05.04.2011 06:48 AM

Post-earthquake bits and pieces (updated)

  • I spent a lot of yesterday talking to Liberal friends. Most of them were quite fine, thank you very much – and a surprising number were upbeat, because they said that the long-overdue revamping of the Liberal Party of Canada can now begin in earnest, with new blood, new ideas, new approaches. Personally, I feel the same: unless the Lord takes me home, I want to be part of the rebuilding process, and take a shot at running again. I’m an Alberta Liberal: I don’t freak out when my party gets hammered, you know?  Anyway, columns like this and this are premature/off the mark, to say the least. Lots of obituaries were written when the Conservative Party was reduced to two seats in November 1993, and they ended up doing not badly in 2006 and beyond.
  • Cognitive dissonance is right. Maher, per always, nails it here. Let’s perform my little test again: do you know the name of the president of the Conservative Party of Canada? Recall anything he/she has ever said? Exactly. Party presidents should raise money, and leave the talking to the elected people. This party president in particular. (And, by the by: why doesn’t he do what his leader did, yesterday? Liberals are asking that, too.)
  • Speaking of resignations: Ignatieff did the honourable thing, yesterday; he didn’t mince words, he took responsibility, and he quit.  As noted, Apps should, too, for his role in this fiasco.  And, if the voters hadn’t resolved the question first, quite a few of us would be today demanding changes for Ignatieff’s Chief of Staff (who was ultimately responsible for the maladroit strategy that got us here); his so-called “Chief Operating Officer” (who was supposed to ensure we had election/organizational readiness, and didn’t); his policy director (who put together the platform that nobody, Liberals included, found either compelling or saleable); and his unilingual and comms-inexperienced Director of Communications (who should have never, ever been made Director of Communications).  I wish all of them the best of luck, however, in their future political endeavours.
  • Alternation? Chris’ column today is worth a read, as always, but the provincial Grits I know – unlike their cousins – are very, very (very) ready for the October 2011 election. What’s more, there is a simple political reality that is always at play in Canadian politics, one the Ontario Progressive Conservatives need to heed: Ontarians don’t like one party running the whole show. Thus, Chretien begat Harris, Mulroney begat Peterson, and so on and so on. Here’s the elevator conversation, one you’ll be hearing lots of times in Ontario in coming months: “The Cons run the GTA, and the country. Do you want the same party running Ontario, too?”
  • Case in point: Health care, again the number one issue in Ontario and the nation. Harper talked about the coming health care battle in his election night speech, and with reporters afterwards. Ballot-type question: “Who do you want protecting health care at the bargaining table with Harper? McGuinty? Or Timmy Hudak, who shut down nearly 30 hospitals, fired thousands of nurses, and last month cancelled his policy convention – where his health care plan was supposed to be revealed – to accommodate his federal boss?”
  • Lopinski’s Observations: My Ontario Liberal war room colleague Bob Lopinski came up with a brilliant assessment of the post-election coverage, yesterday. Like him, I found that (a) no pundit or pollster really saw it coming and (b) they’re all sort-of making it up as they go along. Thus, Bob’s take, which you can clip and save:
“I do really wish there was more science in political science.  

This is what I have gleaned from the early analysis:

  1. Voters are moving left, unless they are moving right.
  2. Incumbency is bad, unless you were re-elected.
  3. Voters want change AND even more of the same.
  4. On-the-ground organization and sophisticated micro-targeting work, unless you are a bar-maid canvassing in Las Vegas.
  5. The separatists are preparing to ramp up their campaigns, and as a first step have left the Canadian House of Commons.”

UPDATE: And Gardner, on the same subject, here.


  1. Steve T says:

    I agree this will have a silver lining for the Libs. In the previous minority CPC government, the Libs always needed to be ready for an election. Decisions were short-sighted, and focused on what made the best sound bytes. Now the Liberals have 4 years to really get introspective, without constantly worrying about a looming election.

  2. Joe says:

    And what about the infamous” beer and popcorn” dufus, Scott Reid? Has he submitted his papers? That guy has said some incredibly stupid things over the years too!

    • Jon Powers says:

      I couldn’t agree more. Liberals never understood the significance of that stupid comment. If the Liberals are to rise again (and as a conservative, I couldn’t care less) then pretentious morons like Scott Reid need to be purged from the party. Doubt it will happen, though.

