Tuesday, November 14, 2006

LibLead I

I am going to be doing a three part series on the Liberal leadership race which will be laid out as follows:

Part I - How each candidate would do in the next election

The Liberals are historically a very, very successful electoral party. Though many thought Harper would be guaranteed a win in the next election - likely a majority - early in his mandate, polls and pundits now say the Liberals have a chance of winning.

I will assess the likely results of the next election under each leadership candidate.

Part II - How each candidate could win the leadership

Though it is my belief that Gerard Kennedy will win the leadership, there are a number of scenarios that could play out which would see any of the "big four" winning the race. I will portay the scenarios.

Part III - My predictions as to the results of the leadership race

A bit of the suspence for this one has been ruined as I have already said I think Kennedy will win. I will spell out why in a ballot-by-ballot guesstimation of the results.

So, without further ado, here is...


Michael Ignatieff

A combination of Harper's desire to go to the polls and the zealousness and over confidence of Ignatieff's insiders will almost certainly mean an election in March or April 2007.

Ignatieff will be well prepared and well scripted and will come out of the gate strong, perhaps even pulling substantially ahead of the Tories in polls. However if you thought the 1984 leader's debate was good - LOOK OUT!

Messrs. Harper, Duceppe and Layton will spend almost the whole of their debate preps in "bait Ignatieff" practice sessions. Each will find, quite easily considering Mr. Ignatieff's incredible number of detailed works, four or five areas where Ignatieff has made comments on an issue which are both (real or perceived as) contradictatory to his current position and offensive to their base supporters.

Ignatieff will be prepared for this, but, with some many hooks being through, it is inevitable that he will bite on at least one, setting him up for a trap which will see him bombarded by his three opponents. The campaign will be over at this moment.

This result will see Harper grow, possibly to a majority, with the Liberals loosing large numbers of seats to both the Conservatives and the NDP. It is unclear whether or not the Liberals would be official opposition after the vote.

Bob Rae

Bob Rae believes, as does his team, that he is the most prepared of any candidate to assume the office of Prime Minister and I suspect that this is probably true. Rae actually suggested we should have an election this fall while the leadership is on, so he will certainly want to go to the polls. Election again would be in March/April 2007.

Rae would grow slowly but steadily in the campaign. In the debates, watch for Harper to go after him hard on his record in Ontario. Rae has a pretty strong defence to this, I've see him address it, and he has said if Harper goes after him on his record, he can effectively turn the tables on Harper. "Mr. Harper speaks of my record of 15 years ago, what about 4 years ago when he supported the Iraq War? What about 7 years ago and the Alberta Firewall?" This strategy should be able to at least hold Rae to a draw.

Rae's flawless French and natural charisma on the campaign trail will do him well.

In Ontario, where Rae's record will likely result in lost seats to the Tories, he will probably break even or be down only a few seats due to seats gained at the expense of the NDP in Northern Ontario in particular, but also in Toronto.

In the West, the NDP has been shut out of its traditional Saskatchewan stronghold for an unprecedented two elections in a row (in 1993, the NDP won 5 of its 9 seats there). This is because Layton's brand of social democracy does not play to the prairie populists who have traditionally backed the NDP. Rae's does and he will pick up a surprising number of seats in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and may also grow in BC.

In Quebec, his French and his record as an ally of Quebec in the Meech and Charlottetown debates will help him and he may gain a handful of seats as well.

The result will likely be a large minority Liberal government.

Gerard Kennedy

Kennedy, I do not suspect, will be so anxious to go to the polls. He has a fairly strong grasp of the issues but will want to make a greater impression on an electorate that does not know him and improve his French. He will do his best to avoid a spring election.

Under Kennedy, watch for an election in October/November 2007 or possibly April 2008. The most important question of how successful Kennedy will be depends on how soon he is able to get into the House. His lack of a national profile and the likelihood of a delayed election call means his getting into the Commons will be far more important than Bob Rae.

Perhaps interim leader Bill Graham, aged 68 by next March, and having already been both Foreign Minister and Defence Minster, would retire and enable Kennedy to gain his Toronto Centre seat, which is not far from where Kennedy was elected in Ontario? This would probably be the safest and most ideal route to the House and I will operate on the assumption that there would be a quick by-election seeing Kennedy elected in January before the House returns from its Christmas break.

Kennedy I think will be very effective against the Conservatives in the House. It may take him a month or two to adjust to the much different universe that is Parliament Hill as compared to Queen's Park, but he does have experience in having found the most effective messages to use against a similar government during his 7 years in opposition to the Harris/Eves administration in Ontario. He will manage to avoid defeating the Spring 2007 budget and will then raise the Liberals so significantly in the polls, that the Tories may not want to go in the fall of 2007.

An election campaign would be hard fought, but Kennedy's natural grassroots appeal will help him to gain ground in all corners of the country. Watch for Kennedy to run in an Edmonton seat and if he can secure some star candidates, likely considering his support by Alberta Liberal MLAs who may be endangered in the next provincial election, he will win 2-3 seats for sure in Alberta, possibly as many as 5. He will also see growth in British Columbia with an outside chance in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In Ontario, his strong record as Education Minister, where he has been hailed by teachers, parents and students, will see him manage to gain seats both from the NDP and the Conservatives.

