Wednesday, January 28, 2009

And the answer is…

B. Not necessarily coalition

To no one’s surprise (except, judging by his reaction, Jack Layton’s), that horrifying experiment in democracy is now over with. In the end, the coalition threat certainly deserves some of the credit/blame for Harper opening the spending floodgates, so the whole exercise may not have been in vain.

So what is to be made of Ignatieff’s response today? Well, for starters, he looks better backing down than Stéphane Dion ever did. I think the lesson to be learned is that you always need to cling to some kind of moral victory. Of all the Dion cave-ins, he got the most praise for what may have been his worst strategic move – Afghanistan – because he got to talk about “putting politics aside for the greater good”, “compromise”, and all that jazz. In the same vein, Ignatieff can take some credit for pushing Harper in this direction, and by “putting him on a leash” he does it from a position of strength rather than weakness.

That said, the whole concept of Ignatieff putting Harper on probation is kind of silly. I mean, in a minority government, the party in power is always on probation. Beyond the good sound byte, what this does is plant a few election triggers down the road. Just as the Gomery Report was a ticking time bomb on the Paul Martin government, a high publicity negative whateverwe’regoingtocallthis report is a pretty good springboard to an election campaign, if you’re planning to fight that campaign on the economy.

I would have liked to see Ignatieff push the envelope a bit further, in the hope of squeezing out another concession or two, but after two months of brinkmanship in Ottawa, this was probably the proper course of action. For the first time in a while, our politicians are acting like grown-ups.

Well, except for Jack Layton anyways. But we all know that Jack, despite his mustache-accentuated frown, is secretly giddy at the prospect of being the one voice of opposition to the Harper Conservatives. So, in the end, everyone probably walks away from this budget showdown somewhat pleased with how it unfolded.


  • Jack's mad because he passed up

    door #1- party financing legislation that would have killed the LPC

    instead, Jack tried to open door #2 fast track to heaven, a cabinet position with 'government party status'
    With Broadbent and Chretien at his side, 77 MPs rushing to sign on, how could he lose?

    but somebody slipped the deadbolt in place, locked it,
    leaving only one option
    door #3. neither, nothing, zip.

    Should have taken door number 1 jack.
    or get your revenge

    By Blogger wilson, at 7:14 p.m.  

  • Was not an exercise in democracy. Was an excercise in parliamentary procedure that exists in opposition to democratic principles for - usually - good reasons.

    By Blogger matt, at 7:16 p.m.  

  • What did someone (Paul Wells maybe?) say recently? Something about how those who audition for the role of opposition usually get it?

    Anyway, by, as you say, making himself the lone voice of opposition, Jack Layton ensured he'll forever be that voice in the wilderness.

    In contrast, Ignatieff and the Liberals looked responsible, measured and pragmatic today. All in all, theirs was a fine audition for the government role that Harper is in increasing danger of losing.

    By Blogger Tom, at 7:19 p.m.  

  • "So, in the end, everyone probably walks away from this budget showdown somewhat pleased with how it unfolded."

    Except women, the poor and unemployed Canadians who get the short end stick with this budget.

    How anyone can vote for a budget that still pushes forward the changes to pay equity processes is abhorrent.

    By Blogger Ian, at 7:22 p.m.  

  • There was nothing "horrifying" about it, Dan. Coalitions happen all the time in other countries. It is unusual here, but I take exception to that description of it.

    By Blogger Oxford County Liberals, at 7:26 p.m.  

  • "Except women, the poor and unemployed Canadians who get the short end stick with this budget."

    You forgot to add disabled, people from cultural communities and very short men to your list of budget victims.

    By Blogger Tarkwell Robotico, at 7:46 p.m.  

  • At the end of the day, Harper is still the PM and we hapless Liberals are still in opposition.
    Better yet, we are going to endorse a budget which throw the country back into mass deficit.
    What a great moment!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:48 p.m.  

  • I know breaking up the Tory-Liberal coalition horrified me. Its time for Liberals to stop being so partisan and to get back to propping up our Conservative partners!

    And Ignatieff was great, I especially liked the part about "swallowing hard", thats something our "lefty" Liberals better get used to....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:00 p.m.  

  • There are leaders and followers.

    The Liberals don't need a leadership contest, because they already have one.

    And his name is Harper. The Liberal leadership constant follow Harper. We are actually Conservatives and didn't know it.

    By Blogger tdwebste, at 8:06 p.m.  

  • the what do i know Jim has been asked by multiple iggy insiders to go away. i'm sure our turn is next.
    this budget is bs and now its got liberal sticky fingers all over it.
    thanks michael!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:11 p.m.  

  • There was no way that Iggy could be sure that the GG would give the coalition a shot. It is political theatre to say that Harper is on "probation." Even if Iggy wants to take him down three months from now, he does not have the power to do so alone. The BQ alone can prevent it and will if the Liberals are doing well in the Quebec polls. It therefore came down to this: which would be better for the Liberals, taking a chance with the polls today or giving Harper a chance to govern out of the recession. It is a tough call, but I still think the polls now would have been the best choice. If Harper is good enough for us now, after everything he just did, it will be a tough sell to say that they NEED to be defeated anytime within the next two or three years.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:33 p.m.  

