Falling on your sword...

Don Martin is suggesting this morning that Harper may fall on his sword over Kyoto.

The latest poll numbers are being touted as signs that Harper will be looking for ways to go into an election as soon as possible.

It wouldn't be right if I didn't pour cold water on what is favorable interpretations of numbers that tell us absolutely nothing. Statistically speaking, the "Tory surge" shows nothing at all. The margin of error for the strategic council poll was 3%. That means the Tories, if an election call were held today could have numbers as low as 32% of the vote. The Liberals could be as high as 33%. As much as I'd like to join the "Tories are exploding" bandwagon, I would be culpable in blind partisanship if I said anything different.

The only statically significant result from this poll is that the Liberal drop was well over the margin of error. So, we can conclude that the Tories may have increased in popularity, but that for darn sure the Liberals are dropping.

That's hardly the ideal conditions for a spring election for Harper - and I have no doubt that Harper's advisers are pondering that very fact today.

Not to mention the fact that Canadians have bought wholesale into Kyoto. Harper knows this, that's why he's taken such a radically different tact towards the environment on the issue lately.

Kyoto, strategically, needs to be seen in much the same way health care is to Conservatives. It has become a cult like religion in the Great White North. Until something radically changes, or some sort of momentous event occurs - like say global cooling starts to happen - Conservatives will be fighting for parity with the Left on the issue. In other words Kyoto is not seen as our strength - just like healthcare.

And just like health care, we don't want to be falling on our weakest sword - better to fall on our one of our strongest ones - like senate reform.


  1. The biggest problem the Liberals have, the poll on which party has the best approach to the environment, it has them in a statistical tie with the Conservatives and the NDP. If Greenie Dion can't move the numbers on this issue, he has a world of hurt comin' his way.

  2. Bro, I dont know that Canadians even know what the Senate is (unless they have a family member in it) much less about the reform.
    Strategy to nullify Enviro & social programs, bring down opinion of Dion is a good one.
    Its working, I do think that it should be continued. Dion has not bottomed out yet - think he needs another nine months to really be at the bottom of a well.

  3. A very cogent analysis.

    With everybody talking about "surge" and "momentum" and forcing a Spring election over these polls, all I've been able to think is "WHAT?!?!?".

    The "leadership numbers" for Harper are very good, even excellent, but 34% is still just 34%, and that's 2% LESS than the Tories got in the last election. I'd also be concerned that with the Liberals dropping 8% in this poll, the Tories only picked up 3%, with the other 5% going to the Greens. The Liberals drop is certainly encouraging for the CPC, but I think the Tories need to be gaining a lot more of those Liberal votes to get really excited.

    A new parliament with the same number of Tories, the same number of Dippers, a few fewer Liberals and a smattering of Greens is hardly Shangri la for Tory stalwarts, is it?

    And I get platty's point on the environment, but I just don't see Liberal voters abandoning the Liberal party for the Tories on the environment. Seems to me (and this poll suggests this, though it's by no means certain) that if a Liberal voter is going to abandon the Liberals over the environment, they're gonna go Green. There are certainly issues that the Liberals can lose votes to the Tories over (Afghanistan, taxes, law and order...) but the environment, it seems to me, isn't one of those. The Liberals can certainly lose votes on the environment, but I think voters who are going to abandon the Liberals over the environment are the kind of voters who will go to the NDP and the Greens. That hurts the Liberals, true, but it doesn't help the Tories. I agree that an election fought on the environment can hurt the Dion Liberals, I'm just a lot less sure that translates into an increase for the Tories. Canadians may no longer fear the Tory plan with regards to the environment, but that doesn't mean the type of person for whom the environment is a vote-decider is going to vote Tory. I just don't see that happening.

  4. "Bro, I dont know that Canadians even know what the Senate is (unless they have a family member in it) much less about the reform."

    It doesn't really much matter if Canadians know what the Senate is or not. How many Canadians know about Kyoto anyway?

    The point is we should be falling on our strongest sword.

    At this point, Dion has publicly come out and said he won't go against senate reform in principle. What he objects to is doing it without opening up the constitution and not addressing western under-representation...

    It's that messed up logic of Dion that has put him in another straight jacket that I think the Tories should exploit.

  5. Just to go off point with william for a moment, I don't see why not wanting to do Senate Reform piecemeal is "messed up logic". I would think that giving democratic legitimacy to a branch of government that has systematic flaws (the under-representation of the West being one example) would be a bad thing.

    To me, the "messed up logic" is saying "the Senate is terribly broken and doesn't reflect the reality of Canada's regions, so let's make it elected without fixing that first, so we can entrench it's disfunctions in perpetuity by vesting it with democratic legitimacy".