  3. moose says:

    As an NDP supporter my first reaction to
    their gains Monday night was the extremity
    of joy.However the joy changed to
    depression when it became obvious that
    the Cons would get a majority.So I blame
    the Liberals for this sad state of affairs and I trace their downfall to the pact made
    between Dion and Kennedy at the last leadership convention.It was supposed to
    be the changing of the guard,youth replacing the old,tired leadership.However,
    what followed was a disaster and the “old”
    Ignatieff took over,someone who in
    retrospect was an easy target for the
    reprehensible Conservative adds.
    So my only pleasure Monday night was seeing Kennedy humiliated and seeing
    Rae and Dosanjh,who got together to
    take shots at the NDP,now finding
    themselves as losers.The next leadership convention should be most interesting.
    Surely Rae won’t become the leader.

    • JTanner says:

      Wow. That is a real warped line of thinking you have going there. Dion and Kennedy to blame for the Conservative majority? Wow, that is laughable! The NDP is to blame for the Conservative majority. Once the NDP starting rising in the polls, blue Liberals ran away as far as they could from the lefty left of the NDP and voted Conservative. More votes for the Liberals would have translated into a Con minority.

      The Liberals push out their leaders too quickly. Dion and Ignatieff had their problems, but that has nothing to do with Kennedy. Furthermore, Kennedy was a great MP, ran an honourable campaign and Peggy Nash got elected by running a dirty campaign in the gutter, hardly worth bragging about-pretty slimy on her part.

      I would not get too excited about instant NDP support in Quebec either, only goes to show how volatile the vote is there and could change easily.

  4. nastyboy says:

    “I do really wish there was more science in political science.”

    It’s not a science. Period.

  5. nastyboy says:

    The Conservative Party that was reduced to two seats in 1993 isn’t fine. It’s gone.

    • sezme says:

      Just what I was going to say. The PCs never returned. MacKay sold what was left of them out to the Reform Party. Bob Rae wouldn’t dream of doing something similar to the Libs, would he?

  6. JStanton says:

    I feel strangely calm. We needed a game-changer to break the log jam, and that’s what we now have – the means to re-set the Canadian political landscape, so that it is responsive to and thus reflects who we are now, and what our country has become.

    Mr. Layton will do well in his role as government critic; he was born to it, and will call the government to task, rather than continually being co-opted. Hopefully the Canadian media in general will begin more and more to assume the traditional role of the fourth estate, so lacking in their recent history, of calling government to account as well.

    The LPC will certainly need to go through a process of definition; certainly there is place for a party of the centre. The question though is whether a business case can be made for this approach – is there a sufficient market to sustain them there, and if not, in which direction should they go, leftwards or rightwards? As to leadership issues, there is a framework to manage that adequately. Let’s hope those that are seasoned will remain to mentor those that are not, so that when the time comes, fresh Liberal faces are up to the performance we expect from them.

    Mr. Harper remains an enigma. What we know of him so far, is that he does not do what he says he will, and what he does do is generally for the wrong reasons. The question then is, having acquired imperial powers, can Mr. Harper transcend his evident nature and do what’s good for Canada and Canadians, rather than continue to be merely self indulgent?


  7. Paul R Martin says:

    As far as the single parent bar maid is concerned, she now has job security for 4 years at a nice salary. Life can change in unexpected ways. I wish her well. As far as the pollsters are concerned, Ekos should get out of the business. Their sample of 3,000 was poorly selected. The polling company used by the Hill Times should also quit the business. Nanos did a good job. The actual numbers were within his margin of error. Ipsos and Angus can probably claim that the final result was close to their margin of error.

  8. Dan F says:

    Agree with most of what you wrote, but very worried about Quebec. This election makes clear the ideological differences between Quebec and the West, and no doubt that separatists will seize on that difference in the next referendum campaign (surely to come before the next federal election).
    The question is, who will play the role of Captain Canada? If a Liberal steps up and saves the country (because I just don’t see Harper in that role) then I could see that person eventually becoming leader of the party, but in the first 2 years, any talk of a leadership contest is entirely premature while we rebuild. I’ve already seen 3 online polls today asking who should be the next Liberal leader, and I want to tear my hair out. Its the wrong question to be asking at this stage. Make Ralph or Carolyn the interim leader for the next year or 2, and set that question aside while we rebuild from the ground up. Once we have a new team and infrastructure in place and we’re all paddling in the same direction, only then can we *start* to think about who should be the leader in the next election.
    Remember: The attack ads will start the moment the next leader is named. Harper is not one to stop kicking you just because you’re on the ground. He’s a bully, and the bully will continue to beat you to a bloody pulp not for any rational objective, but because he enjoys it. Harper’s lifelong mission to destroy the Liberal Party of Canada is his hobby, its what he does for fun while running the country (into the ground).

    Time for us to get up, and start hitting back.

