Thursday, August 25, 2005

Majority Report

David Herle thinks the Liberals can pull off a majority government without Quebec for the first time in Canadian history.

Yesterday, Mr. Herle spent nearly two hours briefing the national caucus on election readiness. He did not present polling numbers.

Rather, he gave an extensive overview, saying they are now in a "pre-writ period" in anticipation of a February election.

He said, according to a source, that in the last election Canadians wanted a minority government but this time, he said, they now seem to want a majority government.

He predicted the Liberals could win between eight and 10 seats in the Prairies and make "real gains" in Ontario, said the sources.

The Liberals now occupy three of 14 seats in Manitoba, one of 14 seats in Saskatchewan and one of 28 seats in Alberta.

Mr. Herle also said there is a "paradigm shift" in British Columbia, and said, "B.C. could move to us," according to one source.

The Liberals have eight of 36 seats in that province, but always show strength between elections. The party never seems to be able to convert that strength to seats on election day.

Without polling numbers, Herle's speculations and $1.50 will buy a large double-double at Tim Horton's. As will mine, but I don't have the PMO's vast resources to work with. What's Herle's excuse?

What he's describing is the perfect storm, which requires everything to go right for the Liberals during a six-week campaign, while the Conservative and NDP campaigns implode on day one.

The 24 Ontario Tory seats fall in almost all the same areas that stayed Tory in the 2003 provincial election, an election that everyone knew the Tories would lose. These are bedrock seats that would require the Conservatives to split back into two separate parties before they'd be lost.

The increasingly vicious rhetoric towards the West, and the growth in at least lukewarm separatist sentiment there, makes it fallow ground for the Liberals outside, perhaps, of Vancouver. The B.C. Interior is no less hostile to the Liberals than the rest of the West; there are no gains to be found there.

Herle apparently thinks he can re-run last election's strategy to win a majority:

Mr. Herle said, too, that the Martin Liberals have to keep the Conservatives "marginalized on the right," an insider said.

The Liberals also need to be solid on economic issues and keep the social conservatives in a "box," the source said. He said they also must play to the "10 per cent of the centre left" who swing between the Liberals and the NDP.

Voters are going to be looking for someone to blame high gas prices and even higher taxes on, especially if the Ontario manufacturing sector tanks as feared. Is that going to be the Tories, who masterminded some conspiracy to raise crude oil prices to record highs so Alberta could swim in the wealth while Ontario drowned?

The recent marriage debate showed that the Liberals, not the Conservatives, were the most deeply divided party. Even if it's a dead political issue, socially conservative Liberals must be left wondering if there's any place for them in the Liberal Party anymore.

The only party feeling any real squeeze here is the NDP--its reliance on the same wacko anti-war, anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-everybody fringe has already pushed those sensible supporters to the Liberals already. The Green Party is here to stay; it's stabilized at about 5% support nationwide, not enough to win seats, but enough to build a shelter for the rest of the NDP vote.

Herle's strategy, against a jury-rigged Tory party and with Paul Martin firmly in command of the party, barely produced a minority last time. Now Quebec and the West are more firmly entrenched against the Liberals than ever, and the Tories have come together with a coherent policy and platform.

His pep talk won't produce a majority.

But if it does, the country will be that much closer to falling apart.

Source: Globe and Mail

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