Thursday, April 9, 2009

Calm before the storm, so some thoughts on Ignatieff

Much has been happening in my life in the last few weeks, enough that I have not been able to be on the computer expressing my thoughts for all you people out there in the ether.

This weekend is the calm before the provincial election storm, so I thought I would take a quick look over to Ottawaland.

The polling numbers are showing the strongest numbers of the Liberals in a long time, they are beginning to show a trend of being marginally ahead of the Conservatives. Certainly they are not nearly strong enough to consider pushing for an election, but the trend is in the right direction.

The better numbers will help build a stronger support for Ignatieff's leadership and allow him to consolidate his hold over the party, something he has been working to do. I will admit I was very skeptical of Iggy as leader of the Liberals, but he is proving himself to be one of the best political leaders in Canada, certainly one of the best leaders the Liberals have ever seen.

Ignatieff is clearly not looking to rush into any election at the moment and seems to be interested in building a strong party first and foremost. Other than leadership bids, the Liberals have gone for the better of a generation without building the grassroots of the party. You can see the results in donations to political parties and how few individual donors the Liberals have in comparison to the Conservatives.

Ignatieff clearly understands that the political weight in Canada is moving west. Unless the Liberals can break the Conservative hold over the west, that fortress like lock on close to 70 seats, there is reasonable chance that the natural governing party in the country will no longer be the Liberals but the Conservatives. When the next redistribution happens in Canada, more seats will be added to Alberta, BC and suburban Ontario. These are locations friendly to the Conservatives.

Ignatieff was also smart to avoid the coalition with the NDP. The bulk of the votes in Canada are centre to centre right, the centre left is at most 20% of Canadians. There are not enough people on the centre left for the Liberals to gain to replace the votes they lose on the centre right. Outside of Quebec, the Conservatives managed a respectable 44.3% of the vote. The Liberals need to find more support from those people.

When you look at the 233 seats outside of Quebec, the Conservatives won 133 of them. They are the majority party outside of Quebec. Ignatieff is politically smart enough to know that the electoral math in Canada, as long as there is a Bloc, means you have to win a majority in English speaking Canada. The last time the Liberals won a legitimate majority of English speaking Canada was in 1968.

The reception Ignatieff is getting in the west is better than any Liberal leader has received since the late 1960s. If he can rebuild the party in the four western provinces and make an assault on the Conservative fortress, he could build a formula to win the next election.

As the economy gets worse and there are more and more unemployed, there will be more people looking for someone with a believable message of hope for a way forward. The recession will statistically at its worst in 2010, but the public perception will be at its lowest in 2011 and 2012, the exact wrong timing for the government to hold an election.

Ignatieff is a good speaker, he sounds sincere and is not full of platitudes. He is a better speaker than Stephen Harper. Both he and Harper exude confidence that they know what they are ding and are capable of governing. For the Liberals the perfect situation would be for the NDP to keep Jack Layton into the next election, in the face of a good Liberal leader, the NDP could be dramatically harmed at the polls.

His approach to being leader of the opposition has been well done. He is watching over the government as the government in waiting, he is not being shrill and making all those people who voted Conservative feel uncomfortable. He is providing skeptical support for a minority government but not responsible for the dumb ass moves the government will make.

The only thing that stands in Michael Ignatieff and ultimate political success is his age. Statistically he is old enough that sudden death or critical illness are not unreasonable possibilities.
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