06.03.2010 06:44 AM

Readying with readiness

When the current crew in Ottawa shut down Liberal election readiness, the Reformatories noticed.  They knew, among other things, it meant that the Liberal Party would not be seeking to defeat the government for a long, long time – however much they planned to huff and puff about bogus stimulus cheques or women’s reproductive freedom.  In politics, when you throw it down, you have to be prepared to back it up.

In the context of a minority Parliament – where you can be plunged into an election at any time – shuttering your war room and sending your election team home is also highly, highly risky.  Readiness means being ready; that is, being fully prepared for a national, multi-million-dollar election campaign that lasts for weeks isn’t something that can be turned on like flipping a like a light switch.  When you are in Opposition – where, let’s face it, you are not running much of anything – there is no excuse for lack of readiness.  None.

Thus, my friend Ian’s op-ed in today’s National Post. I’m delighted that he’s back swinging, and I’m in agreement with much of what he has to say.

A sampling is below.  Check it out:

There is no way of predicting the duration of a minority government. The current composition of the House suggests that the Conservatives might be tempted to engineer their own defeat before the other three parties align themselves. The rule of thumb, then, is to be ready to go at any time. Liberals need to move expeditiously on election readiness. That means being fully prepared, with money in the bank and the team and the leader set.


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    Joseph says:

    Very good points. It’s a mystery why they didn’t retain him as a Principal Secretary or a Senior Adviser.

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    Michael says:

    Most telling is this quote- “Liberals are far better off waiting until an election is called before defining themselves.”

    As opposed to , say, the Tories doing the defining FOR you? Gee, that hasn’t happened before………has it?

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    parnel says:

    I was very disappointed when they shut down the war room. Not only doies it strip the party of election rediness it also kills any stimulation of what its all about and leaves the pary and caucus in a suspended state of animation. The Tory war room is up and running 24/7 it appears and we need to do the same. Hopefully, the party will return from the summer break with the energy, and cojones, to put it to the harpercrite culture of deceit and lies.

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      Ted says:

      The Conservative war room? It’s called cabinet. They live to attack rather than govern.

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    bc says:

    “fully prepared, with money in the bank and the team and the leader set.”

    Doesn’t this reality worry Liberal supporters? They could use more money, Warren has admitted that with the war-room away from Ottawa they are likely less than prepared, and you have a leader who can barely manage being in opposition.

    The Liberal party, a once proud, fearless group of tacticians…is currently a rudderless, gunless battleship.

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    Riff says:

    The political civil war within the ranks of the Liberal Party is making rank and file Liberals across the country very, very angry. Over three decades of this sort of bullshit has to come to an end. If it does not, the Liberal party will go the way of the Dodo bird, it will quickly become extinct.
    The big problem, as I see it, is that most rank and file Liberals and small ‘l’ liberals have lost their way. They no longer know what they stand for, what values they truly believe in and therefore want initiatives they want to aggressively defend and promote.
    This crisis of belief is a product of two major developments.
    First, liberal values have been at the centre of all the major government policy initiatives since World War II. Liberals have taken for granted that this will always be the case. Therefore Liberals of all schools have felt little urgency to defend and promote old and new liberal values and initiatives.
    Second, liberalism in general and liberal programs have been under relentless attack by the New Right (comprising hard-line fiscal conservatives and radicalized Evangelical Christian values conservatives and orthodox Jews) over the past fourty years south of the border.
    This New Right attack was brought into Canada in the mid 1980s by Preston Manning’s and Stephen Harper’s Reform Party, a New Right Movement that was determined to bring down and then displace both national parties, the Progressive Conservative Party and the Liberal Party. Canada’s new natural governing party, according to Manning and Harper, had to be the Reform Party if Canada and Canadian society was to be ‘saved’ from fundamentally amoral Liberals and Progressive Conservatives. Their mission was and remains a messianic religious mission. Harper’s Conservative Party is driven by true believers – they really are religiously driven Christian nationalists to use the felicitous term of Marci Macdonald.
    Why has Ignatieff opted to close down the Liberal war room?
    Two reasons:
    1 – Liberals across the land don’t understand the serious nature of the social and political crisis they face and they are unwilling to open up their wallets and fund the very necessary war room.
    2 – Ignatieff, largely foreign to what has transpired in U.S. and Canadian politics and political culture over the past fourty years, is someone who rejects cleavage politics of all kinds. He is not a true believer and does not want to engage Harper by using Harper’s tactics and strategy. Ignatieff felt that he was loosing control over his caucus and the Liberal Party. Instead, Ignatieff has opted to sit and wait in the hope that Harper will defeat himself. Ignatieff was and will continue to loose control over the caucus and the Liberal Party because of his failed leadership and the ongoing civil war led by his leadership opponents.
    A coalition ( a true merger will only happen much later) of centre-left political forces will only be possible once both Ignatieff and Layton are driven from the political battle ground. Only then will centre-left political militants and supporters come to a consensus on who just might lead a new centre-left party.
    Only now will Liberals come to understand how it felt for New Right Conservatives who toiled on the loney far right margins of Canadian politics for over twenty years.

