Monday, February 11, 2008

High diving 

Globe columnist Adam Radwanski notes the absolute cynicism of the Harper Conservatives who talk about how much they support the mission in Afghanistan while they themselves endanger it by using it as an election ploy:
Rather than baiting the Liberals into bringing down Parliament and dispatching the reliably embarrassing Peter Van Loan to call them Taliban-lovers, the government should be doing everything it can to broker some kind of compromise. Only if that fails should they consign the mission to likely doom by putting it to voters.
But Harper appears to be incapable of sincerity on any issue except finding homes for orphan kittens.
And I am getting the impression that Stephane Dion has finally had enough of the games. Today, Dion finally seemed to be going on the offensive, telling Harper, OK if you want an election on the budget or on Afghanistan, we'll give you one -- here's our vision for Afghanistan and here's our vision for the budget, let the people decide!
Watching Dion ponder the high dive today, I felt like Yosemite Sam -- bring on Fearless Freep! I paid my four bits to see the high diving act and I'm a-gonna SEE the high-diving act!
I think it's time for Dion to step forward and try to demonstrate to Canadians why they should vote for him. Chantal Hebert wonders if Dion is quite ready for prime time:
In theory, he is best positioned to take advantage of any wind of change blowing into this country as a result of the American presidential contest . . . But while Dion has long been convinced that voters will be pleasantly surprised by his performance, Liberal strategists face an uphill battle in their efforts to turn his inexperience in their favour.
. . . Take Afghanistan, the top file in Parliament these days and one on which the Liberals are presumably on the majority side of public opinion. They also happen to have in Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae and Dion himself a crack intellectual team, on par or superior to that of the government. But so far, that has only added to the Liberal confusion.
If Dion and his party cannot muster clarity and enthusiasm in support of their own case, how can they hope to prevail in an election argument?
Well, maybe it's time we find out whether Dion is a leader or not.
And the Montreal Gazette says Harper should be careful what he wishes for:
The CROP numbers would give the Conservatives only the 11 Quebec seats they have now, the Nanos poll would give them even fewer.
The Conservatives are looking at even worse numbers in Ontario, where the Liberals lead 43 to 31 per cent, with the NDP at 19 per cent. For the Tories, this isn't even 2006 all over again, when their 35 per cent produced 40 Ontario seats; but more like 2004, when their 30 per cent resulted in only 24 seats, with the Tories virtually shut out in Toronto's suburban 905 belt.
Harper still has much stronger leadership numbers than Dion, but not the huge advantage he enjoyed a year ago. For example, on the key attribute of competence, Harper leads Dion 39-16; on trust 30-14, and on vision, 32-17.
Those are still 2-1 margins, but not enough for wise heads to overlook voting intention. On that, the Nanos poll is clear. There is no majority for anyone, and quite possibly a Liberal minority produced by Ontario.
Tactics and brinksmanship are all very well in the House. But if Harper means to go to the country, he needs much better numbers than this in his pocket.

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