Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Art Of War: Canadian Election Addition

Late last night I began to read Sun-Tzu's Art Of War. Funny as it may seem, what with me being a pacifist and all, but The Art Of War is more then the preminent tome on the strategy of war, it can be used to as a very good metaphor for life, business, sports, and well yes politics.
I thought therefore that I might put the leaders of the four Canadain political leaders and there parties through a Sun Tzu boot camp, and then use his criteria for success to predict a winner in the war that is the current Canadian election.
Sun-Tzu said: The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one's deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field. These are 1) Moral Law; 2) Heaven; 3) Earth; 4) The Commander; 5) Method and Discipline.

The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.

Heaven signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons.

Earth comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death.

The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerety, benevolence, courage and strictness.

By method and discipline are to be understood the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure.

How then do Canada's political parties and it's leader hold up to these constant factors. Starting with the Liberals and Paul Martin: Moral Law, wow Liberals and morals, Paul Martin has been really stressing the fact that he and the Liberals are the only Canadian party that truely represents Canadian values, but with the stink of Gomery and now the whole Goodale Income Trust Scandal, moral authority may note be a Liberal strong point. That being said I do believe that Martin does have at least figurehead control of the Liberal party, just look at the Liberal campaign signs, most of them say Paul Martins Liberals, with his mug plastered on them.

The Conservatives and Harper: this is a tough one as well, I am left leaning and therefore I am not really sure if Conservative ideas of what is moral meshs with my idea of morality, that being said Harper seems to have been able to reign in the so-cons that exist in his party, and except for an early foray into the debate of same sex marriage, he has been relatively successful in promoting he and his party as a centrist option that appears at least on the surface not all that scary.

The NDP and Layton: its hard not like the NDP, they are the cute and fuzzy option in this election, they promote themselves as the party that simply wants to help each and every Canadian, Jack has been running a relatively squeaky clean campaign, but with recent Liberal blowhard attacks on him and his wife, its about time that the NDP and Jack start to swing back, maybe not that moral, but this is a war I remind you.

The Bloc and Ducceppe: The Bloc have it easy, they can protray themselves as they only political party that truely represents Quebec, and are truely the only option for Quebecers. Quebec is a war within a war. The Quebec question, is not only a question of language and culture, but is at the heart of Canadian federalism, which is really the underlining issue of this whole election.

The Green Party and Harris: The Green Party, who I debated even putting on this list simply because they are a marginal party at best, and well as their name suggests are really only truely focused on the enviroment. They did however release a party platform, that no one including myself paid much attention to, so I guess if you are going to include the Bloc who can't form a federal government, and represent the interests of Quebec and Quebec alone, then, well the Green Party has to be mentioned as well, and yes I believe the protection of the enviroment is a question of morality.

The second constant in The Art of War is Heaven, the cold and the heat, restraints of the season. Merry Elexmas all. The Martin minority government fell in early December, when the NDP finally teamed up with the other opposition parties and defeated the Liberals in the first ever vote of Non-Confidence. It looked early on that the Liberals might use the fact that this was a Christmas election campaign to their advantage, painting the opposition as political scrooges, hungry for power irregardless of the season. That being said Paul Martin and the Liberals had a terrible first half start to this election, and must really get their shit together now that the holiday season is over.

Harper and the Conservatives, have seemed relatively happy with a Christmas campaign, they set the agenda in the first half of the campaign, and although they have wanted the Liberals to fall for a long time they are perfectly happy painting Layton and the NDP as the party that sparked this election.

Ducceppe and the Bloc, like the Conservatives had no quams at all with not only toppling the government but also with a Christmas campaign. Ducceppe used the spirit of the season to suggest that Quebec should ice its own national hockey team. This did not go down well outside Quebec, but I don't imagine it was such a bad political play in Quebec itself.

