Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ready to Oppose?

With all of the recent commentary on the Liberal's caucus retreat, recent poll numbers and the generally positive media coverage of the Liberal Express, I have found myself wondering what the Official Opposition has learned in the past year.

The party line is that things have improved, the ship has been righted, the caucus is on side and they are ready to be a true Official Opposition. In truth, the recent signs are encouraging.

Now, as they enter the fall session in the House my thinking is that the party needs to more deliberately frame its message to the voter; to frame the infamous ballot box question. Already there are signs that this is a priority, with the "Big Red Tent" messaging.

Here are some suggestions on how to build on their summer momentum:

1. Play the arrogance card. Often. Canadians draw a fine line between respecting strength and loathing arrogance, and for many the Harper government has on more than one occasion come very close to that line. The Liberals need to make this a core part of their message.

2. Play the bully card. Often. Memorize the list of public servants who have been marginalized by the governemnt for making their views known and weave it into your messaging.

3. Do not forget the economy. Points 1 and 2 are great, but at the end of the day given a choice between worrying about their jobs or the census, voters will focus on their jobs. The Liberals need a clear message on their vision for the economy, and a credible plan as to how they will achieve it. At the end of the day, voters will ask "how much will this Big Red Tent cost?"

The improving Liberal fortunes we have heard about are, to some degree, a result of them no longer making the types of mistakes that were occurring in 2009-2010. However, their fortunes have also improved as their opponents have suffered missteps. They cannot count on this type of political generosity forever.

Now is the time to start to stake their claim to be a true government-in-waiting. This means being ready to oppose and presenting a clear option. Are they ready?


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