04.25.2011 02:00 PM

Tim and me in today’s Hill Times


I’m just back from the cabin and saw this.  Comments are open for your thoughts.


Layton is Ignatieff’s Pac-man: eats away at his support one dot at a time
We will see if Layton can sustain momentum and whether he has the ground game to deliver. We will also see if Iggy can get Liberals and others to ‘rise-up’ and knock back the surging Dippers.

POWERS: When this goes to print there will still be plenty of time left in the election. A week being a lifetime in politics and all that. But the biggest outcome the 2011 election might be the change it initiates on the centre-left side of the spectrum.

Warren Kinsella might have been a prophet when he among others suggested that the Liberals and the NDP ought to embrace some form of cooperation.

With the fourth week of this campaign drawing to a close and by the accounts of most polls, the Tories have a double digit lead over their opponents, though the Conservatives are still a bit short of a majority. What is really fascinating is that in a couple of polls the NDP is leading all parties in Quebec and in two others they are either tied or ahead of the Liberals nationally. Jack Layton is Michael Ignatieff‘s Pac-man: he is eating away at his support one dot at a time and has the potential to leap frog him. We will see if Layton can sustain momentum and whether he has the ground game to deliver. We will also see if Iggy can get Liberals and others to “rise-up” and knock back the surging Dippers. Depending on the final outcome of the election though that last week might be adding further validity to Kinsella’s cooperation theories.

Ignatieff and this Liberal team seem to be running a campaign for another era. Rather than connecting with voters on pocket-book issues they seem to be lost in some sort of Liberal la-la-land promoting grand national schemes that they have failed to deliver on in the past. Also Ignatieff never seems to have had a succinct ballot question where as Layton and Harper have been more clear of what they are asking voters. Layton, not unlike Harper, has also been precise in developing an identity that might be a consequence of experience. Ignatieff was defined by the Tories as the “just visiting” self-interested opportunist and has never been able to carve out another consistent caricature. Also to many centre-left voters, he seems too right wing.

Maybe Iggy will kick it up a notch in the final week of the campaign but if he doesn’t and Layton pulls seats off him goodbye Iggy and hello a brave new world where the centre-left either does some major self-reflection or continues about with its self-destructive habits. Personally I am all for the latter.

KINSELLA: The shocking polls that landed last Thursday—showing the NDP and the Liberals tied, or with the NDP ahead—left Grits like me more sad than anything else. There’s no satisfaction to be drawn from the possible outcomes, here. There’s no schadenfreude.

A year ago, very successful politicians (like Jean ChrétienEd Broadbent, and Roy Romanow) quietly suggested that this day would be coming— when the inability of progressives to come together, as a single united force, would (a) return a strengthened Stephen Harper to office and (b) plunge the progressive side of the spectrum into further uncertainty. Right now, Dippers may be happy—but, on May 2, it’ll be Tories who will be the happiest.

As Tim knows, I’ve become a broken record on this subject, but I’ll try again: Harper brought together the disparate choices on the Right—the Reformers, the Alliance, the Conservatives—to form a single, united conservative option. Shortly after he did that, he won the keys to 24 Sussex. History will show it to be his single greatest achievement.

The question that arises from that bit of history is a simple and straightforward question: if Harper could do that, and win, why can’t those of us on the other side of the spectrum do likewise? If we did, we’d beat him. That’s why, of course, he’s invested literally millions of dollars in delegitimizing “coalition”—he knows a single progressive option would decimate him.

Even sadder? Ignatieff has run a very good campaign. The professionals he brought in from the outside—Gordon AshworthBob RichardsonDon Millar—had an immediate and very positive impact. But Gordon, Bob and Don couldn’t turn around 36 months of Con attack ads in 36 days. And they couldn’t erase Ignatieff’s disastrous rightward moves—on Afghanistan, on the oil sands, on health care, on too many other subjects.

A coalition, now? Forget it.

As of now, the NDP don’t want to get together with the Liberals—right about now, they want to replace the Liberals.


  1. As of now? The NDP have wanted to erase the Liberals for some time but earnestly started down the road when they joined forces with the Conservatives to defeat the Martin government.

    Of course there were many in the Liberal party who applauded that maneuver, so its not like they haven’t had outside help or at least support.

    Layton’s NDP have been coincident allies. Both the NDP and Conservatives have an interest in permanently weakening the Liberals. Maybe Layton is ok with permanent opposition, or maybe he believes he can either drag his party more to the centre, or Canadians more to the left, but it isn’t going to play out that way, not on Jack’s watch. He doesn’t have enough time before he will want to call it quits, and other forces will be working against him all along.

    So we are left with a large bunch of Canadians who would work together if ever there was a leader with the gonads (a gender neutral term intentionally used) to make it happen, but can’t, because there isn’t.

    • EKOS – NDP has doubled support over course of campaign; at 28 points voter support. Latest from Frank here.

