Monday, July 02, 2012

On risky bets

Others have already batted about some theories about the Cons' first set of attack ads against Tom Mulcair. But it's worth noting that there are a couple of important differences between the first salvo against Mulcair, and the previous saturation campaigns against Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff.

While it's been pointed out that the newer ads are more focused on policy, it hasn't much been noted how much more easily they can then be refuted if Mulcair does an effective job of holding the NDP's ground.

Casual political observers didn't have much frame of reference to determine whether Dion was "not a leader" or whether Ignatieff was "just visiting" precisely because those talking points were utterly meaningless. And that meant there wasn't much either could do to shed the initial label imprinted on them by the Cons.

But by putting the focus on Mulcair's economic theories, the Cons are opening the door for him to talk about why the NDP's plans make sense - which looks to be well within his comfort zone. And given that the public has been in broad agreement with the NDP in general as well as the very ideas the Cons are trying to paint as extreme, that may mean that even the best-case scenario includes plenty of downside for the Cons.

Yet even that understates the Cons' gamble in framing a contrast of "risky" against "safe". In effect, a party which has been drinking its own Kool-Aid for years has now staked its political future on a bet that nothing will happen over the next three-plus years to cause Canadians to see continued Con government as risky - even as its own tendency toward deregulation and crony capitalism (epitomized by the wholesale shredding of environmental legislation in C-38) radically increases the likelihood of something going wrong which would turn that dynamic on its head.

So if the ballot question in 2015 is really one about risk, the Cons may have already set themselves up to lose. And while we'd obviously prefer not to see Canada left to deal with the fallout, it's hard to imagine a more deserving end for Harper and his party.

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