Please Advise! Too Soon for a Sinking Ship Metaphor?

Spinmeister Steve reminds us the Conservative ship is still very much afloat.

By Steve Burgess 23 Jun 2015 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

[Editor's note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a Ph.D in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

Cabinet ministers are fleeing the Harper government! Justice Minister Peter MacKay, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, International Development Minister Christian Paradis, and now Industry Minister James Moore have all announced they will not run in the fall election -- almost 30 Conservative MPs are retiring. Rats leaving a sinking ship, am I right?


Harper Hater

Dear HH,

Rats leaving a sinking ship? You do a disservice to rats, sir. Not that I mean to suggest that these departing luminaries are vermin -- they have served their nation well with only a healthy wage and gold-plated pension as reward. I simply mean that if these cabinet ministers truly are running for their political lives they are showing less fortitude than the average rodent. Rats are fierce, courageous creatures who would never abandon a vessel that still offers plenty of opportunity for nutritive enrichment. And wishful thinking aside, the Conservative ship is still very much afloat. If this is truly a case of rats deserting the Good Ship Harper, he needs a better class of rat.

It's not that Harper is having a good year by any means. With the election four months away polls suggest his party currently commands the support of three in 10 Canadian voters, and the blue graph line is trending downwards. Meanwhile orange is the new blue: the NDP lead the polls, pulling 36 per cent in a recent Angus Reid Institute survey. But if the prime minister does not enjoy staring up at Tom Mulcair's hindquarters, no problem. He can always look down at Justin Trudeau's sweaty brow as the Liberal leader struggles to climb out of the chasm he now calls home. That same Angus Reid poll puts the Liberals at 23 per cent, a striking reversal of form for a political golden boy.

Here come the shit cannons!

Trudeau's decline follows a barrage of negative ads aimed his way by the Conservatives. Mulcair has likely benefited. But what happens when the Conservatives turn their 130-mm shit cannons in his direction? They'll attempt to fine-tune the balance and trajectory -- a skill at which they have no peers in this country -- to knock Mulcair down to roughly equal status with the Liberals.

It's not like Mulcair is denying them ammunition. His recent speeches suggest a poor grasp of issues like the current corporate tax rate. And the political sugar high that comes from shouting "Down with the Senate!" may be followed by a crash when more people realize an NDP government might just as well promise an end to male pattern baldness -- the constitutional amending formula pops that happy fantasy like a soap bubble.

Harper may not have a lot of support right now but the way things stand he doesn't need much more either -- just a few percentage points (and when you consider that a recent poll found eight per cent of Canadians do not think it's important to protect your skin from too much sun you realize there are always a few percentage points available).

Don't forget voter mutiny

If the three main parties divvy up the votes in roughly equal portions Harper will have a real shot at a minority government. An NDP-Liberal coalition? Possible, but I would sooner bet on the Edmonton Oilers trading Connor McDavid.

Although support for coalitions has grown in recent surveys they present real problems for the participants -- and real opportunities for those on the outside. A coalition government would give the public two big targets for dissatisfaction and leave one major beneficiary. If I was Justin Trudeau or Thomas Mulcair (either role would require a serious follicle revamp) I wouldn't touch a coalition with the CN Tower.

Still, it is interesting to see Conservative MPs scramble for the door like they just heard the ice cream truck. There does seem to be some panic in the air. Moore's departure is particularly interesting. An MP for 15 years and not yet 40, he has been seen as the future of the Conservative Party ever since he first took the oath of office in little footy pajamas. While it is typical to cite family reasons for leaving public office -- a tradition followed by everyone from Peter MacKay to Anne Boleyn -- Moore's farewell seemed convincing as he cited his two-year-old son's bone disease as a reason for staying home this time around. All the same, he added, "I'm only 39. I'm not Old Man Moore."

Meaning he'll be back. And meaning that, legitimate family concerns aside, Minister Moore clearly felt this was a good time for a mate on the Good Ship Harper to take shore leave. For now though, that Conservative boat is still afloat, pursued by Justin's galleon and the Mulcair's man 'o war. Whose cruiser is the S.S. Minnow? It's a four month tour, little buddies.  [Tyee]

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