02/14/2013 12:04 EST | Updated 04/16/2013 05:12 EDT

Are the Conservatives Shooting Themselves in the Foot?


Finally the NDP is making Question Period interesting to watch. And they have the Conservatives to thank for handing them the issues and the ammunition.

I am speaking about NDP attacks on the Senate and the ongoing issues faced by the Prime Minister as he deals with Patrick Brazeau, and the financial questions hanging over the heads of Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy and let's not forget robo calls (round two).

These are good issues for the NDP. First because they don't like the Senate and many would prefer it be abolished, and second because nothing wakes the public up faster than a scandal or the hint of one.

Parliamentary privilege being what it is, all sorts of innuendo can be built into an opposition party's questions and for the most part the government is restricted to some pretty standard defensive lines. Voters will be hearing a lot of answers from the government side along the lines of "we are investigating," or "inquiries are being made," or "all monies will be accounted for." It reminds me a bit of Scott Brison, then the Liberal Public works minister, repeating day after day "Let Justice Gomery do his job." There really isn't much else that the Conservatives can say.

Public trust in politicians being what it is, I doubt the public will every fully believe those answers. Even if the Conservative senators are cleared, there will always be that little bit of nagging doubt in the public's mind. It remains to be seen if this story has legs or if anything else will come out from the red chamber that will feed this issue. Right now, the NDP don't have enough to defeat this government, not even if an election were to be called tomorrow, nor is it enough to tarnish the Prime Minister's image. Not yet at least, but each little bit of controversy contributes to eroding trust in the Conservative brand. Add in robocalls to the issue of alleged financial impropriety by senators and you have several negative issues piling on top of each other.

By focusing on these issues and chiselling away at the credibility of the party and both its image of being good financial managers and the honesty of its appointees, the NDP is doing what good opposition parties do -- chip away, chip away, chip away. The NDP has no choice but to go for the long game right now as the next election is quite far away. But every bit of negative publicity hurts.

It is often said that governments defeat themselves and it is issues like these that accumulate over time and eventually ruin your brand. The NDP are doing exactly what we did to the Liberals. No party is invincible, especially when it's your own side shooting you in the foot.

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