Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ignatieff too smart to topple Harper

This author obviously has it in for the coalition. It matters little whether a poll shows the coalition is not all that popular. No doubt Harper proroguing the parliament may not be popular either but he was able to do it. If non-confidence is voted in the budget the coalition might very well take power as well unpopular or not. It would be up to the coalition to gain popularity or face defeat ultimately.
Ignatieff as the article notes really never warmed to the coalition. Ignatieff is too reactionary to team up with the NDP. He would rather bide his time and hope to win an election on his own. He will be quite content to sell out to the Conservatives or as the article suggests form a de facto Liberal Conservative coalition. However, it is not clear how much crap Harper will try to make Ignatieff ingest. Unless Harper is a bit less ideological and baiting Ignatieff might be forced to use the coalition card even though he would prefer not to. We are likely to see the same sort of situation as with Dion, the Liberals in effect sitting on their hands. However, this time Ignatieff may be able to claim that he has been able alter legislation in ways that the Liberals wanted. Of course we will have the constant claim that Candians do not want an election and want bipartisanship at least until Liberal fortunes are better at the polls.

Thursday » December 18 » 2008

Ignatieff is too smart to topple Harper

Lorne Gunter
The Edmonton Journal
Thursday, December 18, 2008
CREDIT: Reuters
Michael Ignatieff
There's a reason new Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has been dubious about the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition from the start -- it's a loser idea, and I sense Ignatieff is less of a loser, politically speaking, than St├ęphane Dion.
Poll after poll taken in the past three weeks has shown the public solidly opposed to the coalition. One recent survey by Ipsos Reid showed 65 per cent of Canadians preferred co-operation between the governing Tories under Stephen Harper and Ignatieff's Liberals to the proposed Liberal-NDP coalition (held in power by a veto-wielding Bloc), which received just 27-per-cent support.
You may recall that Ignatieff was initially skeptical about forming a coalition dependent on the Bloc. He chose to ignore his own qualms and sign onto the coalition agreement. But once he had penned his name to the document, he disappeared for four days, rather than own up to his support in the House of Commons or before reporters.
Ignatieff had the power to snuff out the coalition before it was formed. He controlled at least two-thirds of the Liberals' parliamentary caucus of MPs and Senators. Had he said no at the now infamous dinner at his townhouse in downtown Toronto the Sunday evening before Dion, NDP leader Jack Layton and Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe signed their coalition agreement in front of reporters in Ottawa, the deal would have been stillborn.
The fact Ignatieff did not stop the deal in advance will haunt him from now through the next election. Whenever necessary or merely convenient, the Tories will readily remind voters that Ignatieff was willing, at least initially, to buy into the deal with the separatists to overturn the results of the recent election. That he quickly developed what might be called "signer's remorse" is immaterial for Tory propaganda purposes compared with the presence of his signature on the coalition agreement also signed by the separatists.
Still, I don't sense the new Liberal leader has any real enthusiasm for attempting to implement the coalition in late January.
Sure, Ignatieff is still making threatening noises. He has to.
First, he won his party's leadership without a fight because of eagerness among senior Liberals to retake the national power they believe rightly belongs to them regardless of the votes (or lack thereof) they receive in elections.
Senior Liberals tossed Dion overboard and pressured Ignatieff's leadership rival Bob Rae to withdraw so they could install the Harvard academic quickly and keep alive their dream of a short-cut back to power. Ignatieff has the leadership now, rather than having to wait until May, because many in his party believe their chances of achieving the coalition they so lust after were improved by his immediate elevation.
Of course he has to pretend, then, to be still in favour of unseating the Tories in a few weeks.
Second, the minute Ignatieff admits he no longer supports the coalition, he gives up his biggest bargaining chip with the Tories. So long as he can convince the government there is even a remote chance he will attempt to topple them, he can extract concessions in the upcoming budget.
But unlike Dion, who needed the coalition if he were to have any shot at becoming prime minister, Ignatieff likely senses his best chance of becoming PM and staying PM for more than a few months comes from his winning an election outright at the head of the Liberal party; no coalitions, no backroom deals with separatists, no appeals to the Governor General.
He can probably also see the mess his party is in organizationally, financially and policy-wise, and he realizes that while stealing power back from the Tories might provide a short-term rush of excitement and power, it is not the longer-term fix the Liberals need to win and retain power on their own.
Indeed, if the coalition were to succeed in wresting power from Harper and the Tories, and then descend into bickering and chaos -- a real possibility -- its partners would be harshly punished by voters already skeptical of this power-sharing arrangement.
Ignatieff also must sense he doesn't need to make deals with other parties the way Dion did. Ignatieff is going to be instantly more popular and effective in English Canada than his predecessor. If nothing else, his ascension makes winning Ontario an even more difficult task for the Tories than it was before.
So expect to see the new Liberal boss huff and puff about voting no confidence in the Tories, but also watch for him to find climb-downs from this threat.
Look for him to find things he likes in the Tories' proposed auto industry bailout. And watch for him to propose items to include in the budget.
What voters seem to want is a de facto Tory-Liberal coalition, something a chastened Stephen Harper and clever Michael Ignatieff, I bet, will give them.
Lorne Gunter is a columnist with the Edmonton Journal.
© Canwest News Service 2008

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