11.02.2010 08:16 AM

Yaffe on Nicholls on Ignatieff

Stephen Harper, an official portrait.

From Yaffe’s column:

That said, Conservatives hold so many more seats than Liberals, they’d have to lose an awful lot to be defeated. Not likely, given they’re polling ahead of Liberals in seat-rich Ontario — by nine percentage points.

Conservatives, of course, start out with a robust seat advantage in Western Canada, though in B.C. they’re trailing New Democrats, possibly because of the harmonized sales tax.

Liberals know their best chance of winning government would come if Conservatives somehow besmirch the party’s brand. But given Harper’s methodical, controlling style, that prospect looks unlikely.

And so, concludes Nicholls, Liberals “simply don’t have a theory on how they can win an election.”

With the greatest of respect, I think that Barbara, Gerry and many others have misread the tea leaves, as it were, in campaigns here and South of the border.  Anger, as I’ve said a few times before, is a political commodity that’s been around since Jesus was a little feller.  Voter anger lurks behind every second door in every riding in every single campaign.  It gets a lot more ink during bad economic times, to be sure, but it ain’t anything new. In and of itself, anger isn’t what wins you a race, either.

No, what “wins” – in the Calgary and Toronto mayoralty races most particularly – is the best-run campaign.  Organization , discipline, message.

The Liberals, methinks, are underestimated on the campaign front.  Chretien was, too, as I recall, in 1993.  And we ended up doing not badly, I think.

In the campaign, everything gets equalized – most notably, the amount you have to spend and the share of media coverage you get.  With parity, Ignatieff will do a lot better than the chattering classes expect.

What do you think, folks?


  1. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    We are as one on this.

  2. Paul R Martin says:

    I agree that election campaigns do matter. Kim Campbell certainly ran a disastrous campaign. On the other hand, I believe that I once read that during his elections as leader of the Conservatives, Harper’s vote percentage averaged about 5% points better that it was in the polls prior to the elections. I also remember Mike Harris and his first campaign as Ontario PC leader. If my memory is correct, he started out in third place and won a majority. During his two election campaigns as leader, the Liberals never laid a glove on him. He also delivered on his campaign promises.

    So far, I see no evidence that the federal Liberals have developed a winning platform and a winning team. The voters realize that under Harper, Canada has performed much better that the US and Europe during the recession. Harper delivered on his promise of tax cuts and the economy subsequently performed comparatively well. Furthermore, the Conference Board has indicated that the deficit could be eliminated faster than forecast by the Government. I just do not see how you can come up with a winning platform with an aging leader who has not spent a lot of time in Canada.

  3. Cath says:

    federally the LPOC still don’t have the leader that can take Harper. Sorry.
    provincially, every time Ontarians open their hydro bills and pay for groceries or a haircut they’ll be reminded of the Ontario Liberal machine. With a strike at Western University ramping up that whole notion of best-run campaigns, organization, discipline and message are as true for the oppositions in Ontario as it is for the Liberals.
    What the Ontario Liberals have going for them at the moment is that neither opposition is in full swing or getting much air time as they’d like I’m sure.

  4. Will M says:

    I think that when a campaign is on, the gloves come off. The only poll that counts is election day.

  5. Dan F. says:

    Unless the outcome is a Con majority, there is no chance that Harper will be able to maintain the confidence of the house. The only hope for conservatives is to switch leaders immediately following the election, and enter into a coalition with the Bloc to save themselves. These Republican-Canadians are toast, and they know it. Now they are just running out the clock, trying to cling to power for as long as they can.

    Alternatively, don’t discount the possibility of Harper joining with the Bloc again after the election. He did it in his 2004 letter to the GG before he flipped to his anti-coalition position in 2008. There is no reason to believe that with no other option he wouldn’t flop back to his original position and jump into bed with the separatists again.

  6. Still Anonymous says:

    Anonymously speaking, I think there is the real potential of a Tory rout outside their SK/AB/BC Interior base. I think people are fed up with Harper and his goons.

    • Paul R Martin says:

      “Goons”? You do not have the intestinal fortitude to use your real name, yet you hide behind a screen name to call some supporters of Harper “Goons”? Try being an adult. It can be liberating.

      You also forgot to mention that there is a real potential for a rout of the Liberals in “vote rich” Ontario.

      • Cath says:

        What I really don’t understand about the federal LPOC scene is that the ground support, grassroot Liberals have had a good long time to take their party back, reorganize and get the leader they want but that doesn’t seem to be happening.

        It is: a) because there IS no ground-support left, b) the ground-support just doesn’t care anymore after Martin, Dion and now the disaster that is Ignatieff, or c) waiting around until the other guys self-destruct?

        Seems to me at the very core of the party that the reorganization and redefinition promised the Liberal base after the last election didn’t happen…and hasn’t yet.

        At some point the LPOC has to stop depending on playing pilot-fish to an NDP/Bloc coalition because the optics of a coalition for the Liberals is one of concession or weakness not strength of a one powerful party.

        Chretien had the right stuff I think. As a new voter I voted for him federally when the PCs were tanking. I then experienced Ontario at the hands of Bob Rae and changed stripes. Someone here mentioned a Belinda Stronach led LPOC. Sounded a bit wild at first but now I’m thinking…..HMMMMM.

