Saturday, September 08, 2012

On timelines

For the most part, I tend to be skeptical that annual caucus retreats should be seen as having any substantive impact on the political scene. But the NDP's meeting last week in St. John's did provide some noteworthy news in the form of Tom Mulcair's election readiness timeline:
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair wants his party to be "completely ready" by the fall of 2014 for a federal election that he predicts will come sooner than expected.
"We're counting on the past to guarantee the future," Mulcair said. "We're thinking that the likely timeline is the spring of 2015, which makes it even more important for us to be completely ready for the fall of '14."

Mulcair opened the retreat by advising his caucus that "a two-year countdown has started for us."
"By the fall of '14, we've got to be completely ready to take on the Conservatives in the next election with a much more generous and fair vision of (sic) type of Canada that we all want to build together."
Now, the most important consequence of the announcement may be to negate exactly the danger Mulcair raised as to a snap election. While I'd think it's an open question whether Stephen Harper's instinct would be to seek an early election or hold onto power as long as possible, it's probably fair to say that the only way we'll see an election before the fall of 2015 is if the Cons think they can catch the other parties off guard. And if the NDP signals its plan to be ready early, then the effect may actually be to push Harper back toward the fixed election date.

Meanwhile, the steps involved in being ready for an early election figure to have some spillover benefits as a matter of general party-building, particularly if the option of early election planning is contrasted against the option of taking a break from other activity. 

At the same time, though, there's also some opportunity cost involved in charting an election course immediately if that takes away from a focus on longer-term movement building. And it'll be worth ensuring that the 2014 focus merely represents a slightly altered timeline as part of the greater project of leading a more progressive Canada.

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