Monday, January 3, 2011

2010 round-up: Liberals

Continuing on with my round-up of the three major party's positions, the Liberals, Canada's Official Opposition and bound to be for the next while, had a relatively OK year but failed to achieve several goals that they needed to reach in order to become a viable alternative to the Conservatives. Hopefully this is pessimistic enough for Warren Kinsella to repost again.

To start off, the Liberals' position in the polls is very similar to that of the Conservatives, and really everyone else: complete and utter stagnation. While they were up during the beginning of 2010 during the prorogation battle, according to, that rise promptly fell back into a modest range of between 27-30%, and hasn't changed since. This is a lot better than where they were last year, when the Conservatives held a 12-point lead over them, due to the September debacle and "Your Time is Up," things which I still can't get over. This means that over the last two years since the 2008 election, the Liberals have only marginally improved their position in the polls, but have yet to keep any sort of stable lead, and seem vulnerable to major missteps by the OLO and Ignatieff. It isn't a good position to be in.

Ignatieff himself has had a middle-of-the-road year, perfect for his middle-of-the-road policies and his middle-of-the-road personality. Since 2009, there's been no doubt that Ignatieff now sits at nearly-Dion levels, only slightly ahead of his predecessor, in terms of leadership qualities. Most Canadians haven't formulated an opinion about Iggy, but those that have, generally don't like him. It's lead to some major questions of leadership among party members, though Ignatieff has amazingly managed to keep dissention in the Liberal caucus to a minimum, or at the very least, the Liberals aren't airing dirty laundry anymore. In the face of all this bad news, Iggy hasn't had a terrible year; his party lost Vaughan but won Winnipeg North, and he stood his ground in the face of the LGR vote. And of course, let's not forger the bus tour. While it didn't necessarily boost people's opinions of him, it certainly showed pundits that Ignatieff is willing and able to run a national campaign. Which is good, because you can never underestimate the power of the leader's tour during a campaign.

Another notable half-victory for the Liberals is their fundraising. While they're nowhere near matching the Conservatives' fundraising machine, their own has seen significant improvement since Dion's tenure. According to the most recent figures, they seem to be more or less matching what they were able to raise during the Martin years, something that, while only a marginal improvement (that seems to be the Liberal theme this year), is a victory nevertheless. According to the Q3 2010 reports, the Liberals raised 1.3 million from 16,619 donors. Compare that to other non-writ, non-leadership race quarters under Dion's tenure, such as Q2 2008 (913K raised from 10,000 donors), Q3 2007 (793K raised from 8,000 donors), or Q1 2007 (531K raised from 4,400 donors)., and you can see a big difference, especially considering that under Dion's tenure, we regularly fell behind the NDP. The Liberals now have a settled base of donors and are outpacing all other Opposition parties. However, the question is: is it enough to battle the Conservatives? I'm not entirely sure.

The main thing going for the Liberals next year will be the fact that, quite simply, Harper's government isn't very popular. The thing is that they need to take advantage of this weakness, but have only been able to do so for very fleeting moments. While the Liberals can be glad that they've managed to position themselves as the main opposition to the Conservatives, without an extra push they won't able to show that they deserve to be anything more than that. How it stands right now, I'm not so sure that they will be able to improve enough in the time left before another election to win government, either with or without NDP support. The situation is very reminiscent of John Turner's time in Opposition all those years ago, before I was even born; an unpopular government allowed the Liberals to gain, but unpopular leadership and disorganization limited how far they could get. The modern Liberals may be facing the same situation today, unless they overcome some major hurdles.

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