Layton and the NDP, were orginally painted as the scrooge that stole Christmas, it was the NDP that was propping up the Liberals and allowed Martin and Liberals to remain in power as long as the did. I think that Layton would have preferred a spring election, but the NDP got painted into a corner by the opposition and the Liberals and were forced to team up with the opposition and topple the Martin government.

Harris and the Green Party, um well, I guess the fact that they are getting any press at all, is a good thing for them, so an election at any time is good for them.

The third constant in the Art of War is Earth, distances, passes in time, life and death. I tend to think of this constant in Canadian political terms as well not only the challenges of Canada's geographic and socio/cultural landscape, but also the political life and death of each party and its leaders. Martin and the Liberals, have a large election warchest, and have as good a chance as anyone to zoom from coast to coast and stump hump on any issue to any community. That being said the sponsorship scandal has forced the Liberals into a losing battle in Quebec, and Liberal unpopularity in the west especially in Alberta, has really focused success and failure of the Liberals in how they do in Ontario. This is a life and death election for Paul Martin, if he does not at least win a minority government, I believe the Liberals will be searching for a new leader as early as the spring and no later then the summer. The Liberal party after 12 years of governing Canada, I believe are not going to self destruct like the Progressive Conservative party after the Mulroney years, but the Liberal Party is in for some hard times.

Harper and the Conservative Party, have similar resources as the Liberal Party, and have similar ablities to stump hump across the country. The Conservative Party is a non factor in Quebec, but is very strong out west, again this election will be won and lost in Ontario. Like Paul Martin, if Stephen Harper can not at least deliver a minority government, his time in federal politics will be short lived. The new Conservative party like the PC party is always going to be a strong second choose in Canada, the fact that they are competing well in this election bodes well for them, at least in the near Canadian political future.

Layton and the NDP, do not have the same warchest as the the Liberals or the Conservatives, but Jack and the NDP have leased a plane and can also do its fair share of stump humping across the country. It is difficult for the NDP to compete for media time against the big 2, and what with the whole Buzz Hargrove strategic voting thing, it is much more difficult for the NDP to get their message out. I believe that Jack Layton and the NDP will both survive this election, a win especially because they are invisible in Quebec, and competing for the same much needed seats in Ontario, is unlikely, but with their showing in the last parliament, NDP fortunes seem to be on the rise.

Ducceppe and the Bloc, what can I say I souund like a broken record, but the Bloc have it easy. Not only do the have similar resources as the other parties but they have the good fortune of not having to campaign anywhere outside Quebec. Ducceppe can stump hup in Quebec and Montreal, he can maybe try to steal some votes from manly Anglophone ridings in western Montreal, and the Eastern Townships, then kiss some babies, and catch some fish in Bloc friendly northern Quebec. The future is now for the Bloc, Ducceppe, he has the easiest job in Canadian politics.

Harris and the Green Party, well what can I say, the Green party has pockets of support in BC, and if they are smart the will focus most of their attention on maybe stealing a seat there. The future of the Green Party and Harris is not as set in stone as say Martin and Harper. I do not believe Harris will win a seat in parliament, I would not be surprised if they did get a seat from BC. With what looks like another minority government, the Green Party MP, might have a certain amount of influence, similar to that of the independents in the last parliament.

The fourth constant in the Art of War is the Commander: Paul Martin is the Prime Minister and the leader of the Liberal party. He was a well respected finance minister, cutting social programs in order to reach the record surpluses that we are seeing in Canada today. After ten years of Jean Chretien rule, Martin and his team of hot shot p.r. people decided that it was time to carry on the longstanding tradition of usurping leaders, and basically strongarmed Chretien out of office. Paul Martin would make a heck of a CEO, he has no quams with cutting and slashing in the names of profit, he does not however come off as a great leader. He stutter and stammers through press conferences and just does not seem confident.

