5 October 2009: Yep, looks like Michael Ignatieff is in trouble

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Remember this post from August? That was around the time when trouble began brewing for the Liberal Party of Canada due to a bit of an impossible situation where the stage began to be set where the only two options were to "sell out" by supporting the government, or driving for an election less than a year after the last one. Remember, those that create the situation for an election end up being the ones that have to explain themselves during the first part of the campaign, and the lack of a real reason for the last one was a big reason why Stephen Harper was still denied a majority.

So, a bit over a month after that post entitled "Why Ignatieff may be in trouble" it looks like yes, Ignatieff is in trouble. Luckily for him the NDP decided not to go with an election. Let's take a look at the latest poll.

Yikes. The Conservatives are up to 41% (that's majority territory), the Liberals have sunk to 28%, and the rest are mostly the same but with a noticeable drop for the Bloc that is actually to the Liberals' benefit in Quebec.

And how did the two leaders spend their last week? Ignatieff spent it cooling tempers about the slighting of Martin Cauchon which resulted in the resignation of their Quebec lieutenant. Harper, on the other hand, was playing a Beatles cover.

The way out of this situation for the Liberals is easy, as detailed in the first link in this post from August. Voters don't like a politician that doesn't seem to be enjoying himself, they also don't like one that seems to be rooting for failure, and they also don't like a party that is in seeming denial about being in the opposition. Since their defeat in 2006 the Liberals have acted as if all they needed to do is just say the right thing, get the right leader, call an election at just the right time to get back in power and this hasn't worked.

In short: the Liberals need to enjoy being in the opposition. Talk about issues and only issues. Chill. And stop stressing out about the leader so much. Now there is grumbling about Ignatieff as leader, but who is going to replace him? Bob Rae? Ha. Justin Trudeau? Maybe in better times. Now it would look like a desperate hail Mary pass.

(BTW let's stop referring to Justin Trudeau as a baby - he's almost 40 and politicians in Canada have been elected in their 20s many times before)

Luckily for the Liberals when the Conservatives are up it usually means at least one opposition party is down, and when that happens they are much more likely to want to avoid an election.

In fact, given the lack of minority governments in Canadian history we haven't been able to see them in action all that much, but it's possible that this is the norm. Since voters don't usually like governments engineering their own defeat when they are high in the polls it looks like the only way for a minority government to become a majority is simply to govern well until the next election some four years or so down the road. If the governing party loses some popularity and the other parties arrange for a vote of no confidence and an election but there is no real scandal or issue behind it then the governing party can simply hammer away at the idea of a needless election while the other parties are forced to defend their actions. It's an interesting balancing act.


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