Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On strategic considerations

A couple of thoughts for the federal budget day...

First, let's note that for all the Libs' efforts to avoid being the party to decide on the fate of the budget, there are still some opportunities for the NDP to put the pressure back on them if it so chooses.

In particular, it would make less than zero sense for the Libs to precipitate an election based on the argument that the Harper Cons are unfit for office, then decline to bring them down on a confidence vote in another minority Parliament.

So the NDP may want to consider issuing a challenge to Michael Ignatieff: show us your commitment to actually replacing the Cons if the opportunity arises (including through a coalition), and we'll be more inclined to go to the polls. And either possible outcome would look to be a plus for the NDP: a strong statement by Ignatieff that a change in government comes first would limit his ability to attack the NDP later on, while any weakness in his commitment to toppling the Cons would undermine his own narrative.

Second, assuming we do end up in an election campaign, it's worth noting that Jack Layton's health issues may actually give rise to an opportunity for the NDP.

After all, there's little room for doubt that part of the momentum of an election campaign involves a party's ability to exceed expectations. And with the NDP having run what was generally seen as a highly effective campaign in 2008, there didn't seem to be too much room to impress the commentariat.

But with pundit after pundit now questioning whether Layton can hold up through a campaign, the NDP may be in the unique position of having a leader who's already highly popular and experienced, yet who can also expect to be the subject of good-news stories merely for doing what he's already done multiple times before. And if the campaign narrative features Layton as the plucky leader who's kept on fighting for his principles in the face of personal adversity, that may well give the NDP the boost it needs to keep trending upward.

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