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      Ronald O'Dowd says:


      Outstanding post! Your input would be greatly appreciated on the fundamental question where many of us differ: Warren seems to see at least rapprochement as a winning strategy. Yours truly thinks most voting Canadians are centrists, many of whom will not want to get in bed either directly or indirectly with the New Democrats. Translation: they potentially migrate to the Conservatives. To say the least, that has me seriously worried.

      Don’t get me wrong. I respect and admire the NDP (and other social democrats) as the conscience of Canada. I’ve taken them on many times on the issues (not to mention MP pensions) but they are a fundamentally decent and caring political party.

      How do you see it Riff? Is moving in the direction of a coalition a net + or a net – for the future of the Liberal Party. Thanks.

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    Martin says:

    Arg- ready, eye, ready!

    Before reading Davey’s piece I would have agreed with Michael, above, re: getting the message out. Perhaps Davey is right, though, and the best communications strategy is simply to point out Tory misgovernment. If “well-crafted political messages” don’t make it past the miasma of crap reporting, keep to a simple one and keep them on the defensive. Keep making it clear that they have completely reneged on their promises of fiscal responsibility and accountability, and are running the most profligate and secretive government we’ve ever had. Eventually, that will stick.

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      Michael Watkins says:

      Consider Davey: “The current composition of the House suggests that the Conservatives might be tempted to engineer their own defeat before the other three parties align themselves. ”

      This was the case in 2008 – Harper blew past his own fixed election date law in order to front-run an election before what he and anyone else connected with finance in Canada knew was going to be a horrible, horrible, recession and stomach twisting market mayhem.

      If I could levy only one criticism at the opposition for all their actions over the past two years…

      Somehow the opposition parties completely failed to hold the Conservative government to account for this before, during, and after the election, despite evidence being available that Harper had already spent Canada into deficit financing even as he was saying “this government will not entertain deficit financing” and “no recession”.

      If the opposition could not make mucho hay out of attacking the government while the economy was falling apart in real time before our eyes, how much easier is that job going to be while GDP is rebounding strongly quarter to quarter and Canada is leading the G7?

      Chance blown. Big time.

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      Ronald O'Dowd says:


      With respect, you should stick to your own initial instincts. Where some in the OLO are wrong is that they are counting on a strategy of “We are not Harper”. That is followed by “Look how bad he and his government are”. Then comes, “All we have to do is wait him out”. And finally, “When the wind changes, we’ll be in, don’t you worry”!!!

      Well my friends — that ain’t happening, not even in a month of Sundays…

      Thank God Michael is moving ahead on policy, post-Montreal. We’ll win when we’ve defined who we are, what we stand for, where we’re going and when we’ll get there — based on a solid, well thought out plan AND PLATFORM.

      Until then, nothing much happens, other than this Prime Minister continuing in office, without much effort on his part.

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    Matt says:

    I agree with Davey’s guidance as well. All well-reasoned points. The only thing I’m unsure of is releasing some policy. While I totally appreciate and understand the point of not releasing any policy, aren’t we accepting a big risk by waiting until the campaign to do it? Are we going to risk digging a hole too big to get out of? We need to be within striking distance of the CONS, if not better, when the writ drops and it seems to me that the public is thirsty for some reasonable, practical, innovative and forward-thinking policy. I’d be in favour of very strategically releasing SOME policy but only if there is an overall strategy to properly present it to the public before any attack. This, along with election readiness, means the party must have money. This, in turn, means we have to show members why they should give and that, in turn, might mean we have to release some policy for Liberals to rally behind. An interesting cyclical problem.

