During the 2004 election campaign I told Don Bell, now the MP for North Vancouver, that I thought that Liberals had picked the wrong time to call an election. I told him that Martin should have waited until the fall and time the election to correspond with the US election. He agreed, but was less enthusiastic as to why I thought so. I thought the Liberal campaign should be centered around equating Bush and Harper.
Martin did end up running such a campaign, but he was an election too late. He ran the campaign he should have run in 2004 in 2006. However, by December 2006 the Bush Administration was damaged goods. Katrina had rendered the Bush administration ideologically impotent. The successful foreign policy critique of the White House, viz., that it was incompetent, become a successful global critique of the administration. Harper recognized the folly of getting to close to Bush and in a letter printed in the Washington Times denied the assertion of a Washington Times columnist that a Conservative government would be a de facto extension of the Republican Party. With no new policy initiatives that would show Bush and Harper to be of the same ideological ink, the Liberal campaign fell flat on its face. To make matters worse, the Liberals help neutralized the one issue that dogged Harper in the early parts of the campaign, viz., SSM, by promising to put a lock box around the notwithstanding clause. After that, the focus was no longer Harper’s legally morally and intellectual bankrupt stand on SSM, but was rather whether it was ever permissible to use the notwithstanding clause.
The Liberals seemed to have again missed the boat. The Liberals have yet to grasp in ways the other party’s have that the focus of Quebec politics has changed and that this requires that the party change accordingly. The Conservatives have successfully revived Mulroney’s soft separatism and Layton has realized that ideologically speaking Montreal is fertile territory. The Liberals have repeatedly failed to meet the NDP’s ideological challenge and have as of yet failed, although there are rumblings to the contrary, that they will seek to capitalize on the rest of the country’s distaste for Quebec pandering. In particular, Dion has yet to offer a substantive critique of the Afghan mission. Saying that he would end the combat mission in Afghanistan in February 2009 is not reason for ending the mission.