Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jack Layton and Michael Ignatieff were dumb to topple Stephen Harper and risk likely Conservative majority government

Michael Ignatieff - 24%

Jack Layton - 16%
And the winner is - Stephen Harper - 43%
Liberals, NDP in danger of being crushed, giving Tories their best chance for majority

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday March 29, 2011

By Bill Tieleman

"Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win."

- Sun Tzu, The Art of War, ancient Chinese military strategist

It is apparently a myth that lemmings commit mass suicide by jumping of cliffs, according to wildlife biologists who have studied the rodents.

They might then next want to turn their research to federal Liberal and New Democrat Members of Parliament -- because the evidence of their political death wish is now well documented.

Friday's opposition vote to defeat the Conservative government for "contempt of Parliament" was an exercise in self-delusion, testosterone and faulty logic that will surely result in Stephen Harper returning after the May 2 election as prime minister -- and likely with a majority.

Harper and his party couldn't be happier -- campaigning just after introducing a budget with goodies for many, enjoying 43 per cent support against a Liberal Party at just 24 per cent and the NDP at 16 per cent, according to an Ipsos-Reid poll and facing beleaguered Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff in his first national campaign.

As bad as the Liberal numbers are, Ignatieff's leadership ratings are even worse.

Ipsos Reid found that 49 per cent of Canadians surveyed believe Harper would make the best prime minister, followed by an impressive 34 per cent for NDP leader Jack Layton and an abysmal 17 per cent who want Ignatieff.

Harper also leads in the categories of someone you can trust, who will get things done, who has what it takes to lead Canada, who's running for the right reasons, who has a vision you can support and who can manage in tough economic times.

Layton comes in second place in each of these categories, while Ignatieff is a distant third in all.

Step away from the edge!

But Ignatieff does clearly lead in one leadership attribute: which leader has a hidden agenda. Ignatieff bested Harper by 46 per cent to 39 per cent on that question, with Layton at 10 per cent.

All that should be enough to convince any non-lemming Liberal strategist or MP to step away from the election cliff as quickly as possible.

And while the NDP might have more reason to gamble in the eternal hope of displacing the Liberals as official opposition, the poll should also be a dire warning. In a Liberal collapse, the NDP could lose to Conservatives in three-way riding races.

But there are many more reasons for both parties to have avoided this election.

First, other polls give similar cause for pause. An Angus Reid Public Opinion poll put the Conservatives at 39 per cent, the Liberals at 25 per cent and the NDP at 19 per cent.

And a new Forum Research poll taken since Saturday's election call gives the Conservatives 41 per cent, Liberals 24 per cent and NDP 19 per cent -- suggesting a seat count in which the Tories win 19 new seats for a majority with 162 seats, the Liberals lose 17 to 61, the Bloc rises by seven to 51 and the NDP drops two to 24.

When asked whether the economy or ethics were more important in this election, 62 per cent said the economy, 38 per cent ethics.

The Angus Reid survey found the Conservatives with a 15 per cent lead in seat-rich Ontario, the place where they can find a majority at Liberal expense.

Amazingly, Bloc Quebecois separatist leader Gilles Duceppe actually has a lower disapproval rating at 55 per cent than Ignatieff's 57 per cent. Harper's disapproval is 48 per cent while Layton's is 33 per cent, according to Angus Reid.

Secondly, the Conservatives only need to add 12 seats in this election to have a bare majority of 155 in the 308 seat Parliament -- and a four-year term without needing the opposition's support for anything.

That's a result polls show most Canadians do not want -- but could well get because of the low regard the Liberals are held in.

What the Tories offered

Then there's what the Liberals, NDP and Bloc killed from the budget Finance Minister Jim Flaherty introduced last week -- a $300 million increase in the Guaranteed Income Supplement for the poorest of Canadian seniors.

The NDP wanted $700 million but surely this lesser amount -- $600 a year for single seniors and $840 a year for couples -- would have at least helped out tens of thousands of impoverished elders.

