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Index for my Toronto Budget 2004 project
Fed Liberals Aren't Sunk Yet

Now that the polls show that the Liberals are vulnerable, this upcoming election is shaping up to be a lot more interesting than anticipated.

We can speculate all we want, but I don't believe that most voters are in anything more than a state of shock right now. Many who formerly expected to vote Liberal are now unsure, but this doesn't mean they're deeply commited to anyone else yet. I'd expect polls to remain unreliable until we (a) see who the new leader of the Conservative Party will be, (b) see what their election platform is going to look like, and (c) see how the Adscam story unfolds.

There is a lot that could happen in the coming months to make the Liberals very vulnerable. On the other hand, there is much that the opposition parties can do to sabotage their own chances.

The worst case scenario for Martin would call his party's character into question. However, character is just one dimension. Policy is another. My admittedly biased and narrow intuition tells me that the Martin Liberals' policy positioning is close to the sweet spot for the Canadian electorate today. It may be possible for the opposition to discredit Liberal policy positions, but they haven't done it yet.

What the Conservatives need more than anything right now is a strong field of leadership nominees fighting to get into position to form a government. Paul Wells has dismissed the contenders and endorsed Stephen Harper as the only credible option. But Harper has often been dismissed in the past as unelectable nationally.

If Harper wins, he will need to make Canadians see him and his party policies with new eyes. I don't know if he can do it. It doesn't look like he has begun to try.

My opinion remains that Canadians are fairly happy with Liberal policy, but question -- today more than any point in years -- Liberal execution of that policy. This means that a few months ago the opposition parties might have been best served by establishing unique and differentiated positions, however now they would do better by offering themselves up as "like the Liberals but better".

On his blog, Jay Currie suggests that there may be superior ways to achieve the goals of Liberal policies. This approach could be promising for the Conservatives... except it can't work when you reject not only Liberal Party methods, but also those popular goals, too.



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