    Dion's point is that we need to reform the institution first, THEN give it democratic legitmacy. What's the point in giving added legitimacy to a disfunctional institution? That will only make true reform more difficult. If one thinks reforming the Senate by opening the constitution is hard, try reforming the Senate once Canadian Senators have a democratic mandate from the electorate, on top of their constitutional protection. Talk about tilting at windmills.

  6. 'To me, the "messed up logic" is saying "the Senate is terribly broken and doesn't reflect the reality of Canada's regions, so let's make it elected without fixing that first, so we can entrench it's disfunctions in perpetuity by vesting it with democratic legitimacy".'

    With all due respect Lord Kitchener, saying that giving the senate democratic legitimacy will "entrench it's disfunctions" is at the very least a bad argument in my opinion.

    Giving the senate more legitimacy cures its dysfunctions. One of which was that it had no legitimacy to begin with, the other was it was accountable to no one by the PM.

    Don't fall into the trap of believing Dion's sincerity. For years the Liberals argued against Senate reform. Now they want to delay because the Tories aren't going far enough?

    Sorry, but given the situation, and the Liberals history, it's like a despot dictator saying "I believe in universal suffrage, but I won't give women the vote until we give poor people the vote..." The dictator doesn't want to give anyone the vote!

    A step in the right direction is a step in the right direction. This is just a transparent delaying tactic from the Liberals who know they're on the wrong side of the debate as far as I'm concerned.

    Elect senators. Do it know. Most of the time delaying is not a reasoned argument, but a political strategy.

  7. Well, we just disagree I guess William.

    I've always felt that the Senate has been a bit constrained by their lack of a democratic mandate, so all their other problems (the CRAZY skewing of regional balance for example) didn't really matter as much as it might. The Senators KNOW they don't have the same legitimacy as the House, so they're more reluctant to mess with the will of actual elected officials. It's the whole "sober second thought" angle. We're here to look over the work of the House, and evaluate it in a less caustic environment, but we're not actually elected, so we won't radically alter the intentions of those who are, since no one would stand for that anyway. Make them elected officials as well, and they'll have no quams whatsoever about getting their hands dirty. Which may sound all well and good, but people in the West may disagree when an elected Senate with newly granted legitimacy (and newly discovered vigour) which nonetheless thoroughly under-represents them is passing laws (or blocking laws) that "the West" dislikes (or supports), and people can't even attack them for being unelected interlopers any more.

    Make the Senate elected, without otherwise reforming the Senate and you'll encourage increased involvement of the Senate in the legislative process, and discourage future reforms to the Senate (again, changing the make up of an unelected Senate would be hard, but I would argue that changing the make-up of an elected Senate would be damn near impossible).

    If you're OK with the Senate having a greater role in crafting Canada's laws, then you're right, they should be given democratic legitimacy. Personally, the idea of the Senate, as currently organized, having MORE influence in crafting our laws send shivers down my spin.

    The other problem (or advantage!) of course would be that while one is changing the Senate to an elected body, ad hoc, without changing the Constitution, one inevitably ends up with an upper house mixed with both elected, and non-elected members (you can't just get rid of Senators without changing the Constitution, so if you're merely replacing non-elected Senators with elected ones as they retire, you end up with a mix in the Senate). If the plan is for the Senate to tear itself apart, this isn't a half bad plan. As it is, if such a plan were ever to go forward, I look forward to the debates in the Senate as non-elected members pick fights with elected members, and vice-versa. Forget the House of Commons. THAT will be a circus.

    As for Dion's/the Liberals sincerity, I take your point. For me, I support the position (vis a vis Senate reform) not the party, so, frankly, I don't much care, at the moment, what motivates their adoption of the position, or even (again, at the moment) whether they're sincere. I support the position, so (on this) I agree with the Liberals unless and until they change their position.

  8. "If the plan is for the Senate to tear itself apart, this isn't a half bad plan."

    You're right we will have to agree to disagree.

    I can see where you're coming from Lord Kitchener, but I don't agree with your premise that an elected senate will mean a senate more apt to meddle in the affairs of the west or Canadians for that matter. And the reason why is aptly demonstrated by yourself above.

    The intent behind any democratic reform, I believe at least, should be to increase the checks and balances on power in the system.

    An elected senate means a more divided senate. A more divided senate because they won't all be the PM lackey's. A more divided senate, regardless if it is a mix of elected and unelected members or not, will mean an extra check or "sober second thought" will be applied on the system.

    Right now the senate isn't sober, and there isn't a second thought put in to anything so long as the right government is in power as far as I'm concerned.

    So, yes I want to create division. Division is healthy. Division is good. Sometimes it can be too much. But I think when it comes to the Senate a little more division is well more than in order.