Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/10/2009 (4375 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In Harper's world, it's all good. He survived a confidence motion in the House of Commons and now is flying high in the polls with support that would put him in majority territory
How did Harper make his surge? Tory strategists realized a few minutes of singing and piano playing did more to soften Harper's image than a truckload of sweater vests.
Ignatieff, on the other hand, leads a Liberal party that has retreated to Dionian levels of popularity. It must be a shock to have the same performance rating as man universally associated with political failure. (In fact, if you look in the dictionary under "political failure" you will find a picture of Dion. Unfortunately, the photo is so out of focus it's hard to tell who it is, so you'll have to take my word for it.)
You would think the next election, whenever it comes, would be a turkey shoot. However, we won't have an election for at least six months and in the current political environment, that's a lifetime. A lot can and will change.
The Liberals find hope in the Tory cheque-signing flap, where Tory MPs were found to be using oversized novelty cheques for funding announcements that had their own signatures on them. This hubris was followed by revelations that the Tory stimulus programs were dumping significantly more money into Tory ridings. "I think the Conservatives are now in the frying pan," Ignatieff told the National Post last week.
While that is clearly a triumph of optimism over empirical evidence, the Tories are clearly worried. After several newspapers wrote investigative stories showing that Conservative MPs were in fact getting more money than their opponents, the Tory war room issued a study showing that opposition ridings got more money out of the Building Canada Fund than Tory ridings.
It was an absurd comparison. Building Canada funds larger infrastructure projects that, while they may sit in one riding, are really designed to serve an entire community. Perhaps the Tories could tell if the expanded Red River Floodway, a recipient of Building Canada funds, was an opposition or Tory riding project.
This is not the kind of strategy you expect from a leader and party that is riding high in the polls. The fact is, it will be increasingly hard to predict political fortunes even a few months from now. There are, however, scenarios under which both the Tories and Liberals come out on top in six months.
For the Liberals, success may come if the economy suffers a setback. Or, if any of the fiscal time bombs now surrounding the Tories finally explode.
While Harper negotiates the recession, he is also committing hundreds of millions of dollars to new justice initiatives. Although crime and punishment have been winners for the Tories, this dogmatic priority could appear needless against the backdrop of bigger and more important issues. For example, the Tories haven't figured out what to do for the millions of Canadians who have lost their retirement savings. The private-sector pension liability stands at more than $50 billion.
There's a lot of things on the 'to-do' list and no money to get them done. That is the kind of failure that prompts frustration in the electorate.
Tory fortunes, on the other hand, will depend largely on Ignatieff, who has been spectacularly unimpressive to date. The Liberals are still without a core issue on which to attack the government. They tried employment insurance, but it had no resonance with the public. Now, the Grits are going after the Tories on the deficit.
Ignatieff believes the Tories are poor fiscal managers because they ran up a $50-billion deficit that will cripple the economy after the recession is over. He promised a Liberal government would do better. Unfortunately, Ignatieff continues to keep his deficit-fighting plan secret.
This is intellectually dishonest. You might remember that it was the Liberals in the fall of 2008 who threatened to bring down the Tories and form a coalition because they were not spending enough to prime the economy. That directly implied Liberal support for a plan to borrow and spend our way out of the recession.
After holding a gun to Harper's head to get him to spend, Ignatieff would now have us believe the resulting deficit is a political liability that only the Tories must bear. Given the history here, that is the worst kind of political rhetoric.
Although much is unknown, we should expect that sometime next year, one of the two leaders will be left in tears and facing a mutiny. The other will be beginning what should be a long, uninterrupted hold on power.
Let the wagering begin.
Born and raised in and around Toronto, Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school with a lifelong dream to be a newspaper reporter.