    • Dave M says:

      As a Montrealer, I completely agree about Quebec. I see all sorts of friends (especially from the RoC) on facebook celebrating the downfall of the Bloc, but completely missing the point: Quebeckers wanted change. Other Canadians voted in a more extreme version of the same. Quebec is still almost entirely represented by a party that has little representation outside of Quebec, and who’s politics are pretty much the opposite of the ruling party. Moreover, it’s a party that got where they are in Quebec by NOT being extremely federalist.

      The next provincial election is in 2012. The collapse of the federal Liberal party isn’t exactly going to hurt the Parti Quebecois (there is no NDP provincially for the PQ voters to swing to like the Bloc’s), and Charest is seen as extremely corrupt. There’ll be a referendum if the PQ takes power, and with a Harper majority it’s not going to be easy for federalists. (I’m not even entirely sure Harper wants Quebec in Canada. It’s bad for his party.) If the PQ is smart they’ll campaign on the ideological differences between Quebec and the RoC rather than on their hatred of anglophones and allophones so that they don’t lose the “money and ethnic vote.” Even rich ethnics anglos don’t share Harpers values here.

      • james curran says:

        “but in the first 2 years, any talk of a leadership contest is entirely premature while we rebuild”

        The timing of leadership is dictated by the Constitution of the Liberal Party of Canada. A document that we, as Liberals should be adhering to. The Leadership must be called within “6 months” whether we like it or not. The timing of the convention itself (which will almost be irrelevant as the One Member One Vote will take place in the ridings) is no later than 18 months from the previous convention (which have yet to have since the 2009 convention).

        • Michael says:

          I am guessing that in the past the party constitution has been set aside for practical reasons.

          Perhaps this we be one of those times when it would be better to do what is best for the party in the long run, instead of having a blind adherence to some set of rules.

          I do not think that Canadian voters could fault the Liberals for saying, we want to get our house in order before we choose a new leader.

  9. Harith says:

    Warren, the Progressive Conservative party of 1993 doesn’t exist anymore.

    Will the Liberals pull themselves out of this mire by doing what the PC did back then?

  10. pcase says:

    A couple of things about this:

    “I spent a lot of yesterday talking to Liberal friends. Most of them were quite fine, thank you very much – and a surprising number were upbeat, because they said that the long-overdue revamping of the Liberal Party of Canada can now begin in earnest, with new blood, new ideas, new approaches.”

    I feel like this happened not all that long ago, 2006 is a long time ago, but it doesn’t fee like itl. When Martin lost, it was the exact same language. new blood: martha, iggy, bob and steph’ new ideas: carbon tax, er….; new approaches: new fundraising approach, new database, etc…
    What changes in this next “renewal” that has the exact same goals of the last renewal??

    “Personally, I feel the same: unless the Lord takes me home, I want to be part of the rebuilding process, and take a shot at running again. So, columns like this and this are premature, to say the least. Lots of obituaries were written when the Conservative Party was reduced to two seats in November 1993, and they ended up doing not badly in 2006 and beyond.”

    This is a weird interpretation of the history I witnessed. I seem to remember the Joe Clark led rump fighting for their lives. They didn’t survive and neither did the PC’s that I grew up with. As you so often refer to them as, they are Reformatories and CRAPsters NOT Progressive Conservatives. There are as many and probably many more Hugh Segal’s and Marjory Lebereton’s as there are Joe Clark’s, I know. But, they left what we knew as PC’s and became Reformers.

  11. Pedro says:

    Funny, I’ve been in hallways where I have posed the question “Do you really want Conservatives running the Ontario show too”?
    Accept that the answer is “No”! at your peril.

  12. Robert Henderson says:

    With the absence of true suffering everywhere in our society, the electorate now lacks compassion for the common good. It is all about me now. What can I gain and what could I lose. Everything needs to be framed this way. Selfish Greed. Left and Right, it is the same. Only an economic collapse and/or war will change this dynamic. Common messaging is a sucker strategy. Conquer one niche at a time. Greed/Fear is the game. Election platforms for common good worthless. So strategy becomes do you coat your Greed/fear with vinegar or sugar.

    My heart is breaking while type this.

    • Pedro says:

      Your comment seems to support my view that the progressive left has lost all hope and trust in humanity.
      I live in a family and community that is optimistic and believes in the fundamental goodness of humanity.
      As long as progressives continue to treat the rest of humanity as total assholes and that only a messiah like Ignatieff or Obama can rescue us from our sinfulness and provide salvation, your political philosophy will fester on the outside of progress.
      The “negative vibes man” are not helping your situation.
      Grow up and join a service club ferchrissakes!

    • Emily says:

      That’s why I cannot support a two-party system like the one in the USA.

