In the larger picture of things today was a victory for both the Liberal Party and for Canadians. Stephen Harper has badly mismanaged the economy and failed to adequately look after unemployed workers. Once again when his back is against wall, he is forced to bend and at least move in the direction of doing the right thing - he's admitted the EI program needs to fixed to help the self-employed and deal with regional disaparities. By fall there is now a reasonable expectation serious changes will be made. It's not perfect, but an election would not have brought EI changes all that much sooner either and was really not the desired result from our party or Canadians perspectives. The media always says they want to see Parliament work, well in the context of a minority Parliament isn't this how it's supposed to work?
Now was just not the right time for Liberals to go to the polls. We go into an election to win, not because we'd look bad if we didn't. Our cards were played just right, Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals made the Conservatives cave in (Harper knew an election would have ended his career even if he barely eeked out the most seats) and we will get better policy and accounting of the nation's finances as a result. Just as important we will a chance to bring them down in the fall, something I was originally quite skeptical they would give us.
But just think of what the dynamic would have been if we had gotten a summer election. The Conservatives have 143 MPs and dozens more nominated who have been campaigning heavily since the last election in their ridings. I don't know how many candidates we have nominated right now, but my sense is with the exception of our 77 MPs, many candidates were only nominated in the past month or two. In the case of my riding our candidate (former, and soon to be again, MP) Lloyd St. Amand was nominated last night. If there was a summer election that would give these recently nominated candidates very little time to formally campaign in their riding against incumbents. You can't ignore the advantages incumbency affords the Conservatives, having the summer to recruit high profile candidates, and for our already nominated candidates, to become more well known and get some positive press in their ridings, can make a world of difference. In Brant, Lloyd would have won with an election this week I'm sure, but other candidates will certainly benefit from the extra time.
You can say we should have had more of our candidates in place sooner to be ready for summer, but you can't do that while at the same time saying you want a more grassroots based nomination process, and rushing nominations can sometimes lead to a potentially better candidate being excluded. Having a more drawn out nomination process also leads to more Liberal members being recruited in ridings across the country and more money being fundraised at the riding and party level.
I'm hearing some EXTREMELY positive things about our fundraising and membership numbers, more nomination meetings and the summer BBQ circuit are only going to help. Waiting longer to go will probably also lead to more ridings being familiar with Liberalist, our vote-tracking software which will prove key to winning close races.
I think in hindsight we might have been better served to have gone into the last election in May or June 2008, but that still would have been after over 2 years of election preparation - had we gone much sooner than last June we might well have seen a worse result than we actually got. Timing and election readiness are essential to have right. Stephen Harper knows that well, had he waited even a few weeks longer to call an election, I'm certain he would have lost (he received even more luck in timing by the fact that the TSX had two massive rallies the last two days of the campaign, very positive job numbers came out the Friday before voting day and the Dion hatchet job CTV piece came out the day before that). Just a couple weeks after voting day a Nanos Poll had it at 32% (-6%) Conservatives to 30% (+4%) Liberal support. We have to get our timing just right.
The record may show we waited a bit too long to go last time, but if we had gone now, while I do believe we would have won, the risk of the Conservatives still winning more seats than us would have been much higher . We will win more seats in the end by waiting and ensuring our election machine crushes the Conservatives when the time comes.
The only major downside is that while our ideal time may be this fall, it will tough to get the Bloc and NDP onboard with that. But it's hard for either of them to justify voting down the government now and making some side deal with them later just to save themselves from massive seat losses. At the least I don't see either of them supporting the next Conservative budget.
In the end, Conservatives are past the point of no return in Quebec, getting there in
Ontario, and hardly winning over any new supporters with their latest spin and theatrics to try to cover up their terrible record of mismanagement. Even if the economy is recovered by early next year I doubt Canadians will really give Conservatives all that much credit for it and that might actually take the economy off the table as a major issue and move to the wider question of which party represents your values and who can you trust (to improve our international reputation, to improve education and health care, to slay the deficit, etc..) which we will easily outpoll the Conservatives on (and right now we outpoll them on the economy as it is). This government also seems to have new scandals by the day which won't help them much either.
It doesn't change that Harper and the Conservatives have no vision and no plan to move this country forward. Their only progress comes when they are forced into acting. When the election comes our plan will put theirs to shame.
So while I'd like this government gone tomorrow, I'm confident they will be whenever we finally do go to the polls. So with compromise, patience and the right timing we will ensure Canadians get the government they need and deserve.
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