It also would have forgiven $40,000 in student loans for new family doctors and $20,000 in loans for new nurses who work in remote communities and tax credits of $300 a year for caregivers who help infirm relatives.

And there was also $400 million for an eco-energy retrofit program to spur more energy-efficient home renovations.

All of this is small beer compared to the massive costs of new F-35 fighter jets alone, estimated at up to $30 billion, but for voters still reeling from a recession the Conservatives' offerings may be appealing.

End of political funding as we know it

However, perhaps the most devastating reason to avoid this election is the one least understood by voters and least reported by media.

The Conservatives have pledged to end public subsidies of political parties if they win this election. That would mean disaster for most of the other parties, whose own fundraising efforts pale by comparison to the Tory money machine.

And ironically, it was former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien who is responsible for it, having introduced much-needed election financing reforms in his last term that dramatically restricted corporate and union donations.

That forced parties to increase fundraising by individual contributions but the Conservatives did so with gusto, the others not so well.

All parties receive substantial public funding intended to support democracy, but it also means they are in varying degrees highly dependent on money that will disappear with a Conservative majority, making the Tories even more motivated to win and gain an advantage in the election after this one.

In 2010, the five parties received a total of $27.4 million in annual subsidies based on the number of votes each obtained in the 2008 election multiplied by an inflation indexed amount that is now $2.04 per vote.

That gave the Conservatives $10.4 million, the Liberals $7.3 million, the NDP $5 million, the Bloc Quebecois $2.8 million and the Greens $1.9 million.

Now see how much each party raised on their own from direct donations from individuals in 2009, the last full year available -- Conservatives $17.8 million, Liberals $10.1 million, NDP $4 million, Bloc $834,000 and Greens $1.2 million.

Ending public subsidies would roughly cut overall party funding by 42 per cent for the Liberals, 56 per cent for the NDP, the Greens by 61 per cent and a whopping 77 per cent for the Bloc.*

The Conservatives would lose 37 per cent of total funding -- the least of any party -- and leave them with a significant advantage over their adversaries. No-brainer for the Tories.

And they can claim to be saving the public money for better purposes -- like buying F-35 fighter jets and building jails!

Playing into Tory hands?

The Liberals, NDP and Bloc argued somewhat persuasively that the Conservatives were in contempt of Parliament over their disdain for democracy, openness and accountability.

So why did the opposition parties foolishly believe that the best way to restore those values is to give Stephen Harper an excellent chance to win a four-year majority?

Now voters who deeply fear a Stephen Harper government with untrammelled power have to feverishly hope the Conservatives do what they will be desperately avoiding -- make a huge campaign mistake.

Nothing less can stop their drive to majority power.

* * * * *

Anniversary note - This column marks my sixth anniversary with 24 Hours Vancouver. Thanks to all my readers of that paper and my longer online column version at The Tyee and of course on this blog!

Photo credits - Harper - Wikicommons; Layton - Medmoiselle T; Ignatieff - Craig Windrim


DPL said...

It amazes me that Harper is trusted by anyone, but the only poll that works for me is the polling place. Harper set them up and hopefully the other parties will explain their motive. And hopefully Steve Boy will stop threatening the voters with the idea of how awful a coalition would be. By the way, he has pushed out aircraft, a ship and a lot of people who operate them into harms way, into something called a coalition

Anonymous said...

What scared me was. Harper delivers plan of, Global Governance for Canada.
I don't like Harper, controlling our HST either. That was a total, underhanded scam against the BC people.
What really made me fume was, Harper giving huge corporations another tax reduction. The HST was far too much to give big business, let alone another reduction, to come off Canadians paychecks. Corporate taxes need to be raised, not deleted.

Outsourced said...

You are right Bill! The conservatives are likely to gain a really solid majority because:

Canadians really will want to buy those new, fancy, US jet planes worth maybe 35-50 Billion - no one knows the exact amount because the cons wont say.

We really, really want more cuts for the provinces, and higher taxes

We really want more give-aways to rich corporations while poverty rates rise.

