Saturday, September 05, 2009

Framing: Grasping the Coalition Nettle

Harper needs an enemy to run against, rather than run on his government's record.

Poll after poll has shown that voters by a vast majority have stated that they do not want a Tory majority, and that they would support parties other than the Tories. Almost half of polls respondents say that they think it is time for a change of government.

Harper tried to run against Ignatieff, using his framing ads to try to define Ignatieff as an opportunistic 'come from away' man who is in politics mostly for his personal glory. The ads have been effective but not as much as the Tories hoped; despite millions spent on them, the Liberal Party is till almost neck and neck with the Tories.

The Liberals have managed to slough off some of the negative effects of the dithering by Martin and the scandal, and many voters seem to be giving them a second chance.

What do you do if you are in Harper's position, facing an election where you best result is a reduced minority government, and the worst one a majority Liberal government?

You invent a straw man and then beat it to death in a typically Canadian Conservative fashion, with half-truths, outright lies, and false innuendo.

The Harper straw man is to pretend that his party are the underdogs, running against a combined Liberal, NDP and Bloc group. And to make that work the Tories have to succeed in framing the fight as the one and only pure Canadian party (the Tories), against the morally questionable combination of the Three Musketeers – the carpetbagging Liberals, in cahoots with the godless socialists (NDP) and the illegitimate separatists (the Bloc).

Harper has already started the Tory salvo with an outright lie:

"Harper also raised the spectre of an opposition coalition — a ploy tried by the Liberals, NDP and Bloc last December to replace the government, which proved massively unpopular.

He went so far as to suggest the coalition agreement among the opposition parties is still in effect, even though the pact imploded last January when Ignatieff decided Liberals would support the Tory budget.

“We already know those guys have a deal and I don’t want to get into that kind of game,” Harper said in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario."

More lies and distortions can be expected from the Tories, who are running scared. And that means the Liberal Party has to be able to come to grips with the coalition straw man which Harper is raising as his best bet to win the most seats in the coming election.

How to do it?

By telling the truth, and by calling Harper and the Tories on their lies about the coalition.

And what is the truth?

The legitimate question right now is: Is there any agreement or arrangement between the LPC, and/or the Bloc and/or the NDP to support a minority LPC government?

The answer is No.

The critical factor for the Liberals is to make sure it is this question which is put before voters and this answer which can be given.

Who knows which parties might or might not support a minority LPC government some time in the future? Perhaps the Tories might? But that is all speculation; perhaps the LPC might win a majority - it is running to get that.

My preference would have been to honour the Coalition agreement entered into between the LPC and NDP when Dion was leader, but that coalition has been terminated by Ignatieff.

Right now, the Liberal Party is running for power on its own, aiming for a majority of seats in the House.

So the best answer to the Harper coalition straw man is the truth: Harper is telling lies; there is no such coalition agreement in existence.


  1. Cat,

    While pointing out that there is no such coalition at the moment, all three opposition parties have to point out clearly that our constitution legitimately allows this and that Harper was not telling the truth when he claimed that this was illegitimate. This was the a big mistake that all three opposition parties made in the last election. They should have all called Harper out on this very forcefully.

    This is the only way -- tell the truth, educate the people who still do not understand this, and then let them make up their minds whether they want to put the Cons back in power or turf them out.

    Like to see what others think.

  2. Good point.
    And a political party that is really geared up for an election would have a dozen or so the best and brightest legal minds already geared up and ready to go with discussions supporting and explaining our constitutional law, and available (list of contacts, email addresses, telephone numbers, short biographies of each expert) to the television and journalist media - both regional and national.
    Together, of course, with well briefed and articulate spokespeople for the political party, who could join in such discussions and/or be available for the media on this issue.

  3. Cat,

    I disagree having the legality explained of coalition will help.

    I think it is in the BEST interests of the Government for the opposition to be defending,talking, explaining those talking points.

    I believe Green Shift and Coalition are TOXIC. Voters don't trust politicians NOT to raise taxes or keep all their promises.

    Both those of those ideas do not make for a successful campaign.

    My observation regarding the contrast of the Liberal pre writ campaign and execution vs the experience and preparation of their opponents.

    I am losing confidence in the other two parties joining the Liberals in having a November election.

    I have not heard any compelling reason why the Bloc/NDP need to risk losing seats in the next 10 weeks.

    The Liberals are the ONLY party that stands to gain seats from the October low. Timing, why would the other parties participate in losing key seats to benefit the Liberals?

