Saturday, September 12, 2009

Glory Days

Parliament resumes this week as we appear headed for a fall election. The fact that majorities say they don't want an election doesn't mean much because it is not going to matter a great deal in the considerations that determine voting when election day comes.

The Liberals declare they will no longer support the government but have yet to offer a compelling rationale for why voters should support them. We will learn if they are going to have some capacity to do this in a speech Ignatieff gives on Monday. He doesn't have to give his platform away, but he needs something more than the cliché "we can do better". Winning an election even in these economic circumstances is not a slam dunk.

Meanwhile Harper wants to resurrect the days last year when the Conservatives spiked in the polls when threatened with a coalition by trying to stoke Canadians' fears of Quebec separatists. It kind of reminds one of the Bruce Springsteen 80s hit Glory Days which ends with a line Stephen Harper would do well to remember:

"well time slips away
and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of glory days

What Harper missed then was that the public reaction was less rooted in opposition to the idea of coalition per se than it was in the idea that the outcome of the 2008 election would be overturned, and that the unpopular Stéphane Dion would wind up as prime minister. And there can be no doubt his overheated rhetoric about Quebec separatists has damaged him permanently in Quebec. That is his enduring legacy from that time. The strategy won't work again; this election will be focused on economic issues.

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