Stephen Harper, has a reputation for having full control of his caucus. It is rumoured that he has no patience for dissent within party ranks. Running a tight ship is a good thing in an election campaign, but as we have seen, in times of peace, when parliament is in session, he has a tendency to squeeze the reins to tight, e.g. Belinda Stronach. Harper may have to be careful, an unreseasonably strict commander often faces mutiny.

Jack Layton, Jack is not as beloved as Ed Broadbent, but he has been able for the most part to come off as the good guy. But in times of war strenght often wins over compassion. So although I believe he has full support of his party, Jack will have to toughen up inorder to win in the end.

Gilles Ducceppe, I bet if I were to ask any Canadian living outside Quebec to name any other Bloc MP other then Ducceppe that they could not. Ducceppe was an early favorite to become the leader of the provincial Parti Quebecois, he has at this time huge support throughout Quebec. Ducceppe is no Rene Levesque, or even a Bouchard, but he has been able to keep the Quebec question near the forefront of the election campaign, and is clearly the only true winner this time around.

Mike Harris, he is still a political neophyte, the simple fact that he is getting any play at all is a political victory in itself.

The fifth and final constant in the Art of War is Method and Discipline. In political terms this would be summed up by the how focused each party's campaign has been, and how disciplined party members have been in the campaign. Paul Martin and the Liberals have had a very slow and disappointing campaign so far. They have been repeatly beaten to the punch by the Conservatives, and have really not gathered any momentum so far. Discipline has been a real problem for the Liberals in this campaign. What with a Liberal strategist making statements like Canadians would spend their $25 a week child care bonus on beer and popcorn. Then last weeks endless attacks on the Jack Layton and his wife, comparing Oliveia Chow to a dog, callin Jack an asshole, and how he has a smile like a boiled dogs head. Discipline has not been a Liberal strenght.

The Conservatives have ran the best campaign so far, they have continually beat the other parties to the punch, and have dictated the agenda throughout. The Tories have been for the most part very disciplined. There was an incidient where an Alberta candidate's campaign manager, made some statements to the effect that this would be their last federal campaign, and that the would soon be working on Alberta seperation. Other then that this has been a clean campaign so far.

The NDP shot themselves in the foot early on in this campaign, when Buzz Hargrove suggested that NDP supports should only vote NDP where they are strong, and LIberals where they are not, inorder to stop the Conservatives. Jack and his party have been trying to shake the strategic vote monkey, and the 3rd party stigma throughout the campaign. Layton should have instantly distanced himself from Hargrove, and positioned himself and the NDP as a viable option for government.

The Bloc again have it easy, as long as it doesn't come out that Gilles Ducceppe eats babies, they are easly going to win the majority of seats in Quebec. There have not been any noticable faux pas' reported at least in the English press.

The Green Party as quirky and as weird as they seem, have been relatively effective in at least getting some notice in this election. There have not been any reporty wackjob reports from their campaign, so to that end its been a good run for the Greens.

Wow, all that and thats just the first page of the Art of War. But I promised that by breaking down each party and its leaders using Sun-Tzu's constants that I would predict a winner, and well I will do that here, I predict a Conservative Party minority, backed up by the Bloc. Now the election campaign is only half over, lots can go right or wrong in the next 3 weeks or so, but right now if Sun-Tzu is as wise as he seems the war is the Conservative's to lose.


Blogger Yaverbaum said...

joe, for we who are really strapped for time, i need the reader's digest condensed version!! lol. well done.

1/04/2006 6:18 p.m.  
Blogger pinkocanuck said...

hey thanx, only took me like oh 4 hours... what with coffee, pee breaks, and smoke breaks... i almost quit a few times... but hey when you are on a roll your on a roll right.

1/04/2006 10:18 p.m.  
Anonymous jerry said...

That was tough.....I need a notebook that I can take to the reading room while I'm on the throne....Harper may be closing in on a solid minority...possible majority government if he does well in the final debate and has no scandals in the last 2 weeks. Its his election now to loose, he needs Ontario as he will sweep the west.

1/09/2006 4:25 p.m.  

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