      I was a proponent of the Libs and NDP coming together before too. Still am. Hard to see at present though.

    • WK’s talk about being an Albertan Liberal sound familiar. While it wasn’t quite as bad here in BC to be a Progressive Conservative surrounded by Reform, it wasn’t far from it. You had to be pretty stalwart to continue to organize on behalf of the PCPC here in BC, knowing it would be years, if not decades, before you had a MP let alone a Minister in the region.

      So… what now? Is it time for a right-leaning Liberal “floor crossing watch” to be set up?

      Will the centre / center-left Liberals end up being much like Joe Clark Progressive Conservatives, regionally isolated, going it alone for years in the hope they can build strength and draw back those that have left? (Hope not… IMO Once left, they are gone.)

  2. Pedro says:

    Oh, for heaven’s sake.
    No matter what Ashworth, Richardson, Millar, Fakem and Howe did, Canadians see voting for Ignatieff as electing a Harper lite and we already got one.
    Get a clue Liberals! Raze the place and rebuild. Have some patience and come back breathing fire not tired old bad breath.
    Policy, policy, policy! Not Conservative policy done more touchy feely. Canadians have been around the block and can smell warmed over leftovers.
    You better do it soon or the socialist left will make you disappear!

  3. james Smith says:

    The present PM’s numbers have hardly moved. This is the result of Grits pretending we’re LEFTies. We have always been the radical middle & when we get away from that reality we loose, & so does the country. A united LEFT party means folks like me will stay home in federal elections & just come out to play in provincial & municipal ones. Sorry.

  4. Craig Chamberlain says:

    I suppose we could take this logic one step further and say let’s all join the CPC and be doubly assured of a victory, and can at the membership level require more centre and centre-left policies. The fact is, Canada would be worse off with fewer parties. It’s on the road to one party government and facist rule in Canada.

    As for the week ahead, I think the strategy needs to be one of saying to Canadians, “Liberals will respect the results of the election, so if they want some other outcome than a Harper Conservative government, they have to say so with their ballots.”

    The real question is if Mr. Clark et al are content to be owned by Mr. Harper.

  5. Harvey Mushman says:

    Polling numbers are holding for Jack…well…actually increasing according to Environics today:


    Con: 39 (+0)
    NDP: 25 (+3)
    Lib: 22 (-2)
    Gree…ah…who cares…

    But this isn’t the worst news. The same poll shows these results for Ontario:

    Con: 43 (+4)
    Lib: 29 (-4)
    NDP: 18 (-5)

    I’m thinking those Ontario results…if accurate…spell Tory majority.

    • The Doctor says:

      Apparently EKOS is riding to the rescue with a poll release tomorrow that’s not-so-good news for the CPC. I guess we’ll see.

      • Pedro says:

        You have summarized the defeatist attitude the Liberals need to discard.
        Taking joy from the misfortune of the CPC is not a substitute for the hard work it will take to rebuild the party.
        Until the Liberals stop looking at others and tweaking other parties’ policies and develop next-genration policies of their own, they will languish in the nether lands of voters’ minds.

  6. Harith says:

    I’m all for an alternative (orange-led) opposition in Ottawa. Might give the grits an opportunity to properly rethink what they’re doing and where they’re going wrong.

  7. Steven says:

    The Layton NDP are political whores and shamelessly two-faced on the national unity issue. The documented record speaks for itself.

    If any Liberal (or Conservative for that matter) leader “hooks up” with the Layton NDP for short-term political gain, they cannot then complain of catching any unwanted warts or worse from doing so.

  8. Harvey Martin says:

    Explain this to me, Warren: If the Grits and Dippers were to merge, what would happen to the guaranteed influence/delegates that the unions have in the NDP? Would that disappear in a new party, or do you think that issue would magically work itself out. Quite frankly, giving unions a guaranteed stake in the new party would be a deal-breaker for me (long-time Liberal) and, I suspect, a gotta-have for my Dipper friends. Is a marriage of the two parties even possible as long as union participation remains and issue? Do you really think it is something that can be worked out to the satisfaction of Liberals, without sending many of us into the arms of the Tories? Your thoughts, please.

    • The Doctor says:

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head in terms of one of the most potentially vexing and contentious issues that the NDP and LPC would face in trying to merge. Other biggies would be

      — the fact that the NDP is on record as wanting us out of NATO
      — the fact that the NDP is a charter member of Socialist International
      — the fact that the NDP is on record as wanting us out of NAFTA and virtually every other trade liberalization treaty

    • Harvey Martin says:

      This is the first time we’ve ever agreed on anything, Gord. It’s the reality that Warren was ignoring last year (despite polling that agrees with your position).

