04 October 2016

The Strategic Two-Step #nlpoli

There's a sheet of paper taped on the underside of one of the drawers in the Premier's desk on the 8th Floor.

It's very old.  No one knows for sure how long it has been there but there are countless rings from countless coffee cups on it and more than few circles from the underside of rum bottles.

On the back, there are a couple of spots where it looks like people jotted down messages and phone numbers. You know, like someone had the sheet laying around on the desk and it just happened to be the closest bit of paper handy.

You can barely make out  "Doyle - Panama" and long string of digits including what looks like a bank account number after the word Caymans.  In another corner there's a woman's first name with couple of numbers and a note :  "Frank - call her back for Christ sake.  Gerry"  

On the other side, the words are in Courier 10 point from an IBM Selectric.

At the top, in all caps and underlined, it reads  WHEN IN TROUBLE...  The first bullet is one word:  Pander.   The second bullet is:  Pick a fight with Ottawa.

Okay.  There really isn't a sheet of paper but given the frequency that troubled political leaders follow the plan, you'd think they passed it around among themselves.

Take the current Premier,  Number 13 himself.

In the biggest political mess of any of them since Confederation, bar none.  Goes from 50% in the polls to his current rank of 17% and not a sign of any upward momentum for the guy.

So he starts to pander. 

Dwight Ball's strategy last spring was pretty simple:  raise some income in the short term by raising taxes.  That would show the bond-raters that he was serious so they'd let him borrow the $3.5 billion he needed to balance the books.  All the serious cuts to spending would happen in the fall and in the spring, after negotiations with the public sector unions.

People lose their minds at the tax and fee increases. So the Liberals pull back all the stuff they can pull back. That's pandering.

Then the Liberals dropped all the talk of a fall mini-budget or anything else that looks like cuts. Yep. That's pandering, too. And then, just to be sure that everyone understands, the Premier delivers a big speech to a fund-raiser to reset his political future. Not gonna pander, he says.  Nope. 

Folks in London, Milan, New York, and Paris do not talk about living in a "world-class" city.

People in Toronto do.

People who don't pander don't have to tell you they don't pander. In fact, the whole thing is so obvious that someone who says "I don't pander" is pretty much telling you they put the pander in pandermonium.

We don't know for sure that this is what the Liberals are doing, but let's go with it for now.  As it looks, the Liberals are going to suck back the gas tax, a cash cow they started last year but that has been pissing people off royally.  The gasoline tax even resembles what you would do as part of a carbon reduction strategy:  increase costs so people cut down consumption.  

Interestingly enough, as of Monday night,  Dwight Ball supposedly had his environment energy minister storm out of a meeting because the federal government was setting a deadline in 2018 for the provincial governments to get a carbon pricing scheme in place.  That could well be the start of the second part of the Strategic Two-Step. 

Mind you,  carbon pricing would be no strategic hill to die on, as the saying goes. Especially as a key part of Dwight's Big Plan involves sucking as much cash as possible out of the federal government. You really wouldn't want to piss them off now.  Then again, stranger and stupider things have happened than some politician thinking that they had discovered pure strategic genius on the back of  ratty sheet of paper alongside some missus' phone number.  Maybe the Liberals are upset because the carbon tax undermines the pander plan to get rid of the taxes that upset people.

What's interesting to think about - if this is the Big Plan - is what the public reaction might be.  In all likelihood, it would likely be less whoopie than whoopie ding.  People were never very keen on Dwight in the first place.  They have gone beyond being really angry at him for the spring budget to a point now where they just no longer think he is relevant to the universe.  They do not care about Dwight.  They are more interested in who might come after him and when they are due to arrive.

A small percentage of the folks who are not indifferent to Dwight's war with Ottawa might actually take time to notice the federal carbon tax would cost them less than the doubling of the old gasoline tax.

The rest might actually get agry that the Liberals have flip-flopped.  Those are the folks the Liberals need to really worry about.  They are the people who griped about the tax hike but who understood the reason behind it, despite the piss-poor job the Liberals did of explaining it.  They also expected to see the important part of the plan from the budget last winter.  That is, they understood a cut in government spending had to come.

Abandoning the plan will piss them off, royally.  They will get deeply angry at the weakness and indecision of the Liberal pandering.  The fact the Liberal panderers are denying the pandering is just extra piss on top of the huge puddle already annoying these folks.  

The strategic geniuses who came up with the pander and fight strategy will throw up their hands at the first criticism.  What the hell do people want?!! the pander-deniers will shout in frustration.  We do what they want and they still get angry.  

The truth is that most people don't know what they want to do with the financial problem.  They know they just want someone to sort it out for them. That's what the election was for. Their anger comes from the Liberal indecision and the flip-flopping.  They are not really angry in many cases so much as they are worried and maybe, in some cases, they are really frightened.  Voters would back someone who had a firm plan,  who could explain it, and who had the courage of their conviction to stick behind it. They don't need perfectly right.  Voters just want someone who doesn't make them worry about what is coming.