The Election: Day 25

It appears that the party leaders will be laying down their arms until January 2, with the exception of occasional local appearances next week. We can then expect campaigning to resume with a vengeance. Pundits speculate about the campaign moving into a negative phase after the relatively civil first phase.

Yesterday I mentioned the preview of probable Liberal attacks available at blogger Stephen Taylor's site. Today this burst over the mainstream media, with the Liberals claiming that the material was intended for "internal use" by Liberal candidates. .

One of the storyboards showed a photo of Harper whispering to Duceppe under a headline of Harper-Duceppe coalition. Apparently the photo in question was taken during the Holocaust memorial last spring on Parliament Hill. The event was also attended by Liberal Leader Paul Martin and NDP Leader Jack Layton.

Harper expressed contempt for any plan to use the photos.

"I think it's beyond tasteless. You know, all party leaders attended the Holocaust memorial," Harper said Friday. "This is a pretty solemn event with Holocaust survivors, and to use that photo to imply that Mr. Duceppe and I would share some kind of agenda other than obviously opposing the Holocaust I think is disgraceful."

Harper denied any plan to form a coalition with the Bloc in a new Parliament. He said the two parties don't share the same motives.

"We may co-operate on the odd issue, but even there we're not naive," he said. "We understand that, even when the Bloc agrees with us, their motives are very different."

Harper said forming a coalition is unrealistic, and that he would govern on an issue-by-issue basis, co-operating with "individuals or parties that are absolutely committed to the unity of the country."

Meanwhile Liberal leader Paul Martin was pledging cooperation with provinces under the banner of "robust federalism". He promised closer co-operation with the provinces in a number of areas, including post-secondary education and training and international negotiations.

He described "robust federalism''as working together. Martin was responding to a letter from Premier Ralph Klein to the three main party leaders earlier this week on behalf of his fellow premiers, asking the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP where they stand on five questions. The topics were education and training, transportation, international relations, trade relations and fiscal balance.

Chantal Hebert in today's feature article does an excellent job of analyzing the election to date. After categorizing the current Conservative campaign as more "progressive" than "conservative", she summarizes the current state of the Liberals thus:

"It is because they have failed to keep up with the times that the federal Liberals are no longer holding their own in Quebec. In this campaign, they are fighting the last war and shooting themselves in the foot almost daily in the process.

"Two decades after patriation of the Constitution, the federal Liberal party is a spent force in Quebec. The days when it competed fiercely with the sovereignist movement for the best and brightest of Quebecers are behind it.

"And that means that, in the not-so-distant future, Canadians will have to tap other sources than the dried-out Quebec reservoir for national leadership."

Ouch! That's telling it like it is. While Jack Layton came from behind in the English debate to sharply improve his personal image with Canadian voters, Stephen Harper has accomplished his objective for the first phase of the campaign. He has advanced solid policy proposals on a wide spectrum of issues. He has waged a positive "Here's why you should vote for us" campaign and refrained from the temptation to fall into the trap of waging solely a negative campaign on the Liberal corruption issue. Meanwhile Paul Martin has been floundering. The Liberal campaign has been lacklustre. Even though the Liberals still lead slightly in the polls, the Liberals and Conservatives are tied outside Quebec and in Quebec the Liberals face the further loss of a possible ten seats or more to the Bloc.

All of this means that the Liberal campaign will likely turn increasingly dirty in January as they attempt to replay the 2004 election by demonizing Harper. But this time Harper has laid a solid policy foundation and it will not be so easy for the Liberals this time. And Harper still has the card of Gomery and Liberal corruption up his sleeve to play when the situation demands it.

If I were Paul Martin, I would be passing a restless Christmas as I pondered the probability of at best a reduced Liberal minority come January 23 and quite possibly a Conservative minority government.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Martin is in for a hard reality check on January 23. After running a cut-throat campaign for a decade to depose Chretien, Martin's aborted reign will probably be short-lived. And Chretien will be sporting the biggest smile of all.