04 December 2008

The polls are in...

...and things look bleak, at least at the moment, for the coalition.

EKOS has the Conservatives at 44% nationally. Strategic Counsel has them at 45%. Ipsos-Reid has them at 46% (though Aldous quite points out that some of the internal numbers are, to put it mildly, a little confused).

The "smart" buzz now seems to be that Stephen Harper provoked a politicial, constitutional and national unity crisis deliberately to ensure himself a majority government sometime in the new year. And while the public is more divided than the topline voting preference numbers would suggest (and, more importantly, pundits are avowing that the PM's behaviour means his chances of winning a majority are nil), the Conservatives are benefiting from Canadians "rallying to the flag" and by extension, the government of the day. As noted in an earlier post, Harper is set, in some circles at least, to be elevated once again to the status of Greatest Political Mind in Canadian History.

Do I buy it?

Yes and no. At the moment, the Conservative media assault has, once again, been successful (Harper's brtual treatment of the media at the beginning of his first mandate has paid off spectacularly, as the national press corps has managed to develop the political equivalent of Stockhold Syndrome). This success is compounded by the impotence of a Liberal Party that, it seems, continues to ignore the threat posed to its existence by ongoing internal divisions. All this is the conventional wisdom. However, it doesn't mean there isn't a way out.

What unconventional wisdom can I offer to rescue progressives from the mess we find ourselves in?

a) Pass the Budget. It's time, I think, for the coalition to take the high road. It seems clear that Harper desperately wants the House to fall in the New Year. Don't let it. Call the Prime Minister's bluff. Pass whatever godawful stimulus package he presents, in the name of national unity. (If it's really egregious, vote it down and run like hell with it.)

b) Ditch the Bloc- Nicely. The Bloc is doing no favours to the Liberals and New Democrats outside Quebec. The coalition must either come up with a rhetorical strategy that adequatly convinces Canadians of the Bloc's good intentions, or part ways, amicably. This ties in with the need to:

c) Replace Dion - But Fairly. I have supported Stephan Dion from before anyone gave him a chance. But his manifold talents are lost on the media, the public, his caucus, and occasionally himself. So, drastic times call for drastic measures - but fair measures that give the Liberal base a chance for involvement. This means a very speedy convention process, or some sort of one-person, one-vote ballot, in early January. Do it all online - it could be cool and exciting and 21st Century! And whoever loses has to suck it up (I think, sadly, this is the most unlikely of my suggestions to actually come off).

d) Up the Ante with the NDP (and the Greens). Whoever the new LPC leader, the formal coalition with the NDP needs to continue. Despite the polemics of the National Post, Canadians are not particularly afraid of the NDP (and Harper's inflammatory rhetoric about the Bloc may succeed in legitimizng the New Democrats even more in the eyes of some voters). In a more or less permanent fashion, progressives in Canada must - I repeat, must - unite.

e) Develop a "Regular Joe" Platform. The LPC-NDP coalition needs to develop a common framework of policy that cuts across the traditional conservative-liberal-socialist spectrum. The contents of said platform are best left to another post - but they have to speak to the messy anxieties of ordinary people. That means unconventional or unexpected juxtapositions and amalgams of policies or ideas.

f) Use the Moment. Uniting progressives and developing an unconventional platform is going to embolden a lot of people, and attract new volunteers and recruits to the progressive front (ideally in Obama-esque proportions). A strong volunteer system needs to be in place to handle them, to solicit donations, and do all the cool stuff that, lo and behold, won the Democrats the White House. So, David Axelrod, and a minion, had better get called up the Great White North ASAP - for seminars, a pep talk, and the phone number of a good website designer.

Is this a lot to ask? In our poor benighted country, perhaps. It will take work. The alternative is to:

g) Let the Conservatives win a majority. Allow them to take power, destroy the bureaucracy, politicize every quasigovernmental agency they can, gut the social safety net, obliviate our world standing, and use the bully pulpit to rule for at least a decade. I guarantee Canadians will be sick of them by then. But will there be any Canada left?

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