Friday, October 9, 2009

“Honest Talk” Has No Place In Politics


I can see by the clock on the wall, that it’s almost time for a Conservative majority government. Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal party stock is falling faster than they can sell it, with the Conservatives taking a 14-point lead in the latest Ekos poll. The two parties traded a total of 8 percentage points in distance from last week, leaving a wide gap from polls which indicated a deadlock only a short month ago.

More remarkable than those numbers, as Kelly McParland perceptively observed, is that the Conservatives are 10 points ahead of the Liberals in Toronto, and four times better than the NDP. That’s in Toronto, the so-called Liberal stronghold recently accused by Denis Coderre of exerting too much influence in the party.

But I think the most important part of this poll is that it continues to fit within the concept that the Conservatives are poised to seize the centre and rule as Canada’s “natural governing party“, usurping the Liberals from that title role. Gaining support from urban areas, women, university graduates, visible minorities and recent immigrants, all demographics that have traditionally gone to the Liberals, is a big indicator that Michael Ignatieff’s party has jumped the shark.

As for the anointed one himself, 51% of respondents disapproved of the way Mr.Ignatieff is handling his job, with just 19% approving of his performance. Recently he’s been trying to do something, anything, to resonate more with Canadians, but the inexorable slide into irrelevance continues unabated. And even the normally cooperative media seems to have turned on him.

There was a bit of silly word play in the media yesterday that could really be described most accurately as “gotcha” journalism. Mr.Ignatieff was widely quoted as saying that he was going to embark on a politically risky venture to have an “adult conversation” with Canadians about the kind of painful measures that will be necessary to eliminate the deficit in Canada. The Conservative Party was all over this story immediately, and the media were only too happy to oblige with the headlines:

Ignatieff to talk tax hikes

It’s a bit disingenuous to aid and abet the misinformation of party propagandists by suggesting that a blunt and realistic discussion about what will be required to balance the deficit is tantamount to a sudden call by the opposition to raise taxes. The fact is that Michael Ignatieff is right about the fact that we do need an important discussion about what’s going to be done about the deficit, because I can guarantee you that the current Conservative plan doesn’t answer those questions.

Realizing immediately how negative any hint of raising taxes was, Michael Ignatieff immediately issued terse denials. The shame about this is that it means this “honest talk” about the deficit is unlikely to happen until such time that the Conservatives are actually awarded a majority government, and they let us all in on what kind of magical economic theories they have crafted which don’t involve raising taxes or cutting spending. As Dan Arnold wrote in his blog:

“While I tend to agree that a promise of raising taxes might not be the wisest strategy, what does it say about the state of our political system when party leaders have to deny reports that they’re going to treat the voters like adults?”

Of course the truth of the matter is that Michael Ignatieff, just like his predecessor, hasn’t really offered any plans of his own along with facts and figures describing how he would manage to balance the budge, probably for the same reason he backed down from having his honest talk with us. There’s also a certain off-putting hint of arrogance in Mr.Ignatieff’s wording, by inferring that until now he’s the only one who has been acting like an “adult” here. At a certain point this leader is going to have to stop being indecisive about everything and simply take a stand on something. Unfortunately it looks like it’s way too late in the game to make that decision.

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