  • I hope Harper's probation includes a curfew.

    By Blogger ChrisInKW, at 11:01 p.m.  

  • Don't Worry...My puts me on "probation" all the time! (and try as I may, I am still married!)

    Perhaps Mr.Iggy was a little worried that running the country would leave him with less time to write books?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:40 p.m.  

  • ''There was nothing "horrifying" about it, Dan. Coalitions happen all the time in other countries. It is unusual here, but I take exception to that description of it.

    By Scott Tribe, at 7:26 PM''

    So tell me Scott,
    would you take the same position if Jack and Gilles form a coalition and replace the Liberals as Official Opposition?

    Combined they have 86 seats to the Liberals 77.
    Would they even have to visit the GG? Maybe they just need the nod from PMSH??

    By Blogger wilson, at 11:46 p.m.  

  • All things considered, wilson, it seems like they're pretty much the official opposition anyway.

    After all, that generally requires opposing.

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 1:45 a.m.  

  • "Maybe they just need the nod from PMSH??"

    PMSH will be too busy making Obama and his commies happy!

    By Blogger JimTan, at 1:59 a.m.  

  • Obama is hardly a commie, but he is a bit of fresh air which is a hell of a lot more than Canadians are getting with this rancid, old, putrid Tory-Liberal coalition budget. Thanks for billions of dollars of debt and barely a penny for the environment you old gas bags!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:48 a.m.  

  • Maybe we should just leave it to individual MPs to vote on this budget.

    By Blogger Oemissions, at 4:43 a.m.  

  • So we have complaints on the "horrifying" and "democracy" characterizations of the coalition.

    How about "an experiment in parliamentary procedures and rules which was slightly unconventional by Canadian standards"? Does that work for people?

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:28 a.m.  

  • This "probation" and "leash" crap is "way over the top".

    With only 77 Liberal MPs vs 143 Conservative MPs vs. 86 NDP/Bloc MPs, I don't get how Ignatieff and other Liberal spinners can claim they have the Conservatives on probation or on a leash.

    Maybe if they say it frequent enough, they will start to believe it themselves. That will not change the fact that anyone with half a brain is laughing at them.

    The only way that the NDP or the Bloc are going to vote with Ignatieff in a vote of confidence against the Conservatives now is if it is in their best interests.

    Otherwords, when Ignatieff wants an election, the NDP and the Bloc will probably not.

    Even if Harper introduces legislature the NDP or the Bloc do not agree with, all they have to do is abstain and say: "Canadians need an election like a hole in a head".

    Harper again will continue to determine when the house sits (my bet is that there is no fall sitting) and Harper will continue to dictate when an election is called (even though he put in place specific election dates).

    By Blogger MississaugaPeter, at 11:57 a.m.  

  • "Obama is hardly a commie"

    Hmmmm! I'm an Obama (the centralist) supporter. I'm poking the right-wingers like Wilson.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 2:39 p.m.  

  • "This "probation" and "leash" crap is "way over the top"."

    Yes and no. Substantively, Ignatieff had little ability to force Harper to do anything on his own. Had Iggy taken power the gov-gen might have called an election, and it is doubtful Iggy would have lasted long. The real "leash" Iggy had was public opinion - people want parliament to work, so Harper has to make it look like it is working.

    Iggy's approach is effectively the same as Dion's with the exception of tone. Ignatieff took a page from the American congress (when the house is divided) - if you can't vote 'em down, take credit for their accomplishments. Will it fly in Canada? Hard to say - I am not sure Layton got much credit out of the 2005 budget (which is precisely why he wanted a formal coalition this time).

    The risk? Ignatieff gets more credit than say Dion did for caving to the Tories, but also has less ability to criticize the budget. His request for updates summarizes, I think, his strategy - he will attack the Conservatives for bungling their common plan, rather than attacking the substance of the plan. Ignatieff wants to restore a 2 party system - which means politics becomes less about policy (which they have been since 1988) and more about process (ie. which team is more competent).

    The economy will do badly in 2009, stimulus or no stimulus - Iggy's framing of that is not "the Tories hate poor people and want you to die", but rather "the Tories can't manage the economy, didn't get the infrastructure money out fast enough. It is time for new leadership."

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 5:39 p.m.  

  • His "short lease" comment brought out a chuckle in me as well but what really made me laugh today was Question Period where he ever so seriously asked, where was our Embassy staff while Obama was putting protectionist clauses in the bail out package! Funny that...ciao

    By Blogger Rositta, at 7:21 p.m.  

  • Well, for starters, he looks better backing down than Stéphane Dion ever did. I think the lesson to be learned is that you always need to cling to some kind of moral victory.

    That must be a huge relief for Liberals. Finally a leader that can look good backing down!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:12 p.m.  

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