CBC News and the Chronicle Herald are reporting this morning that NDP MP Peter Stoffer is walking away from his long-time opposition to the long-gun registry because his constituents now support it, according to him. He’s been a Member for quite some time. Did he just ask his constituents on the weekend how they felt? Or are we witnessing the gradual behind-the-scenes whipping of the NDP caucus?
“We offered to hear from Canadians on this issue and they have already spoken loud and clear. They overwhelmingly do not want to open the issue. The Government will not proceed any further to change our national anthem.”
“Nous avons consulté les Canadiens et Canadiennes sur cette question, et ceux-ci se sont exprimés haut et fort : par une immense majorité, ils ne veulent pas ouvrir ce dossier. Le gouvernement n’ira pas plus loin en vue de modifier l’hymne national.”
Dimitri Soudas, official spokesman for the Prime Minister
Liberal MP Mark Holland is among the majority of the MPs in the 308-seat House of Commons who have not signed on to Twitter.
He sees it as an “info-dumping” medium and says he cannot find a compelling reason to start tweeting.
“You can’t get very much in 140 characters,” he says. “It tends to lend itself to a lot of really useless information.”
“looking forward to connecting with my constituents in a new and exciting way – please follow me on twitter.”
Perhaps the threat of a star candidate in Ajax-Pickering made Holland think again about the need to connect in more ways with his constituents.
A week ago, I wrote about BC Liberal party MP Ujjal Dosanjh’s characterization of the BC HST as the “Harper Sales Tax”. I pointed out that it was quite a stretch for the former NDP Premier of that province, given that the party he formerly led in that province put the blame squarely on the provincial policy writers — the BC Liberal government.
Dosanjh responded to my comments explaining that the BC Liberals and federal Liberals are two different parties and suggested I was trying to link the two, but yet he’s the one who went out of his way to shift his scorn from those Liberals to the Conservatives in Ottawa. Politics is local and Dosanjh — scraping by with a narrow victory in 2008 by 22 votes — is tapping into a hotly debated populist issue in that province. But is this wise for him?
Despite this, does he have a point? While Dosanjh acts as an apologist for Liberal premier Gordon Campbell, essentially decrying that “Harper made him do it”, tax harmonization was suggested and incentivized at the federal level. However, if harmonization is unpopular in BC, voters are likely to blame those that signed off of on the policy and implemented it into law — ie. the jurisdictional authority — the BC Liberal government. And while we awkwardly parse how related or non-related these Liberals are to those Liberals and which Liberals like taxes and which ones don’t, the overall story then evolved.
Dosanjh’s words rang a bit more hollow this week when Ontario finance minister Dwight Duncan — a Liberal himself — said that Michael Ignatieff had approved of the HST and would help Ontario along its path to harmonization should he become Prime Minister. These Liberals, as Mr. Dosanjh will undoubtedly note, are very much related to their federal Liberal cousins.
Yesterday, Ignatieff’s finance critic John McCallum cited a “miscommunication” when it came to his leader’s position on the HST, while today Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty said that Ignatieff gave him the “clearest of impressions” that he would support the tax.
These days it seems difficult to nail Michael Ignatieff down on any controversial issue. His position on a number of issues from Iraq, to George W Bush, to coercive interrogation, to a Liberal-NDP coalition, to harmonization have evolved drastically over time. By refusing to settle on any particularly substantive issue, Ignatieff is trying to give the impression that he supports your point of view on public policy (whatever it may be). A cynical observer might suggest that this strategy may work for the disengaged soft Liberal supporter.
However, as anyone that runs a focus group will tell you, on the issue of taxes Liberals have always had an wide credibility gap to bridge. Now that two Liberal provincial governments are implementing a harmonized sales tax while the federal Liberal leader seems to at best support it or at worse waffle on it, Liberals — of varied associations — are finding the gap becoming a gulf. For Ujjal Dosanjh, whose riding lists crime as the other top-of-mind issue — another focus group nightmare for the Liberals — perhaps its time to focus on new messaging.
In Winnipeg today, Stephane Dion gave his stump speech but Bob Fife from CTV noticed that it was lacking something. Fife noticed that Dion only mentioned “Green Shift” once in his speech and did not mention the carbon tax once. The CTV reporter asked if the Green Shift was still central to the campaign. Dion responded, “You have said it was but never me”
Stephane Dion in the Kingston Whig-Standard July 26th 2008,
“The answer is yes. It [the Green Shift plan] is at the heart of our strategy but it’s not our whole strategy.”
When was the last time a party leader, running to become Prime Minister framed an issue as a referendum as an election period? That would have been Brian Mulroney with free trade. I cannot remember the last time an opposition leader has done so, and for Dion to abandon his central policy plank mid-campaign, Liberals and Canadians will lose confidence in the man during an election which is also defined by leadership.