    All in favour of letting the CONS govern and pointing out their flaws. As long we do that in way that isn’t hysterical, then the media will help point out the flaws too. We can’t claim the sky is falling every time they mess up.

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    Christian says:

    With the exception of the excerpt above, I totally disagree with Mr. Davey. Offering up more of the same while expecting a different result is not only foolish its the definition of insanity! A new appraoch is needed one that lets Mr. Ignatieff define himself and the Liberal Party tell Canadians what it stands for.

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    Glen says:

    I am pretty sure no one posting here has any idea what the status of the LPC elxn readiness is.

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      parnel says:


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      Michael Watkins says:

      You think it is a stretch to presume the LPC isn’t nearly as ready as the CPC is? That is what matters, no?

      I sure wouldn’t doubt the readiness of the CPC. Hey just last week (Senator) Gerstein asked me and a gazillion of his closest friends for money, again, and today (Senator) Duffy wants to speak to me privately about “the numbers” and how good Canada is doing.

      Hundreds of thousands of other Canadian in-boxes also received these same messages. Both appeals painted the scary picture of socialists and separatists wanting to run the hen house, enabled by a just-visiting professor, all of this consistent with the QP and Harper sound bites making it to the airwaves.

      Nah, they aren’t ready for anything. Those silly Cons are just rakin’ in the bucks and setting the tone… while the opposition does exactly what?

      Are the cons scared? Maybe they would be if the opposition appeared capable of pulling off a workable coalition or workable coordinated *opposition*. They know the actual threat of a coalition simply doesn’t matter *today*. It doesn’t matter because they can play off the issue, generate angst among the electorate, and bucks for the coffers.

      At this point the ability of the opposition to come together in any sort of consistent and sustained united front, a pre-requisite to working as a coalition pre or post election, seems very much in doubt.

      Michael’s plan is so cunning, so well hidden, so extraordinarily obtuse and opaque, that even he doesn’t know what it is. Nor does anyone else. And in the orange camp, even this very week we see the NDP continue their regular schtick, working almost as hard at opposing the Liberals as against the government of the day. Or is that just a cunning plan, a masterful bit of subterfuge, weapons of fear and surprise… designed to… to do exactly what, Jack?

      Oh yeah, hand Harper the keys to the country. Got it. Cunning!

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        Ronald O'Dowd says:


        I hope you stick around. I have much to learn from you.

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    DL says:

    I like the article, but I disagree with this quote. “There is no way of predicting the duration of a minority government. ”

    In the current parliament all three opposition parties have to vote against the government for it to fall. If the Liberals decide in advance that they don’t want an election, then they can predict that there will not be an election. They have to be a part of the bringing down.

    Of course, the government can call an election at any time, but that doesn’t seem to be happening soon.

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      Michael Watkins says:

      Define soon?

      When parliament adjourned in Spring of 08 for the summer break, was an election in the winds? Not really, and Harper’s own fixed election date law put the next contest more than a year later at October 19, 2009.

      Later in the summer Harper himself starts beating the election speculation drum, despite there being a number of byelections up-coming, and no legitimate reason to seek a “new mandate”. Such petty concerns do not trouble PM’s in seek of a majority, or bragging rights, and thus it is no surprise that Harper visits the GG in early September 2008, more than a year ahead of the fixed election date he helped set in law.

      His call for an election was based on his claim that the government was dysfunctional. That’s it.

      Note to future PM’s, apparently there is nothing to be lost in calling your own government dysfunctional when going to the polls. Maybe next time he’ll claim governmental constipation (barbecue season is coming up after all) before seeking electoral relief.

      My bet is on election call immediately after the G20 meeting, citing international financial issues as the reason, or on the day before my birthday in September.

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        Michael Watkins says:

        PS: Or perhaps the Afghan Detainee Document Contempt of Parliament Issue gives Harpoon the reason to push the Governor General’s doorbell.

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