Monday, August 13, 2007

On bogus governance

The Cons' apparent disinterest in the consequences of their actions is downright painful to watch based on its impact on the country at large. But CanWest reports that the same problem is apparently affecting their internal political calculations as well, particularly when it comes to their plan for yet another cabinet shuffle:
(R)ecent history shows that federal Cabinet shuffles have almost zero impact on the political fortunes of the governments that make them. If anything, shuffles are counterproductive in terms of popular support.

CanWest News Service and the polling firm Ipsos Reid have analyzed seven Cabinet shuffles in recent history dating back to 1989: three by former Tory prime minister Brian Mulroney, and three by former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien, plus last January's shuffle by Mr. Harper himself.

In every case, public support for the government either dropped or remained the same in the months following the shuffles.

One reason is that Canadian voters see Cabinet shuffles for the public relations exercises they often are, says Omar Soliman, an Ontario Tory and a University of Toronto political science graduate who has studied the art of Cabinet making.

"It probably makes sense for polling numbers to fall or remain static following a shuffle," Mr. Soliman said. "The Canadian electorate has an almost 'antibiotic' tendency to spot bogus governance, and then reject it."
Now, it's worth noting that the study is probably a bit simplistic in its assumptions as to cause and effect. Presumably a government which feels the need to carry out a cabinet shuffle for no particular reason is already recognizing some serious threat to its immediate position - meaning that the shuffles may simply have failed to avoid the inevitable, rather than actually precipitating declines in popular support.

But then, it's telling that Deceivin' Stephen has already reached that point twice after barely a year and a half in office. And the more Canadians see that the Cons are already at the point of having nothing better to do than to rearrange their own deck chairs, the more likely the latest rearrangement is to offer yet another example of a government losing support after a shuffle.

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