Saturday, March 26, 2011

Liberals Have to Roll out Policy

So long as the Liberals continue to do little more than defend the status quo, questions about a coalition will dog them and so will questions about why we are having this election. Voters need a reason to support the Liberals that go beyond Stopping Harper from changing the things for the worse.

Friday, March 25, 2011

North Vancouver: Liberal Chances

The Liberal share of the popular vote in North Vancouver fell 5% in 2008 and Don Bell suffered his first ever defeat. However, Bell should hold his head high. He faired far better than most Lowermainland Liberal candidates. To wit

Burnaby New West - 14.52
Vancouver Kingsway - 14.43
Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission - 13.63
Burnaby Douglas - 13.61
New West Coquitlam - 12.3
Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam - 12.26
Langley - 11.99
Richmond - 11.98
West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country - 10.89
Delta Richmond East -9.9
South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale - 9.77
Vancouver South - 9.57
Vancouver Center - 9.37
Vancouver East -6.19
Fleetwood-Port Kells -5.5
North Vancouver -5.04
Surrey North -4.58
Vancouver Quarda -3.57
Newton-North Delta 2.17
Abbotsford 3.6

Moreover, one look at a 2008 election map shows North Vancouver to be a real outlier. The Liberals decline was not nearly as marked in Surrey as it was in the ridings close to North Vancouver. It was down 5.5% Fleetwood-Port Kells, 4.58% in Surrey North and up 2.17% in Newton North Delta. By contrast, the Liberal vote was down 13.61% in Burnaby Douglas, 10.89 in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country and 9.37% in Vancouver Center.

It should be noted that the 2008 Abbotsford vote totals are skewed. Unfounded allegations were made against Liberal candidate David Oliver in the 2006 election and rather than fight them Martin and company decided to Dwingwall him. (Liberals should not complain that the Prime Minister is loath to dismiss a minister no matter how solid the evidence against him. After all, Stephen Harper learned first hand that whole heatedly embracing scandal, publicizing it and using it as means of undermining various factions within his own party as Paul Martin liked to do, is daft.) A better comparison than 2006 is 2004. The Liberal candidate that year took 19.94% of the vote. That was 3.7 higher than what the Liberals took in 2008.

In sum, Bell lost because Liberal vote was down 944,350 outside of Quebec.

What happens in North Vancouver in 2011 will also be decided nationally. The question for Liberal supporters is will things return to what they were in 2004 and 2006 or is 2008 the norm. With the later looking more likely and Ignatieff looking set to join Dion, John Turner and Paul Martin as the fourth rider of the Liberal apocalypse, North Vancouver Liberal candidate Taleeb Normohamed could fair rather badly indeed. That, though, will not reflect baldly on Taleeb. He is a good candidate. He is well spoken, and very well educated. Furthermore, he has surrounded himself with competent and confident people. However, he is not a "star candidate", he has virtually no name recognition, and he has few ties outside of the Ismail community. He is not going to change many minds in a mere 38 days and that is what he needs to do. No one in a similar situation could. Identifying the Liberal vote and pestering them to go to the polls is not going to be enough. (Anyone who has ever worked on a campaign knows that most of the focus is not spent convincing people to vote this way or that but rather identifying party supporters and then to pestering them to show up on voting day. It is yet one more reason why there needs to be mandatory voting.) With Don Bell gone, North Vancouverites are likely to fall in line with voters in near by ridings. There are just not enough self identified Liberal supporters left to pester.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Liberals Need to be the party of Change not the Status Quo

I have said before and will say it again talk of fiscal responsibility and democratic institutions bore the public to tears. It is not worth an ad campaign.

The Liberals need to focus their attacks on prisons, fighter planes and corporate tax cuts. The former might be related to the latter list, but trying to explain that to the public is a lost cause.

Most important of all the Liberals need to juxtapose prisons, fighter planes and corporate tax cuts with something. For way too long now the Liberals have set themselves up as the defenders of the Status Quo from the party that wants to destroy it, viz., the Conservatives. This is a bizarre position for an opposition party, yet alone an ostensibly liberal one, to take. The Liberals need to embrace change and more importantly to develop policies that offer a clear benefit to all Canadians.

I have said before I will say it again. The Liberal's early childhood education program is an obvious place to start. It is a mess. The Liberals should abandon what they have now and follow in Ontario's footsteps and offer all day playschool and Kindergarten to every 4 and 5 year old in the country. The benefit of any child care or early childhood education program lies not with just the material benefit it offers parents, but also with how well it allows them to plan for the future. A promise to provide 250,000 new childcare spots does not only parents to plan for anything. Full day playschool and Kindergarten does.

Now I have also said that also repeatedly said that the Liberals need a policy that will suck life out of Conservative's get tough on crime agenda and that a promise to legalize marijuana would do just that. However, I feel that I am flogging a dead horse. So I suggest that the Liberals open up the euthanasia debate instead. It will not get the same attention, it is a much more complicated issue and it can not be constrasted with anything yet allow the war on drugs, but it has strong public support and it would be popular in Quebec. It is certainly a better strategy than promising to seek federal funding into a Quebec City arena.

Finally, the Liberals should promise to give Canadians 4 weeks of vacation a year. Currently Canada lags behind only the US in terms of how much vacation it mandates. 4 weeks is the minimum in virtually every other Western country. Such a promise would take some of populist winds out of Stephen Harper's and Jack Layton's sails and it would be a great fun calling Harper a kill joy.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

"The Anatomy of a Liberal Defeat"

The authors imply that Liberal gradually declined as minority and catholic voters everywhere slowly left the party. However, had the authors of the study tied their musings to shifting regional voting patterns they would have come to different conclusions.

In 2004 Liberals share of the popular vote went up almost everywhere. It was up in BC, Alberta, Sask, Manitoba, NB, NS, PEI, NFLD. However, the party took a massive hit in Ontario and Quebec and lost its majority as a result.

Now, what happened in the former was Ontario voters returned to the NDP after an 11 year hiatus. Between 1965 and 1993 the NDP vote in Ontario never diped below 19% and never topped 22%. The party's share of the vote was very predictable. However in 1993 the NDP took only 6% of the the vote and their share of the vote stayed low for the next two elections. They took 10% in 1997 and 8% in 2000. Then in 2004 they went up to 18%. They took 19.5 in 2006 and 18% in 2008. As Ontario has by far and away most visible minorities in absolute terms, an 10% NDP uptake in the Ontario coupled with a 6.8% Liberal downturn in the province could mean that what is passed off as the start of a national trend (i.e., Liberal minority voters leaving the party) was really no more a province returning to traditional voting patterns.

Of course, that is not the only thing wrong with the implication that Liberals lost as minorities everywhere deserted the party. The Liberal share of the national vote went down 6.5% in 2006, but the Liberal share of the minority vote went up slightly.

Equally problematic is the implication that the party lost as Catholics abandoned the party. The problem is this. One can not seriously address the decline in the Liberal share of the Catholic vote without commenting on declining Liberal fortunes in Quebec, but that is what the authors do. As of 2001, 83% of Quebecers referred to themselves as Catholics. The next highest was NB at 54%. Outside of Montreal the number is much higher. Only 74% of Montrealers identified themselves as being Catholic. By comparison Quebec City is around 95%. Anyway, between 2000 and 2006 the Liberal share of the popular vote in Quebec fell 24%. Outside of Montreal the decline was even more dramatic. In the aforementioned Quebec City, for example, the Liberal vote was a third of what it was in 2000.