to pulse of the common man. To the PMO and PCO, no harm was intended. To David Herle, give me a call sometime, I have some good ideas.

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