In Quebec, despite his French challenges, which should be markedly improved by the time of the election anyway, he will do well. I have been told by Quebeckers that just because you can't speak French, doesn't mean you don't speak the same political language as Quebeckers, while many who are fluently bilingual can't get the mentality of Quebec voters. Kennedy will have better command of French by then and, in any event, already speaks the political language of Quebec. At the very least, he will hold what we have which is in my mind a low watermark. However, I think he will be able to steal progressive votes from the Bloc and gain 5+ seats in Quebec.

The result, a strong Liberal minority or possibly a slim majority.

Stéphane Dion

The election timing is unclear here but I would again expect to go in the spring.

Dion has a real challenge in the election. He is essentially a more moderate, Francophone Stephen Harper. He is an uncharasmatic intellectual who is more interested in thinking than communicating.

So, at the end of the day, English Canada will have this choice: A boring man I can understadn well who is already PM, or a boring man whose English is hard to follow and who I've probably never heard of unless I am a very close follower of politics. This is not a good ballot question for Liberals.

I think Mr. Dion would hold our solid federalist seats in Quebec but would have little room to grow there, while he may slip slightly in Ontario but lose a lot of ground in the West.

The result, Harper with a strong minority or a slim majority.

* - I have left Atlantic Canada out of specific analyses as I don't see any major changes here in any of these scenarios.


Leon said...

I appreciate your thinking on Ignatief and Rae but
cannot understand your dissing of Dion and championing of Kennedy. Your twinning of Harper and Dion was biased in that it spun Dion as a
right of centre candidate. He has more federal cabinet experience than Harper or any other of
the Liberal candidates. He has little baggage, his English is miles better than Kennedy's French and
he is not quite as nerdy as you make out. Nobody with a dog named Kyoto is nerdy. I appreciate your passion and expertise in these exercises. I just can't understand the championing of Kennedy and the dissing of Dion. Reminds me of Judy calling Trudeau "that bastard".

Brent said...

Interesting analysis, but despite your valiant attempt, I find it harder and harder to see Kennedy as a contender on the penultimate or ultimate ballot. His biggest drawback is his severe French deficiency.

That said, I also note the poll that says he has substantial second ballot support, even among those who don't think he is the candidate with the best chance of winning the next election against Harper.

There is hope for the Liberals yet, in that they may support a candidate who is not the one they think is most likely to win. That almost sounds like "principles" which I find quite shocking!

Still, I think Kennedy's best outcome is to lay the groundwork for the next time.

nbpolitico said...

leon - I by no means suggest anything about ideology because that is not how most Canadians vote. It is a matter of charisma and personality, that is unfortunate but often true.

I am not dissing Dion, Dion is in fact my second choice and who I will be voting for if Kennedy doesn't make it to the final two. However, that is because I agree with his policies and platform and think he would be a good leader for the party.

Winning elections isn't everything and if I thought it was I would vote Rae if Kennedy dropped, however, I am not going to do that because I think that Rae's leadership would be divisive for the party and that would harm us in the long term. It would be worth the short term pain of losing an election under Dion for the long term gain of party unity.

JL said...

Leon: "Nobody with a dog named Kyoto is nerdy."

I beg to differ. I think that is the very definition of nerdy.

Your scenarios are plausible, but only if Canada was a two party state. The next election will see a stronger NDP, a resurgent Green Party with a media darling for a leader, and a weakened, unfocused Liberal Party. There will be more competition than ever for the left wing voter, and this vote splitting means a minimum of 10 extra seats for the Conservatives.

Until a clear left wing champion emerges, get used to minority Conservative governments.

nbpolitico said...

jl - I think your "until a clear left wing champion emerges" might demonstrate why Kennedy and Rae do the best under my scenarios.

However, I strongly disagree with your assessment of the Greens. Having a radical for leader will backfire for them, especially if they are allowed in the leaders' debates. I suspect the Green vote will drop sharply.

Harrap said...

I agree the Liberals will be in trouble with Iggy but I can't see them losing official opposition status.

With Kennedy I still think a relatively early election will be the case. The Liberals are doing well in the polls and an early election call would be in their interest, unless the Harper government messes up even more over time, which is a clear possibility.

As well, novelty may play in Kennedy's favour as new leaders usually enjoy a honeymoon period, to have an election during that time could be clearly in the Liberals' favour.

Daniel said...

I don't think that the government is as ripe for the plucking as the Liberals might hope it is; recent polls show that, while the Conservatives' support has dropped, Liberal support has been rather stagnant. I agree that the Liberals probably need a uniter; Rae could probably win the next election, but watch him crash and burn after that, with a party once again divided and a large, bleeding wound on its right side. Iggy can't win the next election, and would divide the party on top of that. Dion and Kennedy might have trouble winning the next election, but they would be better-positioned for a future win than the two "frontrunners".

Jacinthe said...

Dion is articulate in both languages. He's courageous, tough, passionate and has a bit of a temper. He also has years of cabinet experience, is smart
as well as intelligent, and a Quebecer who loves Canada. What's not to like?
The packsack is a leftover from his days walking his kids to school with no hands left for his
briefcase. Dion has had a bit of a resurrection in Quebec after the ruckus of the Clarity Act settled down. Even Josee Legault is a fan.
As for charisma, when the plane teeters
near jet upset in the troposphere
I want someone in front who knows what he's doing.
The flight attendants can make the announcements.

Anonymous said...


Great analogy. I agree 100%.

Altavistagoogle said...

"Kennedy [...] already speaks the political language of Quebec."

??? He wants national standards for education! He finished sixth in Quebec, sixth!

Anonymous said...

Are you crazy? Or just stupid? Wayne Gretzky couldn't win five or six Liberal seats in Alberta!