Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hidden agendas?

For months, Michael Ignatieff has seemed most reluctant to tell us what his party would do if elected. Either he has no better ideas or perhaps he’s worried the Tories will copy his policies if he divulges them. We sometimes hear that it’s not the job of the Grits to help the Tories govern the country. In my view, this keep-the-public-in-the-dark policy is a flawed tactic that is sure to backfire.

Time and again polls show Mr. Ignatieff behind PM Stephen Harper in terms of leadership. The vacuum formed by a lack of knowledge on where he really stands on various policies and what he would do to correct what he claims are Tory inadequacies has given the Conservatives an opportunity to define Mr. Ignatieff in their own terms—and the Canadian public seems to be buying the Tory spin.

The Conservatives did a brilliant job of defining the previous chief Grit Stéphane Dion in unflattering terms, and it cost the Liberals an election and several seats in the House. The Grits apparently have not learned a thing from that. The longer Michael Ignatieff shies away from issuing detailed policy statements, especially on his plans to revive the economy, the more elusive will be his chance of ever realizing his dream of becoming the prime minister.

And, of course, there is always the prospect that the Liberals plan to take actions they know will be very unpopular with Canadians—raise income taxes and the GST to eliminate the deficit, for example. Or introduce the carbon taxes they promised during the last federal campaign. Perhaps they plan to eliminate the deficit by reducing transfers to the provinces for health care and other provincial services like they did when Paul Martin was finance minister—causing billions in provincial budget shortfalls to be made up by increased taxes at that level. Why not, they did it the last time they inherited a deficit.

There is also the possibility that the prospect of gaining power will be too tempting for Mr. Ignatieff to resist a formal coalition with the NDP, a long-held dream of senior Grit, Bob Re, and several others in the Liberal caucus—you know: unite the left and all that.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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  1. I personally like the term 'Iggy's hidden platform agenda.' No one can keep on top of it, no one that thinks they know where the LPC stands actually does one day to the next.

    Beyond giving the CPC no chance to 'steal' the LPC policies, this tactic allows the LPC to truthfully say, we didn't break any promises this time out, because we made none.

    'We can do better' leads to better than what questions, but has built in protection if things get dicey. They can later state things, truthfully, that we said 'We could do better' and we did. Things are messed up now, but we did better than the Gecko Lizard that sells insurance, and kept our promise.

  2. agree completely - Mr Iggy seems to believe spewing invective as dictated by his war room ass-kicker is sufficient softening up of the Tory menace - then a quick release of some policy will win him the prize - I hope the canadian public wakes up to the real "hidden agenda" - lieberal takeover of the treasury

  3. This non-policy, hidden direction path is fraught with difficulties. There is a reason parties frequently launch trial balloons - it is to test the public mood for a policy or to learn its weaknesses and have time to plug the holes. Keeping everything hidden within a small bubble only to release the plan at the last minute means it must be flawless and understandable. Liberal or Conservative, doesn't matter - you throw something new out during an election and every string will be pulled, every weak spot prodded, every bubble burst --- if one part falls flat, the rest is left in the dust while the dogs chew on the carcass of a flawed policy -- ELIMINATE THE NOT WITHSTANDING CLAUSE OF THE CONSTITUTION or CARBON TAX/TAX SHIFT --- need I say more?

  4. What happened to making parliament work for the people of Canada?

  5. The silence on the policy front is not terribly different from what harper did when he beat martin.

    The liberals know that harper has the money and the levers of government to define and frame anything Iggy releases now. To do so would frankly be kinda stupid.

    Kinsella, when the Martin/Chrieten camps were fighting, thought that harper's 'policy a day' press release was brilliant campaigning. He correctly summerized that the Harper win was because they won the headline war with their policy release timing, and harper won the 'tim hortons' voters by looking like a 'tim hortons' politician.

    Kinsella's involvement in Iggy's war room will ensure that he mimmicks (or at very lease respects) a couple of the strategies that brought harper to power in the first place.

    This upcoming election (this fall, this spring, or next fall) will be more strategic battle than an ideological/policy driven one.

    Both the Liberals and the Conservatives have their fingerprints on the budget. Short of someone actually trying something daring in the upcoming election, expect the policy difference between the conservatives and liberals to be nearly invisible to the non-partisan observer.