We really want a majority for the Con government so that they won't be ruled in contempt of Parliament for lying.

We really, really want promises of tax relief for stay-home parents in 2015, if the budge can be balanced after the give-aways to the rich.

We really want to have all those jobs promised and deficit spending and we know the rich will give us a hand-out with their tax cuts.

We really want to prorogue for ever. Who wants democracy. Let's have the evangelicals decide on abortion and home schooling - it works for me.

We want privatization with a capital p - that works for me and while we are at it, let's give the US our water and charge Canadians.

We want a PM who really knows what Canada is about. Bigger prisons for the poor. Tax breaks for the rich.

Good reasons to vote for the neo-conservative evangelicals. Just like the US voted for Reagan -- Great, more wars. How many do we have now?

Anonymous said...

Contempt of parliament is a criminal offense.

Have we lost the rule of law in this country?

Anonymous said...

Outsourced, you may be right but no party has moved from 40+ percent in the polls at the start of an election to losing an election by the end. Unless there is a serious Harper misstep during the election, one that sticks with the voters, we are looking at best case scenario a harper minority - worst case scenario a harper majority. The numbers don't lie, and know amount of wishing they weren't what they are will make it happen.

Sailjunkie said...

I must admit that I have wondered why either the NDP or the Liberals would bring down the gov't, in the face of pre-election polls that suggested a Harper majority was within reach. However, before I set my hair on fire, I'll have to remember that this article was written by the same man who:

- predicted that Kevin Falcon would succeed Gordo.

- predicted that knifing Carol James in the back would lead to NDP renewal.

Further, history suggests that such leads rarely hold up over an entire campaign. The consensus seems to be that the final result will be very similar to what we already had. Makes one shake one's head.

Outsourced said...

Anonymous said...

7:32 PM PDT

Absolutely right. The cons will win if everyone buys the propaganda. So every vote counts if you have a brain.

Let's face it, no one cares about the rule of law, corruption, conspiracy and, let's say it again, democracy. Let's vote for Harper --

But you know, those sneaky polls can be all wrong. Remember Obama getting out the youth vote?

And the Con attack ads. What a disaster for immigrants and most minority groups. The Cons want to get out the "ethnic vote" and yet use code words that all minorities and immigrants despise. Ask any immigrant what it really means when you say "a REAL Canadian"? Ask anyone what it means when you say that someone who works abroad does not understand Canadians.

Those attack ads are racist and anti-immigrant. Do a poll in "ethnic" communities and ask them to watch the ads and see who they identify with. Ask women what they think about the ads.

Yep, the attack ads work with white, protestant men who live in the prairies. And, yep, those pollsters call land lines and guess who still have land lines.

But what the hell. Let's have Harper. It will be the last of the neo/theo cons for a generation as the economy tanks out. Its a hard lesson to learn, but our educational system does not teach us about our real history. That's why we hare here, now.

Anonymous said...

You're sometimes wrong Bill. Let's all pray this is one of those times.

Knowles said...

Gee isn't Bill the fellow who rang the alarm and led the opposition against the Single Transferable Vote referendum that would have reformed the first-past-the-post system that keeps NDP safely out of government except in the dreams of those party faithful who think that running for second will get you first place? That's how our majority system works, my friend. Like Campbell, on the federal level Harper plays it like a fiddle. Where you put your energy is what you get.

Anonymous said...

"Contempt of parliament is a criminal offense. "

No it isn't. Parliament is governed by the Constitution, not the Criminal Code of Canada

"Have we lost the rule of law in this country?"

The poster has obviously lost his fundamental understanding of government.

Anonymous said...

My leader will prevail

All Hail Harper!


NeoDude said...

Amen, Knowles! I don't imagine I'll have any incentive to vote (again) but I keep thinking maybe I should try looking for similar minded people. Maybe I can find enough people that have equal loathing of all major parties to form an obnoxious block of voters determined to keep the Federal Conservatives and Provincial Liberals in power until the idiot NDP base wake up and smell the coffee.