      You describe exactly that and it hurts my heart, too.

  13. Dan F says:

    The more I think about it, the more it’s clear that the Quebec results for the NDP are entirely a flash in the pan. They will have severe buyers remorse 4 years from now over the Mulcair DayCare (remember the ADQ?). Its up to Liberals to be in a position to capitalize on that, by having strong candidates in every riding, ready to campaign and an organization on the ground to show that we’re serious again.

    • JStanton says:

      … perhaps, but Quebecers, with eyes open, are willing to take the risk, so can hardley complain if they are not suddenly catapulted to the fore-front of “have” provinces. After years of BQ representation that essentially opted them out of the system, they want back in, and have chosen the NDP vehicle as the best fit. Makes sense to me.


  14. Bill From Willowdale says:

    “Conservative Party was reduced to two seats in November 1993, and they ended up doing not badly in 2006 and beyond.”

    Actually it was the Progressive Conservative that was reduced to two seats which merged with the Canadian Alliance to form the Conservative Party of Canada. There is a valuable lesson to be learned here for Liberal mover and shakers.

  15. Cath says:

    re: Ontario politics – what should be clear to all right now is that no one party, or leader is safe. The momentum and euphoria today is on the side of the Tories and NDP because of the federal results but that can change in a heartbeat if stupid mistakes are made by them between now and October.

    The key for leaders is to go to great lengths to prove that they’re listening…..really listening to the vibe of the people between now and then. Faking it or taking it for granted is wrong-headed and will get the leaders nada.

    In the end Ontarians of all stripes expect to be respected – taking them for fools or trying to divert their attention will not work this time.

    Lopinski’s two points on election coverage are dead-on. Which begs the question – if pollsters and pundits can be counted on to continue to get it wrong, does a war room feed them knowing that OR do they try to tame the beast?

    There’s much to be said for all parties writing their own narratives now than every before….and depend less and less on pollsters/pundits who…..Shhhhh, are slowly going the way of the dodo bird and disco.

    The candidate who has a team that writes the best and most engaging narrative wins.

  16. Dr.J says:

    Watching Apps is always a comical sideshow if you ask me, but it appears that he loves TV,so let him yap all he wants to!! As a conservative I can not name you the president nor any statements but he/she do know how to raise the money. The Liberals way back from this defeat is going to be a long,long road and money is going to be needed, but do they even know how to raise or even get people to give it to them. Don’t you still have leadership people from ’06 still owing hundred’s of thousands of dollars? I just think for the next little while the Liberal Party of Canada opinions just do not matter to the public, however people like Apps,Goodale and Rae think otherwise.

  17. Ted H says:

    Quebec going NDP is new. Elizabeth May getting a Green Party seat is new. Even the Conservative party is relatively new. It is not the historical Conservative party and the first PM the party ever elected was not John A. MacDonald, it is Stephen Harper. The Liberal party was the most “old school” offering in Monday’s election, it is a continuation of the historical Liberal party. That could be a strength if presented in the right way, but it was also apparently a source of baggage when every other option available to voters was fresher. Speaking as a Liberal supporter, I believe this near death experience is the party’s last chance to face reality and find a new relevance in the current political landscape.

  18. Be_rad says:

    WK – I have been told by different Liberals that the transition form Chretien to Martin resulted in many ridings in the country being crippled by sudden wholesale replacements of riding executives and the good folks who do the grunt work in a campaign. Many are convinced it contributed to his lack of success and the subsequent poor results that followed as the ridings never recovered. Coupled with ambivalence to certain leaders or the party’s paltform, that sounds like a problem that can linger. Is that what you were referrign to when you mentioned Bohuinicky?

  19. Hello Liberal Party, welcome to the future!
    Are you still relevant is what I want to ask. I think you may be, but it will be up to you to decide for yourselves how, and why you exist. Then explain that to the electorate. And be careful! In a first past the post Canada with 5 Partys in the house, you have just experienced what happens when you get it wrong. I know who and what the CPC are, I know who and what the NDP are, I know who and what the Bloc are, and I know who and what the Greens are. But, despite voting Liberal for most of my life, in gratitude to Trudeau championing Canada whilst I was a little lost Anglo in Quebec, I do NOT know who and what the Liberals are. You morph into something different with every campaign, and start selling the message about 30 days before EDay.
    And, oh yeah, do not forget that without money and people, you can neirther define yourselves, nor present your message to the public, so you will actually have to start working seriously on basic field organising.
    If you do, we will see you again in 2016-17. If you do not…..