  9. Bitter says:

    It’s an academic conversation at this point until results are in. But I don’t think it was the Con attack ads that did Ignatieff in. It was the debate, and the clear decision to look for a “knockout negative” moment in that debate. The moment defeat became clear was the moment Canadians tuned in to watch a guy who was sold as an agent of change, as a Harvard man, as a philosopher-king, only he was left to stand there and repeat one scripted negative slogan after another. It was a complete contrast to his performance on the road, and so it can’t have been accidental. In contrast, Layton was full of positive – if glib – suggestions to back up almost every negative shot he took. “The Happy Warrior.”

    That was the first long-form impression many Canadians got of Ignatieff. If it had been a better impression, most observers would have expected a continued growth in Liberal support. It didn’t happen because there was no there there, nothing for any swing voters tuning in to shift to.

    Whoever prepared him for that debate should be walking their own personal plank right now.

    • The Doctor says:

      That also plugs back in to the very issue of having this election in the first place. WK and others were warning about the dangers right from the get-go. The LPC strategy had a large element of gambling in it: gambling that the LPC could make the contempt of parliament/respect for democratic institutions issue the ballot issue; gambling that Ignatieff would destroy Harper during the debates; gambling that they could erase a 10-point gap in the polls, etc.

    • Namesake says:

      so, right back at ya, here’s Peevie Stevie’s Waterloo:

      but not the ‘let him rag the puck on his talking points’ Mansbridge/ Harper interview, but the:

      bully boy tried to talk over her, too, but she stuck to her guns and called him out on the coalition & contempt BS Friesen / Harper interview yesterday (on, gasp!, Easter!):

      in which — particularly in the written / transcribed v. — Harper comes off as the question-begging, out-of-touch, sometimes incoherent* paranoiac that he is:


      * check out the passage where he reveals himself as the likely author of Bev’s ^NOTtiness:

      “DAWNA: And you’re saying you’re willing to do that? And you’re willing to work with the other leaders?

      HARPER: …we’ve always been willing to … But on the other hand, Dawna, I’m not here to tell you that the platform we’re not running on is real….”

      • Bitter says:

        I looked at the Nanos track on the Maclean’s site, and the LPC peaked on the same day as the English debate, if I’m not mistake.

        So I’m sticking by my speech.

      • Namesake says:

        I mean just as the Mansbridge interview allegedly hurt MI, that Global interview’s gonna hurt Harper…

        esp. since it’s even more transparent when it’s transcribed like that, how the ‘Great Oz’ is just a fearful little sham of a man, up close:

        “I have fooled everyone so long that I thought I should never be found out. It was a great mistake my ever letting you into the Throne Room. Usually I will not see even my subjects, and so they believe I am [a great *cough cough* economist].”


    • I disagree. “Just visiting” was implanted in Canadians brains for a long time by the Conservatives; you don’t change perceptions built up over a long time overnight.

      Sure, Iggy could have done better in the debate. But he was doing quite well on the ground in the lead up and the early intro of the platform actually seemed to work – only it wasn’t sustainable.

      On the plus side for Iggy, probably he is going to be successful at holding on to the tough as nails core of the party. If his town-hall persona isn’t just a convenient transformation for the election, who knows, he may even want to stay and may fight for that chance. I don’t think he’ll hide at Stornoway like Dion did after the election but will face the result head on.

      Would he be the best to carry on? That’s another question.

  10. Joe says:

    Crazy talk Warren, socialists merging with Liberals? Say goodbye to ever forming national governments. Come on man, the NDP will not accept anything less than socialist platforms in a merged party, Libs will have to regress. History (distant and recent) has proven repeatedly what happens when true Left rules the roost. Canadians are much too intelligent to ever let that happen. Get rid of socialist policies if you can (yeah right!) in any merger, otherwise… stew in opposition forever with 25%.

  11. AndrewOpala says:

    I’ve voted Liberal a lot, and voted Conservative when the Liberal was a little bit of a political aristocrat (read “asshole”). I’ve never thought of voting NDP, and I thought Bob Rae’s government in Ontario was a very good reason why not to.

    I keep wondering how much Bob Rae has been doing, or not doing for the Liberal party. It seems like the party is only Ignatieff. I remember the Liberals always had at least a half dozen stars that cleaned up well, were eloquent and appeared (at least to me) to be loyal, strong and savvy. Off the top of my head I can’t really think of anyone that is of that quality in this set of Liberal hatch-lings! I think when it becomes a one-man party … you need to look a little in your soul and ask “where are the passionate people going?”

  12. Jim says:

    Alas, I believe that Steve and Jack’s “master plan” to destroy the Liberals is coming to fruition!

    Warren, my question is this… given the prospect of Prime Minister Layton, don’t you think that a few “blue Liberals” such as Szabo, John Mackay, and even Iggy himself would prefer to “move right” and support Harper rather than “move left” and send the country into deficits that we haven’t seen since Trudeau (who was actually the first NDP Prime Minister… for those unaware, PET was actually a CCF’er in the 50’s and only turned from Orange to Red so that he could get elected).

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