What do I care how I waste my vote until we have a workable voting system /governance structure in place? Not that I would believe any NDP or Green promises either so I guess I just keep waiting for North Africa to move to BC. Federally we had a decent string of minority governments but I wouldn't be surprised we're about to suffer the inevitable outcome of a failed electoral process.

Anonymous said...

"My leader will prevail

All Hail Harper!


The Devilled Ham supported Pierre Trudeau who brought us PetroCanada
(with the help of the NDP), National Energy Programme and a massive spending spree.

Anonymous said...

Bring renewal to the NDP.

Vote Mike Farnworth.

Outsourced said...

Here's my reckless forecast of some of the coming elections.

BC election: Cummins will draw racists and the ideological right away from Chrsity Crunch and the the NDP will slide by with a slim majority. If Crunchy does not go to the polls until 2012, Cummins will draw more voters from the wacky right (aren't they all)

Federal election: Harper will continue to deconstruct himself and voters will remember why they didn't trust him in the first place - imagine 'giving' a tax break in 2015, if the rich don't drain the coffers.

Ignatieff gets a slim majority and appoints Jack and Giles to the Senate.

Harper then quits politics and joins Haliburton -- He's put in charge of counting dead crabs in the Gulf of Mexico.

PeterInEdmonton said...

Aside from the usual anti-Tory FUD, I agree with Bill's assessment that the NDP and Liberals had to be crazy to bring down the government and call the election. Most analysis of the budget that I read was that it was OK - it had some good and bad points. The parties really haven't been able to hang an issue off of it so far.
One thing that doesn't seem to be getting any coverage is the fact that tomorrow will be the 1/4 point in the campaign and at this writing, neither the Liberals nor NDs are fielding a full slate of candidates in Western Canada. As I write this on Sunday morning, Apr. 3rd at about 11:00 AM PT (Bill, the dating system on your Blog still doesn't work), the Liberal web site only lists 17 candidates for 28 Alberta ridings and they appear to be short a few in BC as well. The NDP web site is not designed disrespectfully for local candidates. When I use the NDP Electoral Districts tool (hidden at the bottom of the screen) for Calgary Centre North, I get a riding president but no candidate.

There is no official Liberal candidate listed for my riding, Edmonton Strathcona. My riding has not been well represented by the most recent Tory and NDP incumbents, so I'd actually be looking for alternatives. Looks like I'm going to have to overcome my natural conservative inclinations and look at the Green candidate.

By the way, I find this comparable historically to Europe in the summer of 1914. After reading a lot of Taylor and Tuchman on the subject, all I can come up with is "we went to war because we went to war".

PeterInEdmonton said...

Sorry - previous comment should have read "not designed respectfully for local candidates". My bad.

Bruno said...

I will preface my comments by saying I don't belong to any political party. I have voted NDP, Liberal, Conservative and Green. I don't vote one way. In this election I will be voting Conservative. You may ask why?

Stephen Harper has faults. He is egotistic, secretive, can be smug and show disdain for parliamentary procedures. I don't care about any of those things. I'd show disdain for parliamentary procedures too if I was trying to operate in a minority parliament and the opposition was constantly calling for the revelation of documents simply so they can spin any one part of it, taken out of context, and then make the government fall and campaign on what was discovered. Does anyone in their right mind think that Jean Chretien would not have been found in contempt of parliament if not for his majority? Give your head a shake if you think otherwise. It was a dirty tactic to force an election.

