The Conservative Party finished riding the Parliamentary rollercoaster this week as the week started out with Stephen Harper’s foot on the throat of a dying Liberal minority government facing certain defeat on its budget butchered-by-Buzz.
Then from the Right, the bottom fell out as a blond precocious Parliamentarian bolted to the Grit benches so fast that the ink was not yet dry on her ten-percenter sent out to her constituents ripping the Liberals on “government corruption”.
And then the budget vote, lost by the most narrow of margins. It was a budget that I almost expected Ralph Goodale himself to vote against. It wasn’t to be and the Conservatives will fight on another day.
But how should we fight? What should we do now as Conservatives?
First, get Stephen Harper into Quebec, about three or four times a week. What’s the game-plan in Quebec? Talk about how la belle province and how la oil-well province are similar and how their fight is the same in Ottawa. Bring the message to Ottawa: “It’s the fiscal imbalance, stupid”.
Second, have Stephen Harper do one of those fluff news pieces where a reporter, cameraman, Harper, Mrs. Harper and say Peter Mackay go out on the town (get Rona Ambrose to babysit) and have a couple of pints and talk about a range of topics from raising their own children to rugby to favourite rock groups from the 80s. Those of us in the party know that Harper is human and a Helluva Guy. It’s time to let the country know. It’s a human interest piece and no network would reject it unless the board of directors has a hidden agenda.
Third, continue to press the Liberals on Adscam in Question Period, however, use Ablonczy, Jaffer, Ambrose and some of the other secondaries. Use Harper and Mackay to press the Liberals on Conservative issues (ie. set the House agenda on debating Conservative issues, not Liberals issues). For example, Monte Solberg could ask “Mr. Speaker, what does the Minister of Finance have against the Conservative plan to give Canadians the tax relief that they need in order to raise their average take-home pay for the first time in 15 years?”. When rebuffed by Goodale, Monte could then use up his time by outlining how good the Conservative plan is for Canadians. The point is to change the angle of debate to debate the merits of a Conservative government instead of the merits of a Liberal one (Canadians already know that the Liberal government has no merit — they need to know why a Conservative one does).
Fourth, dominate news coverage. Canadians should not only perceive that the Conservatives represent a government in waiting, they should think that the Conservatives are all but official. The shadow cabinet should make announcements as often as possible if not daily. Failing that, break out the sombreros.
Fifth, don’t close the door to Liberal defectors on principle. A Liberal crossing the floor to the Conservatives gains more ground (significantly negative Liberal press) than rejecting one based on principle (moderately positive Conservative press).