Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Happy Anniversary, Steve-o...

Well, as everyone who isn't living under a rock must have been told by now, today is the anniversary of the Conservative electoral win in the last Federal Election. I thought I'd do a quick overview of how the major parties have fared since then.

Bloc Quebecqois: Same old leader, same old message. They're having a hard time gaining ground, but nobody else is going out of their way to successfully woo Quebec votes, so they're still in the game. Won a moral victory with the "Nation notion", but don't seem to have gone to court to have the statement interpreted in their sovereigntist favour. Yet.

NDP: Jack is still Jack, only now he's Jack with a whole crapload of power... with recent Liberal defections and retirements, the NDP now hold the balance of power in the House. Layton still takes himself too seriously, but it's hard to throw a joke in when your speech is about how close to collapse our civilization is. The biggest nightmare for Jack Layton is if the trends continue along their current kilter and the Greens get some quality policy-wonks behind them going into the next election, cutting the NDP platform off at the knees.

Greens: SPEAKING of Elizabeth May and her rag-tag group of tree huggers, they are, visably at least, in the same position they were in at around this time LAST year, stomping their feet, with very little mainstream media coverage and basically BEGGING to get into the debates. The difference now, though, is twofold: First, the Environment is now the biggest single issue for Canadians, which may be bad news for Harper but is far, far WORSE news for Dion and Layton if the Greens can put together a good policy platform to complement their environmental stand. This environmental "perfect storm" has the potential to reduce the NDP in the House to a shadow of its former self, as the Greens are poised, with some help, to almost completely replace the NDP in the minds of the voters on most issues (without neccessarily being seen as a leftist party, which also helps garner the environmental votes from the right as well).

Liberals: The Liberal party has gone through some upheaval since the last election - Paul Martin is nothing but a sour, lingering smell in the Liberal halls of power, and several MP's have quit altogether or defected to the Tories. Despite appearances, though, this speaks of party renewal rather than disintegration, and as such is a sign that the worst may be over for "Canada's Natural Ruling Party". Polling numbers put the Liberals and Tories in a dead-heat, and the Liberals don't have the fresh whiff of scandal about them, nor (one would assume) the idiotic team planning election strategy that they had the last time around. The Libs have a shot at unseating the Tories if they give it time, hammer the Tories on the Environment, let Harper's people shoot themselves in the foot, and stay away from scandal.

Conservatives: Well, in the past year they've done some politically smart things (GST cut) and some politically bone-headed things (income trust flip-flop). Their polling numbers have dipped, as outrage over the Liberal Sponsorship scandal died down. They've allowed their leader to be cast as a micro-manager, but he doesn't much care as long as he controls the message the MSM gets to hear, as he early-on realized he's not going to get a fair shake from them anyway, so why bother trying to kiss up to them and cause himself more trouble than it's worth? The big success story here is the fact that the Tories have managed to eliminate the biggest landmine in the electoral battlefield that they could have stepped on: "Angry, Scary Rednecks". Much of the country feared, and much of recent Liberal election advertising suggested, that the Tories were a party of "Angry, Scary Rednecks" who would irrevocably damage the country and its standing in the international community if elected. Instead, Harper's government has made substantive changes to government programs without burning down the house, and our status in the world has, if anything, gone up over our stand against human rights abuses in China. The Harper Tories have certainly made mistakes... but at the end of the day, many Canadians who weren't at all sure if there wouldn't be frightening changes to our way of life if we elected the Blue Party are now looking at the Tories and thinking that they are capable of governing without giving in to their dark, primal urges to do whatever it is us evil western conservatives really want to do. Something involving aircraft carriers, blowing up hospitals (because we like to watch people suffer) and taking away a woman's right to choose, if I recall the ads. In the final analysis, this change in perception across the country may be Harper's greatest accomplishment in the past year: Not as many people list him as their first choice as did a year ago, but far fewer people are scared to death of him than at this time last year. NOW, Harper can run FOR something, instead of running AGAINST the perception of him as the devil.

- ES

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