    • kyliep says:

      I’m not entirely convinced that Ontarians are going to vote strategically in the upcoming election to ensure a check on the balance of power. Harper should have a fairly smooth next few months, with the Official opposition focused on getting their newly elected and very young caucus up to speed and the Liberals focused on picking a new leader and getting themselves together again. I suspect the narrative for Hudak et al will be similar to what Mayor Ford and his team pitched over the weekend–elect more Conservatives to ensure that Ontario is part of the team. Could be a compelling pitch for enough centrist voters. I know many progressives will be working hard to ensure that this doesn’t happen but trying to convince my left-wing friends to vote strategically for the Liberals in ridings where the NDP doesn’t have a prayer consistently falls on deaf ears. I fully expect vote splitting on the left to elect Conservatives at the provincial level as well.

    • Africon says:

      Dead right IMO, as a Con I see Apps as one of the biggest failings of the Libs – ie how the hell did this goon/goof get to be your PRESIDENT ?

  20. Bill M. says:

    Election is over.

    Cons have their majority. If your plan is to show up daily and ridiculet the LPC rather than championing policy, well that’s your choice I guess.

    There is no more reason nor party to blame for what you can’t get done.

    Ignatieff is gone my friends and so is the canard of the evil coalition.

    Enough excuses from our majority friends. Get to work.

  21. JH says:

    WK you are dead on! Apps on TV is the very personification of what folks looked at as the Toronto crowd running the Liberal Party and entitled to their entitlements. Every time he showed up on TV the thought crossed my mind. Same for Scott Reid, but never about guys like Dan Brock or even Silver, though he could be a bit much sometimes.
    As for the NDP Quebec Caucus – friends in the province tell me Jack should be wary. Lot of the seperatist/nationalist crowd read the tea leaves and moved over before the storm. And all the old Bloc office staffs, researchers, strategists etc. are trolling for jobs on the hill right now and will get them. This is going to remind folks of Bouchard’s Bombshell that started it all, before it’s over. Naturally the Cons with their thirst for the jugular are just salivatating at the prospect.

    • Cliff says:

      Not to mention that when they had Apps parked next to Jaime Watt on CBC doing commentary they looked like tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum on the screen – not a message you want to send to left-leaning voters who think that Tories and Liberals are interchangeable!

      More egregious is the fact that David Herle seems to keep getting gigs on this “Insiders” panel as a so-called “expert”. I’m reminded of a Molly Ivins refrain: look at the record, look at the record, look at the record. Now that the Dippers are in the second spot, can we look forward to him being replaced by someone like Robin Sears or Brian Topp?

  22. Leasa says:

    …and there we have the problem. Since I am a Conservative I won’t tell you what that is, because I am happy as hell right now. I will say though, that I sincerely do hope you end up running Justin Trudeau next time out. Please.

  23. Pedro says:

    So, shorter Gardner and Kinsella is…
    Don’t worry, all will come around in this complex system we call Canadian politics so manana man!

  24. tceh says:

    Any guesses where she will be sitting in the HoC?


    She’s a star! Already? Yep she is young and pretty… She won’t be sitting on Harper’s lap tho. Laureen would not be amused at that but she will be sitting in Helena Guergis’s old spot. I’d bet money on it.

  25. Cath says:

    Is the current LPOC still the party of Lester Pearson? I’m asking because many Liberals on talk shows and TV yesterday kept bringing up Pearson and the good old days.

    I was like 4 years old when Pearson was PM and the only time I related to the guy was when our Kindergarten watched on TV when we got our new flag.
    These days I’m pretty sure that the history lessons kids are learning about Canadian political heritage isn’t what it should be either.

    The question for the LPOC is how much of it is reflective of the good old days of Pearson, what if anything the party wants to keep from that set of building plans and what it wants to toss or update?

    I see much inward soul-searching at the party-level needing to happen before much else. It’s going to be the hardest but most worthwhile part of the exercise I believe.

  26. Ted Betts says:

    Lopinski put another way (by Pearl Jam in “Corduroy”): “Everything has changed/Absolutely nothing’s changed.”

  27. nitroglycol says:

    One of many things that stand out about this election were that polls conducted even a couple of days before the election put the NDP roughly where they actually came out, but the Cons a few points below what they actually got. It’s as if there were some sort of black swan event that shifted voters over to the Cons – like, say, some big international event that some people saw as vindication for the war in Afghanistan. Just a thought.

    And no, this isn’t a conspiracy theory. I’m not saying that it was by design, just that the timing of Mr. bin Laden’s demise was fortuitous for the Cons.

  28. Tim says:

    The first thing…. would be to always listen to everything that the senior Liberal advisors have to say…..and then proceed to always disregard it.

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