Sunday, February 10, 2008

Morons incorporated

I was at the Canadian Association of Agri Retailers convention in Winnipeg most of last week. While there I had a really informative conversation with the leader of a national NGO. The CAAR convention is really just a gathering place for the entire ag value chain - grain companies, chemical companies, fertilizer companies from all levels from manufacturing through distribution to retail. The guy I was talking to works in Ottawa and has impeccable connections so I was listening carefully to what he had to say. He and I have locked horns more than once in the past but I respect his perspective on the national political scene because he is there and I am not. He's been there for a long time and he has some family connections that run deep into the Liberal party so I used the opportunity to pick his brains.

I specfically asked him about the Harper government's strategy of pushing the Libs into a corner and governing as if they had a majority. His take on Dion's short term chances was bleak. He said that the inside Liberal power circle has a dilemma. They know they made a mistake - they know they have the wrong guy in charge - but they don't know what to do about getting rid of him. They can't have another convention without letting the fool go through an election and they aren't sure when their best prospects are for that. Leaving aside the astute perception displayed by the Liberal brain trust in that it has only taken them a year to figure out what 99% of Canadians knew the morning after the convention, it is fun to dissect the dilemma that the Liberals now face.

Should they wait until they have rebuilt their finances and give Harper time to move further away from the honeymoon period, looking for a key campaign issue that might play well for the Liberals and ultimately return them to their natural governing role. Or should they "get it over with" so to speak - let the government fall, go through the motions of an election, hope that the most they suffer is another two years of minority and in the process have the excuse they need to hold another leadership convention. Apparently the senior party members are increasingly moving to the latter option. Realizing that they made a huge mistake they would rather take their lumps now while it appears that Harper cannot secure a majority despite the fact that this means they won't get a majority themselves. Under this scenario they presumably get some breathing space to rebuild their finances, they have the excuse they need to hold a leadership convention and they can then move into an election 18 - 24 months out while still riding the publicity of a new leader.

Of course that whole strategy hinges on them picking the right guy next time round. And on Harper screwing up enough to give them the majority they so desperately crave. Meanwhile Harper continues to not serve roast babies at 24 Sussex, makes progress with NATO countries that previously ignored us, works with (as opposed to fighting with) the provinces and generally acts prime ministerial. What a pleasant change from the past decade. It also sounds as though the Libs are by no means united with individual members having a variety of ideas about how best to proceed. Music to my ears.

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