Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Indecision 2006 a positive outcome for Canadian Unity

It has often been said that governments are like diapers; they both need to be changed on a regular basis and for the same reason. Certainly after 14 years in power the federal Liberals were in need of a time out. The sponsorship scandal, the income trusts investigation by the RCMP, and the overall culture of entitlement pointed to a political establishment that was in need of some serious housecleaning.

That is why over half the people who voted Conservative in this election did so because they recognized that it was indeed time for a change. Paul Martin responded to that message by announcing his resignation as Liberal Party leader and thus setting the stage for the federal Liberal Party to have a leadership convention where there is no obvious frontrunner, something that has not happened for the Liberals since 1968.

The Conservatives although no doubt disappointed at their shut out in Canada’s three largest urban centers, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, should take real pride in winning ten seats in Quebec. In so doing they have re-established themselves as a truly national party. In fact if not for rising Tory fortunes, the Bloc Quebecois had been set to take over 50% of the popular vote. Instead they emerged with two fewer MPs than they had going into this election.

So in one fell swoop, the Harper Conservatives have deflated both the separatist aspirations of Quebec Nationalists, and the feelings of alienation felt by many Western Canadians. Harper has also taken steps to shore up Canada’s sovereignty in the north by making it clear he intends to proceed with the purchase of at least two icebreaking vessels to help patrol Canada’s North-West Passage.

This election has essentially given Harper a limited mandate. As Prime Minister he is on probation. If he does well he will no doubt return with a majority government. His most important task is slaying the scary “SOCON” (social conservative) dragon. It is worth noting that when noted SOCON Cindy Silver ran in North Vancouver she lost to the Liberals. The bottom line message is that most Canadians want government out of our wallets, but we certainly don’t want them in our bedrooms either.

While sifting the tea leaves of the federal election results, I will note for the record that on day two of the federal election campaign, while on Canada AM, I correctly predicted that the greater Victoria area would elect one Liberal, one Conservative and one NDP MP. The other thing worth noting is that all three MPs who quit Stephen Harper’s party to join the Liberals, Keith Martin, Scott Brison and Belinda Stronach were all re-elected.

Usually politicians that switch political parties fare poorly. Another interesting fact is that in the southern Interior when the Conservative candidate was knocked out of contention by cross border smuggling charges, it was the NDP candidate Alex Atamenenko that received the majority of those erstwhile Tory voters.

The clear lesson here is that, especially out here in BC, there are a large number of voters that will switch between the Conservatives and the NDP. I believe that it is because these voters are motivated to vote against the establishment. Thus in 1984 BC, along with the rest of Canada elected a large number of Conservative MPs, but in 1988, while the Mulroney government was re-elected, BC for the first time in its history sent a majority of NDP MPs to Ottawa.

Of course a change in government in Ottawa also changes things up in the consulting business, the field in which I work. Mark Marrissen of Burrard Communications was able to parley his close association with Paul Martin into a thriving consulting business called Burrard Communications where clients were charged as much as $600 per hour.

Mark will almost certainly be persona non grata with the Harper government, so who in Vancouver will move in to fill the void? My money is on Tim Crowhurst over at Sea Level Communications. His connections will become especially lucrative should the Harper government be re-elected to a majority government in a couple of years time.

In the meantime I continue to maintain connections with all the major political players in both Ottawa and Victoria so that changes of government for the most part do not affect me one way or another I am still able to get results for my clients. That is why I have been able to make a successful living as a consultant since 1996 while other more prominent “lobbyists” have come and gone.