Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Politics of Ambition? Not Likely

If nothing else, I will give credit to Belinda Stronach for making Canadian politics engaging and entertaining once again. The darling of Rick Mercer's Monday Report has everyone talking, and with good cause. Here is a slightly more thoughtful analysis of this whole brouhaha.

If the best response to Stronach's resignation that Stephen Harper can come up with is to accuse her of being overly ambitious, then he is truly shocked and scared by this move on her part. If ambition were her motivation, then she could have quietly allowed the non-confidence motion to succeed, followed by at best a Conservative minority, then slipped a dagger into Harper's back while rising to power. She's not about to be selected Liberal leader by the party faithful, and she would have been guaranteed a senior portfolio in any Conservative government. That explanation does not ring true.

If I were Stephen Harper, I would be very concerned about what this decision says about the position of Peter McKay and other red Tories. Does anyone really think McKay was not somehow involved/consulted in this decision? What does it say about his feelings towards the party that he did not help them formulate a better reaction to Stronach's decision? Where does that place him within the Conservative camp? What is Stronach's pull with the Ontario caucus of the Conservative party, particularly the newly elected members?

If I were Stephen Harper, I would be quietly praying that his non-confidence motion fails on Thursday. I might even be telling my Newfoundland MPs, who are under such pressure not to support to the motion, that it would be ok if they developed a mild cold on Thursday. Losing Stronach is going to be a major blow to Harper's efforts to portray the party as a welcome place for centrist voters, since she was emblematic of the type. For the time being, he can kiss the prospect of any major gains in Ontario good-bye.

Was this the best decision for Belinda Stronach herself? Difficult to say. I do think that if a June election had been held, and Harper had only squeaked out a few more seats, he would have been pushed out as leader, and McKay would have been heir-apparent. Belinda Stronach would have a strong role to play in a McKay-led party, and this combination might have won a Conservative majority in the 2006/7 election. But, given the way polls have been looking in Ontario, she could just have easilly gone down to electoral defeat personally in 2005, which would have left her nowhere. Can she win Newmarket-Aurora as a Liberal? My gut says yes, since I think her star quality is what helped her take the riding initially.

It's an exciting week to be watching Canadian politics. Rumour has it the Queen arrived in Saskatchewan, but I'm betting she won't be the lady on the cover of Canada's papers tomorrow!

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At 8:23 pm, Blogger robert mcbean said...

i think harper will definetely get the knife within a year or so. but i think they will elect another westerner as a leader. i think the party is still very much western dominated and they don't have much trust of red tories like mackay.

At 7:02 am, Blogger Matt said...

You're probably right that another Westerner will be picked as leader. I don't think that the lesson about the clout of Eastern Canada, particularly Ontario, has been fully internalized yet. But without a bilingual leader, they will never get that majority they so desperately desire. Ontarians have a habit of keeping the Quebec question central in their thoughts on election day.


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