Monday, October 15, 2007

Gaming the Throne Speech

With tomorrow being the day of the Throne Speech, here’s my thoughts.

Plainly, I don’t think the Liberals should be gearing up to go an election right now. And I think that goes for all parties. But the Liberals could use more time to organize to make sure they’ve got the best possible campaign plan ready to go when they have to go on the trail. Personally, I think the more time until an election, the more rope we’re giving Harper to hang himself, and today’s news that he’s creating some despotic gov't -propaganda newsroom paid for by tax payer's dollars boosts that view in my books. If Jean Chrétien had been made to lead the Liberals only one year into his leadership, it’s a pretty safe bet there’d have been no Liberal majority and they could have easily lost. It’s not to say the Liberals would lose if they went now, just that they would do better if they went later.

The Liberals need to make sure their organization on the ground is solid in each province and just as important they need to put forth a Red Book that is as good as it could be possibly be (from what I hear it’s not finished yet though so more time would be useful). Also the Harper government has had a free ride this past summer and once back in the House the heat will be put back on them over several things that have slipped under the radar. So the polls could easily be in our favour in a few months.

So I think the Liberals should do a coordinated abstention as floated about where the front benches vote against and the others don’t show up. Now I know there are many Liberals who feel that we have to always stand on principle and if it’s a bad speech we have to go to the polls. Well I would say that we should not let Harper pick the time to go to the polls by doing so. He’s gearing to go, let’s not do him any favours. Harper has been laying a few Liberal traps recently, and we shouldn’t fall into them.

The speech from the throne is just a symbolic speech after all. If it passes it has virtually no consequences for anything. Can anybody tell me the last time, Canadians went to an election over a throne speech?

Now if Harper puts forth bad legislation and makes it a confidence vote then I think there’s a real case to be made that it’s worth going to the polls over. But that’s not what we are looking at here. It’s just a speech and it’s much more important that we win the next election, so you have to weigh one against the other.

So if the speech passes so be it, not worth complaining about, and maybe a little bit of private relief should be welcomed. But if Harper then in turn wants to start making crime bills confidence votes then he’s the one that will look ridiculous as that’s completely unprecedented. So better we go to the polls over something stupid on his part then go on something he wants us to bite on.

Now it may in the end make sense for us to go before the next budget and there’s a solid case to be made on that, but that won’t be till February or March and the time spent organizing between now and then could make all the difference in a campaign. So I’d be much more in favour of voting down the government in January than in the current scenario.

Now of course the Bloc and NDP will hoot and howl at a Liberal absentia, but we shouldn’t be baited by them either. The Bloc has no arguments to make as they’ve voted for the last two budgets which were terrible. Meanwhile, the NDP may get to laugh now, but come election time, what argument will they bring to the people? “Lend us your vote just one more time and we’ll, um…complain some more about the Harper government!” The NDP have ZERO accomplishments to point towards in this parliament and have spent 90% of their time bashing Liberals instead of Conservatives (some “official opposition”). No one will believe that the NDP could form the government so what else could Jack say? People won’t forget that he asked them to "lend the NDP your vote" and that they got nothing for it other than a government diametrically opposed to the values of progressive voters.

Despite the NDP gloating now, come campaign time the Liberals will be able to argue that if you want a more progressive government you HAVE to vote back in a Liberal government (Elizabeth May will make the same argument) and that the NDP is actually much more effective with the Liberals in power anyway (just compare Martin Vs. Harper governments: something to think about Dippers). So there’s an even less compelling argument to be baited by the other opposition parties.

So Stéphane keep at it on planning the next campaign, pull your team together, and make sure YOU pick the time we go to the polls!

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Jason Hickman said...

But if Harper then in turn wants to start making crime bills confidence votes then he’s the one that will look ridiculous as that’s completely unprecedented.

So when you say that making "crime bills confidence votes" is "completely unprecedented", are you saying that each and every piece of criminal justice legislation since - well, John A., I guess, judging by your language - has been a free vote? Are you sure about that?

Mike said...

Hey D,
Don't you just love how Tory types who have posted here always seem to pick out just one line or word to attack in your posts and never seem to be able to adddress the rest of it? I'm gonna guess it's pretty unprecendented in recent history to make crime bills confidence votes though (which makes it "completely unprecendented" for all goods and purposes). Care to provide an example from the last few decades that proves otherwise Jason Hickman? If you can't find one I'm gonna guess that's cause there isn't one to be found.

Jason Hickman said...

Tell you what, Mike:

Aside from capital punishment, and the most recent attempt at abortion legislation (assuming you consider that to be criminal rather than health legislation, which is questionable) - both of which were intro'd during the '84-'93 PC government - why don't you list the declared free votes that were held on criminal justice legislation from, say, 1984 (or hell, 1993 if that makes it easier) to date.

In terms of whipped votes, pretty much all bills with respect to the gun registry and youth criminal justice come to mind, just off the top of my head, as Party-line votes. I suspect there weren't many divisions on any of the sentencing changes brought in by the Libs last time, either. But like I said, if you can ID any examples, other than those which I mentioned above, I'm all ears.

The reason why those Party-line votes may not have sunk in for you at the time was because the Libs had a majority, so a whipped vote pretty much ensured automatic passage through the House, unlike the situation from '04 to date. As a result, there wasn't much speculation over what would happen if they were lost. That doesn't change what they were: Party-line, whipped votes and had the government of the day been defeated on such a vote, it would be a legitimate question of confidence.

As for me not addressing Danielle's larger point: fair enough - Dion is going to have troubles regardless of which way he goes on the Throne Speech. Danielle is wrong to say it's "just a speech", but she does have a point that it may be better for the Libs to try and find an issue that better suits them to vote down the government.

On the other hand, there will be fallout if the Libs vote for/abstain on the Throne Speech vote, depending on what's in it, and if the Libs then simply pick a topic of convenience to vote down the government, they'll leave themselves open to the accusation of too-narrow partisanship.

At the end of the day, I don't think the Libs' vote on the Throne Speech, in and of itself, will decide the next election. What effect it will have is still open for debate.

The Lib-NDP dynamic and the battle for progressive votes will have to be played out over time. I'm not so sure Danielle's "We're the only realistic progressive option" line will win too many NDP seats, but that'll depend on how the campaign unfolds.

Last thing: if Danielle doesn't want me, or any other Tory, or NDPer, Green, non-partisan, etc to post comments - in other words, if she only wants a Liberal echo chamber - then I'm sure she can say so. If she does, so be it - it's her blog, not mine.

Sorry to go on at such length, Danielle, but good ol' Mike did ask...

Mike said...

Ok I give you credit for your lengthy reply. But so then we can at least meet halfway and say that no government has really ever been at risk of falling over a crime bill (i.e., no confidence crime bills within a minority). I'll leave the rest to Danielle...

Danielle Takacs said...

Just want to make it clear that I welcome here. I may be a Liberal voter, but I will give credit where it is due. I welcome debate as I'll be the first to say I don't know it all and I may be informed of something I wasn't aware of or thought of. I'm for consensus and cooperation wherever possible to help move our nation forward with the right intentions, the right way.