Why would Ignatieff and Layton be hankering for an election? It can't be because they believe they can win the election. I do believe the coalition theory proposed by Harper. It's the only thing that makes sense. Sorry, but I don't want Jack Layton as a cabinet minister in an Ignatieff led government. In all the years since becoming NDP leader, he's opposed everything. Under both Liberal and Conservative governments, he's been a contrary thorn. Sure, it's his job to be opposition, but so literally? If there's good legislation, then he should support it for Canadians. He's pie in the sky all the time. Campaigning on all kinds of goodies and slamming the government of the day. He can do it, because he'll NEVER win! Easy to make promises you'll never have to keep. I don't want this kind of mentality in charge of anything. Ignatieff scares me more than Harper ever did. He's out there promising social program after social program. He'll bankrupt this country in no time flat. Talking about the Conservative deficit!?!? WOW! The Cons spent money to keep Canadians working during a recession. And now leading economists say the plan to get out of debt is credible. How can anyone get mad about spending tax dollars to save families' homes and livelihoods? Now that things are turning for the better, the tax dollars have stopped flowing. I have no problem with what happened with the Economic Action Plan.

Fighter jets! Hot topic! Overblown as well. Canada's soldiers are now using jets which were originally set to retire 10 years ago! They need replacing ASAP! Since Canada has shown it expects a long life from it's military planes, why not get the very best? Not some cheaper technology from 5, 10 years ago. Top of the line. Then when they're 30 or 40 year old planes, perhaps they won't be as severely outdated as what could happen if the Libs and NDP get their way. I have no problem with our soldiers having the best equipment to carry out their missions.

Prisons! Another hot topic! I wish I disagreed with them, but I don't. How many times have you read a news report or saw on tv about somebody convicted of a serious crime and does little to no time?!? I'm talking murder, kidnapping, rape, armed robbery. House arrest, probation. It's disgusting. Will it deter crime? I don't know, but those that do the crime must pay a penalty comparable to what they did. We can do all the education we want. It does stop crime from happening, I do believe that. But once it happens, those responsible can't just get a slap on the wrist, a finger waggled at them and a stern "don't do it again!"

Given the cast of characters and what's been done in the past few years, my vote will go to my local Conservative candidate. Try to change my mind if you will, but it will have to be a compelling "knock my socks" off argument to sway me. None of the "Harper can't be trusted" stuff either. Just solid reasons to support the Libs or NDP, if you can find any.

Anonymous said...

Vote Mike Farnworth. He's our best chance to bring forward thinking policies for the people to B.C.

DPL said...

Some confused pro Farnsworth guy fell into the wrong article. But since he brought it up, in my view he is backing the wrong guy. Farnsworth would give us more of Carole James. I'm supporting a strong candidate party for many reasons inclding the fact that the BC Liberals are scared stiff of Adrian who knows the issues and pushes hard to getting them resolved. Best guy for the job ADRIAN.

Anonymous said...

"Some confused pro Farnsworth guy fell into the wrong article. But since he brought it up, in my view he is backing the wrong guy."

The public and polls and the majority of NDPers say different.

"Farnsworth would give us more of Carole James. I'm supporting a strong candidate party for many reasons inclding the fact that the BC Liberals are scared stiff of Adrian who knows the issues and pushes hard to getting them resolved. Best guy for the job ADRIAN."

Not a good reason to support a candidate. We need a much better NDP and Mike will provide it. Adrian does well in complaining, but hasn't done much in working to resolve the problem. Continually stating a problem isn't going to fix it. Working with all conerns will.

Vote Mike Farnworth. Our future and yours depends on it.

PeterInEdmonton said...

An update on my earlier comment: The Liberals now list a candidate in the riding, one Matthew Sinclair. As Bill would say, he has every right to run. His credentials, according to what is probably(*) his web page are weak. His listing turned up on Monday, Apr. 4th.
What depresses me is how little the individual MP seems to matter any more. The CBC doesn't list "local candidate's qualiifications" as a factor on their infamous Vote Compass tools and the attitude of my current NDP incumbent and her Conservative predecessor has been that they exist to carry the Leader's Message to the constituency, rather than the constituency's thoughts to government.

* There is no link to a web site, Facebook page, or Twitter feed for Matthew from the Federal Liberal site. I guessed and got a site that LOOKED legit. It did list 3 Tweets for a while but at this writing, it does not. Not that I am a big Twitter fan.

Jeff Davis said...

I bet this is the best crow you've ever eaten. Looks like the NDP could even win this election. Hardly a bad choice.