Interesting story from Jane Taber of the Globe and Mail, covering a senior Liberal strategy session. "Senior" because not only MPs but staff from the PMO were in attendance to listen to David Herle, the national Liberal campaign co-chair. Mr. Herle gave a two-hour presentation that Ms. Taber translated as just a pep talk for the upcoming session of Parliament.
Mr. Herle's presentation was apparently long on aspirations and short on backup data, but the take-home points are as follows:
- According to an unnamed source, Canadians are in the mood for a majority government. (Chalk this up as aspiration; no recent polls have been published showing the Liberals pulling the numbers necessary for a majority vote.)
- The Grits could gain 8 to 10 seats in the Western provinces, and a majority of seats in B.C. (Although one wonders if Gurmant Grewal's seat is one of them.)
- The Gomery inquiry could potentially damage the Liberals, especially in Quebec. (True enough; Grit planning for the rest of the year will be factoring in a downswing in poll numbers when the Gomery final report is released.)
- There is a potential feeling among Canadians that a change of government is in order. (The Liberals have been in power for over 12 years, essentially the equivalent of the Ronald Reagan/George Bush Sr. era. And George Bush Sr. lost the second election.)
- In order to get the majority, the Tories have to be "marginalized on the right." (This suggests a counter-strategy: if the Grits devote lots of time and resources to tarring the Tories, the Tories can fire back that the Grits have no more good ideas on their own.)
- The Liberals still have the reputation of being solid on economic issues, that's the main strength coming into the next election. (Unfortunately, that's true: no matter how many arguments you can muster about underreported surpluses, you can't shake off everyone's gut feeling that running surpluses is better than running deficits. The best way for the Tories to counter that is to highlight incidents of government wasting money, and link that to higher taxes.)
- The Liberals should focus on the 10 percent of voters on the left who vacillate between the Liberals and the NDP. (This is based on the belief that there is little interest in Don Laytone. Again, I'd chalk this one up to wishful thinking; Layton's management of the NDP during the last session garnered favorable reviews, and the more silly antics the Grits get into, the better the NDP looks.)
How much weight should we give Mr. Herle's presentation? Consider this: he was in charge of the federal Liberal campaign in the last election. When everyone was expecting a majority government.
There may be an opportunity here ...