  7. Tim says:

    Let’s have an election.

  8. J.P. Boutros says:

    You say “Organization, discipline, message” wins elections. The LPC may be able to deliver on your first two criteria but there’s no coherent message the current leader can deliver to bring down the Conservatives.

    Aside from your three criteria, and purely from a campaigning perspective, Stephen Harper can do what Michael Ignatieff cannot: Hide his inner policy wonk. Voters can no longer relate to candidates who are far smarter than they… especially when said candidate ensures people know it. Chretien knew how to campaign via “KISS” but Michael Ignatieff does not and, if somehow he can simplify things, the Cons will find a way to pull him back into academic bluster.

    The success of the Rob Ford campaign and that of the US GOP’s campaign later today prove that, for the moment, “simple wins”. Sad, but true.

    Harper will always have his 30-35% support, a reasonable fiscal record (under the circumstances) and a message – negative or not – to deliver. Harper will remain at 24 Sussex at least until the LPC can bring in John Manley, Frank McKenna or another top, locally successful candidate to lead, and win.

  9. nic coivert says:

    Harper has had his chance and he has shown that his vision of Canada is to destroy the Liberal Party and with it liberalism. That is not much of a vision, and it certainly wouldn’t bode well for Canada. Thus Harper will never get a majority as Canadians are leery of his compulsive need for absolute power. The Conservatives are very weak in some key areas: policy (its always politics over policy in the PMO), their track record- especially the economy, ie. Deficit Building, and it would appear there are some serious divisions within caucus itself, also, Harper is not well liked -not even in his own party. How hard are key internal players going to work for Mr. Harper next time around? Maybe they’d rather have a new leader? Imagine how well a personable more moderate leader of the PC’s would do with all that money and slick imaging.

  10. terence says:

    I agree with WK on this and have seen ample evidence in mine and neighbouring 905 ridings that a good campaign will knock off Reformatort incumbents who only won because of Dion’s poor performance in the last campaign.

  11. Grant says:

    “The Liberals, methinks, are underestimated on the campaign front. Chretien was, too, as I recall, in 1993. And we ended up doing not badly, I think.”


    Yeah, thanks in large part to a divided right that was not coalesced around one party. As such, Chretien was anything BUT underestimated. If anything, because of that divide, his level of success contintues to be seriously overestimated today. One of the few things he was adept at was seizing the moment; which, when your opponent is falling all over themselves, is hardly an accomplishment. Even so, The Liberal party of yesteryear is nothing, NOTHING close to what it once was. And neither is their current leader. Look at the latest fundraising numbers – the Liberals ahve been getting crushed in that vein for a while now.

  12. CQ says:

    “most notably, the amount you have to spend and the share of media coverage you get.”
    This immediately after yesterday’s news coverage of Publicly-owned Hydro companies giving tens of thousands of dollars direct to the Liberal Party war chest in Ontario. Plus Torstar, CBC & CTV favourtism is free while SunTV News continues to be forbidden its licence. Enjoy that old-new e-channel Canada!

    • Ottlib says:

      Right, and it was later revealed that the Ontarion Progressive Conservative Party and the Ontario NDP received thousands of dollars from these very same companies. So I am wondering what point you are trying to make.

  13. Ottlib says:

    In the Fall of 2005 the Conservatives were behind the Liberals, including a very big deficit in voter rich Ontario.

    There was Stephen Harpers big deficits on on all of leadership indexes and there was the widespread perception that he was a boring policy wonk with the charisma of a week old turnip.

    Yet we all know how the 2006 election turned out.

    • Namesake says:

      yep … so, all we need is an RCMP investigation of the gov’t on some information leaks on something (gee, like the Potash decision?!) and a lingering Public Inquiry on some shady insider deals (gee, like the Publics Works renovations and wrongful dismissals and questionable building sell-offs….) and a growing of resentment over the government’s sense of entitlement & wasting tax dollars (gee, like on the PMO’s bloated budget & EAP sign-counting & ceremonies program & ridiculous G20 spending), and we’re good to go!

      • Namesake says:

        BTW, the ‘inside baseball’ ref. to the leak was from a P&P interview yesterday of a SK minister:

        “In a formal letter to Clement on Tuesday, Saskatchewan Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd also asked why “some unnamed ‘Conservative insider’ is providing information about Industry Canada’s recommendations to the news media, which appears to be a flagrant violation of the strict confidentiality provisions contained in Section 36 of the Investment Canada Act.” Boyd said this was “particularly troubling” because the federal government had repeatedly told Saskatchewan officials to avoid leaks. He also asked Clement to confirm whether he would be launching an investigation into the leak.”

        Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/11/02/clement-potash.html#ixzz14Egfha68

  14. James Curran says:

    I don’t know anything of course W, but I can tell you that I am totally missing the signs of this “organization” you speak of in the Liberal Party.

  15. Northbaytrapper says:

    Warren, how would you advise Iggy on turning around his dismal approval ratings?

    The only way you win the anger vote is if people believe in your sincerity (see Ford, Obama, Rae, et al.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.