Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mulroney-Schreiber and the Polls

As we head into Christmas week we have now heard from both Brian Mulroney and Karlheinz Schreiber on the Airbus/Bear Head affairs. The key political impact TC thinks is likely a neutralizing effect on the next campaign: it takes scandal off the table as a tool the Conservatives could use against the Liberals. TC did not actually believe that running on sponsorship again was viable but the Conservatives have continued to brag about the Accountability Act and may have entertained thoughts of using the issue again. Effectively sponsorship is neutralized because if the issue arises many will start thinking of Mulroney-Schreiber. The winners then would be the NDP and the Bloc so the two major parties look like they will try to stage an electoral battle on other issues.

Where are we at in the polls? On November 20 Harris Decima declared:
A new Canadian Press Harris/Decima survey shows that the Conservatives have opened up an eight point lead over the Liberals, and are so far escaping harm from the fallout of the Mulroney-Schreiber dispute.

Then on December 8 Ipsos weighed in with a released headlined “Tory Brand Splashed As Schreiber Mud Flies” that said:

it would appear that the Harper Conservative brand has taken a hit with support dropping to 35%, mainly as a result of sagging Tory fortunes in Ontario and Quebec.

When I averaged those two polls along with the Globe and Mail Strategic Counsel poll published on December 10, I find that the national numbers for the parties are all within 2 points of their performance in January 2006 with the exception of the Greens who are up around five points. TC thinks the polls (especially Strategic Counsel) overstate Green support so it seems likely the parties are closer to the last election result than even the polls suggest.

The two issues to watch for in an election that seems certain for March or April (and which is even more likely if the Mulroney inquiry proceeds because it would occur prior to any public phase of the investigation) are climate change and the economy (the pending U.S. recession may start to loom larger and larger).

But is there more to the Mulroney story? His former Chief of Staff Norman Spector seems to think so. Here is what he said about the Bear Head project today on CTV’s Question Period (see it here:

..the reason that ministers and in particular the prime minister have staff around them is to keep dubious people and to keep dubious projects well away from them yet here you had the prime minister's first chief of staff championing this project, even after leaving government. Mr. Doucette formed a lobby firm and was championing Karlheinz Schreiber's project… I dealt with this project when I was in the prime minister's office and steered it into a deep ditch. I thought it had been killed, Mr. Mulroney said it was dead, but here's a project that kept coming back time after time after time, rising like the phoenix from the ashes… I think it's one of the reasons, along with the cash, that many Canadians believe that there's got to be more here than meets the eye.

There appears to be much more to this story and I suspect we haven't heard the last of it.

While the issue seems unlikely to touch Harper directly, it means he can’t be seen conferring or consulting Mulroney on Quebec. Harper has invested so much political capital (TC thinks this is a futile effort) to replicate Mulroney’s 1984 and 1988 results in Quebec that not being able to consult closely with Mulroney is a real handicap. Mulroney may not be the politician in Canada with the greatest integrity but he does know Quebec politics.

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