  4. Cat:

    When your rivals are dissuading you from a course of action, one has to wonder if perchance it might actually be the correct solution, no? LOL

    Seriously though, I think that CanadianSense is mistaken that explaining the legality of the coalition will only help Harper. If one accepts that both the Cons and Libs have their base support at around 25-30% each, then it follows logically that electoral outcomes likely hinge on the 10-15% of "swing/uncommitted (S/U)" votes. S/U votes comprise mainly 2 types: (a)"strategic" voters who are actually very knowledgeable and vote to achieve their desired outcomes, and (b)"uninformed" voters who are either too busy, or too disinterested, to keep informed.

    It was the uninformed group that was fooled by Harper's misinformation that the coalition was illegitimate and undemocratic and that he had an unchallengeable mandate to govern. Therefore, one has to believe that educating the uninformed group should turn a few votes in favor of the opposition, no? Sowing disinformation and fear are time tested techniques to subvert your rivals that can only be effectively met by quickly publicizing the truth. Contrast the effectiveness with which opposition parties had met the misinformation about the potential loss of the home reno credit if an election were called. If opposition parties had reacted the same way, coalition/agreements would not be an issue now.

    Further, here is a poll that shows that the idea of a coalition is not toxic to all Canadians:
    Note that 45% supported versus 42% (roughly the sum of the base Cons support and the S/U votes) opposed a coalition in the next election.

    To be clear, I am advocating that opposition parties point out that: (a) no such coalition/agreement exists presently, (b) coalition/agreements are legitimate and democratic, and (c) Harper himself could, despite what he says, form a coalition/agreement with another party to keep himself in power, after all, just compare his recent actions on several issues (deficit, Senate appointments) with his vehement opposition to them in the past.

    BTW, the green shift was toxic because it was probably a complicated concept to understand. By contrast, how difficult could it be to grasp that we need at least 155 votes to pass bills (or pass motion, LOL !!!) and if the party with the most number of seats does not reach this number, it would have to combine with another party to either do so or form the government and that our constitution allows this?

  5. Anon,

    Not my point, here is why.

    60% are showing up to vote as a civic duty. How many of those are "informed" weighing options and making decision based on facts vs spin?

    The MSM does not deliver detailed analysis comparing platforms of the political parties.

    The MSM does NOT do a good job.

    How much time do you think voters spend digesting the Spin and soundbites reported by the MSM?

    For me the problem was not the legal issue. For most of us watching the leaders denying the coalition and later adopt it was not honest and an attempt to grab power six weeks after losing in a general election.

    If the opposition are honest and state they will enter into agreements to take power if the CPC lose confidence again, than the public have no reason to demostrate outrage.

    Occams Razor look it up. The CPC want the opposition to talk about issues that create or remind Canadians about the negatives.

    Iggy being absent for 34 years, Coalition are two "elephants" in the room.

    Ignore the elephants, try it.

    The new Liberal ad is responding to the 34 years away from Canada. Global experience just reinforced the elephant.(Worldview)

  6. CanadianSense -- You write: "For me the problem was not the legal issue. For most of us watching the leaders denying the coalition and later adopt it was not honest and an attempt to grab power six weeks after losing in a general election.

    If the opposition are honest and state they will enter into agreements to take power if the CPC lose confidence again, than the public have no reason to demostrate outrage."

    Do I understand this to mean that you want the opposition parties to tell the public that a coalition/agreement exists when there is no such thing presently? This is not the truth, as far as I know (but I do not have insider knowledge).

    My point also was that it would not surprise me if Harper himself forms a coalition/agreement with another party to keep himself in power after the election, or to avoid an election for that matter. He is entitled to do so according to our constitution, if he so chooses.

    Would it have outraged you in that case?

    You are not suggesting holding the opposition parties to a different standard, are you?

  7. Why are you mistating what I am saying?

    If the opposition WILL consider entering into a Coalition or a series of "Whatever" the public can NOT pretend to be DUPED or tricked later.

    If your promise NOT to enter into "whatever" and than 6 weeks later do it, you get the outrage.

    That's my point.

    My other point, is the CPC want the opposition to discuss the "whatever".

    The elephant is the whatever.

    The CPC want the Liberals to refute their talking points they RAISED in their ADS.

    The 34 years outside Canada-Worldview rebuttal.

    That is the point.

    Another example.

    Harper is a scary meanie (Blue sweater, softer Harper ads and stories)

    It works both ways.

    Liberals want to SPIN (Fear, scary, mean, racist, uncaring CPC Government)

    Conservatives want to SPIN (elitism, corrupt, arrogance etc)

    Each party is doing a wonderful job destroying each other for the benefit of the Bloc in Quebec.


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