Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dion, May, and a little Belinda

Ok, so just some input on what's been going on this week. First about Belinda quitting, well there's not that much to say. She's ambitious, and I guess her aspirations weren't being satisfied. If you make the comparison between being at the forefront of one of the biggest ventures in Canada's corporate world vs. being a mid level opposition MP, well it's not hard to see why she made her choice. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if she came back some time in the future. Moving on.

So the whole Dion-May affair: they aren't going to run candidates from their parties in each other's ridings. What does it mean in terms of just numbers, well Dion will win his riding as he would have if a Green candidate ran, and May will likely lose as was the case if a Liberal ran, even though her chances went up marginally. Obviously though, this wasn't about numbers, it was more about optics.

Well, what this does is it puts more focus on the environment. Obviously Dion thinks this is an issue that he can outshine Harper on, and he's trying to force that to take the prime position on the political agenda. If he's successful in setting the agenda, he'll likely do well. The reason why this move could give the environment such a continued big stage is because May is obviously of green blood, and she's running against the deputy leader of the governing party. That key matchup alone will give her a fair amount of spotlight, and having the liberals, er Dion support her will give even more attention to that race. Dion really doesn't need her to win, all he needs her to do is matter during the campaign. As long as she matters, the environment will matter and everyone's actions on the environment will matter. Dion clearly thinks he can do well here.

Yes, the Liberal machine has some dissent about Dion's move, but naysayers will always be there. Yes it's an issue that the Liberals won't be running in all ridings, but let's not kid ourselves, it's a riding they were guaranteed to lose. The choice was either to run in a riding and lose, or have that riding matter to your benefit. It's pretty clear. What I like about Dion doing this is that he acts decisively. Even though everyone might not agree with him, he's not afraid to act. Usually those are the people kissing your you know what when you're successful anyway. On the other side, they're also the I told you so's if you fail.

In terms of the other parties, this goes further toward marginalizing the NDP. The NDP will be seen less and less as the environmental crusaders. Furthermore, the NDP at times seems to attack the Liberals more than they do Canada's pubescent government (they're no longer new), so forming a quasi coalition might be useful for the Liberals. The Liberals and Green are now the dominant coalition on the left. The dippers are going to need a strong defining issue, and it looks to be afghanistan. This could be bad for Dion because he hasn't had any significant performance on this issue, but as he hopes, he might be able to set the agenda with the green file. As for Harper, well it's tough. Whatever green legislation they bring out better be significant or else the Dion-May coalition will be all over it. Also, to look at how the Tories are doing, the latest poll puts them 6 point ahead of the Liberals. Think about what's been going on: they have the best rated leader right now, they've put out some noted attack ads against what's seen as a weak Liberal leader, and they put out an election style budget. Despite all this, they're not close in majority territory. While they shouldn't be alarmed, they shouldn't be comfortable. I don't expect Harper to get comfortable though because he's pretty calculating.

In the end Dion might be taking a risk, but he has to. He's acting instead of reacting, and that's a pretty big difference between a successful leader and a ditherer. Yes, his risk might not pay off, but I suspect that regardless of how successful he is, Dion is forcing Harper's hand a little bit.