Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Belinda Stronach: The Impact

Okay, I feel better now that I've gotten past my initial reactions and personal distaste for Ms. Stronach. How does this change things? The implications of this major development can be looked at in the short and longer term.

There still will be a vote on Thursday and there are three general possibilities.

Stronach makes the count 151-151 before Kilgour and Cadman are counted (assuming Parrish votes Liberal and the pairing goes ahead with Efford and Stinson).

1. The Opposition wins because either both Kilgour and Cadman vote with the Opposition or one of them votes Opposition and the other is absent. This means an election immediately. Stronach has no impact.
2. The government survives because the independents split or both vote for it. No election. Stronach has a major impact.
3. Something else unexpected happens. Could be Hearn and Doyle vote for the budget or some other wacky side-changing takes place.

I admit that two seems to be the most likely option. Kilgour seems 75% likely to vote against Martin, and Cadman seems to be 50-50. But seriously, at this point anything could happen. More Tory MPs might jump ship. Disenchanted Liberals that we haven't heard from in a while may now fear that Martin will use this new momentum to pass SSM legislation before an election and jump the other way.

We now have two Tories (Stronach and Brison) who have gone from running to be leader of the opposition to cabinet in the government. If I were an up-and-coming backbencher who had put my time in I'd be pretty pissed off. If I were Martin I'd be worried that I had just welcoming a potential successor into the fold. Again this is a move that makes Martin look like the washed-out gambler pleaded for another "double or nothing". If he still loses the Thursday vote and can't pull out a better electoral showing his goose is cooked. Obviously, if this is the move that turns things around he looks like a brilliant strategist.

Longer term the impacts of this move will really have to be addressed. In my previous post I mentioned that I think the prominent Tories (Davis, Harris, and Mulroney) who brought Stronach into the party will have to at least implicitly disavow her. If not, the more right-wing elements of the CPC will justifiably see this as the old PC machinery undercutting Harper's leadership. The Conservatives will also have to worry about the supporters that will migrate to the Liberals with Stronach. While I didn't buy her as a viable leadership candidate some did and were willing to accept Harper in the interim. Peter MacKay or someone else will have to work hard over the next six months to show these supporters that there are reasonable options to the left of Harper.

Not all is lost here. Cadman and Kilgour may still vote against the government. If not, it's still possible to portray Stronach for what she is: a rather vapid, appearance-obsessed, opportunist.


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