Thursday, June 18, 2009

Travers: Sputtering gasps of life won't revive Parliament.

Huh! Parliament is supposed to go into hibernation in the summer anyway! With the Harper Ignatieff deal no election call will disturb the summer rest period.
The Ignatieff ploy of requiring the Conservatives to give a periodic report is not necessarily a bad tactic but only if he is ready to commit to an election. Apparently he is not at present so he looks as if he is playing Dion II supporting the Conservatives. This time around he tries to disguise this by rhetoric about making parliament work and having a joint group to study the EI issue. In effect this means that those out of work will get nothing until the fall at the earliest. As Travers points out, then there will probably be an election. If there had been an election now the matter would have been sorted out before then probably.
The result will be different when the report comes up in September if Ignatieff and the other two opposition parties want an election. The problem is that if the Liberals are doing very well the other two parties may not play along and if they are not then Ignatieff will have to pull off Dion III.

Sputtering gasps of life won't revive Parliament - Canada - Sputtering gasps of life won't revive Parliament
June 18, 2009 James Travers
OTTAWA—Don't be deceived; instant election relief is not a cure. This still infant 40th Parliament, the one awkwardly born just last October, is dead. It's just not ready to lie down.
In the way of headless chickens, it will stagger around until the end of September, the newest deadline for toppling Conservatives, or perhaps make it as far as a late winter federal budget. But this week's spasm is only another symptom of the fatal disease that struck before Christmas. Hyper-partisanship and a fascination with the jugular remain the capital's common characteristics.
Little remains from the PM's post-election promise of collegial cooperation. Ottawa's repeating pattern begins with political abuse of an economic statement and ends, as it did again this week, in a needless crisis.
Last November, Conservatives destroyed trust by soft-pedalling the tough times ahead in a fiscal update that went hard at Conservative rivals by arbitrarily announcing pivotal changes to party funding. Predictably, an existential threat brought an existential response. Liberals and the NDP, with Bloc support, tried to form a coalition that had far more constitutional than public legitimacy.
Last week, Stephen Harper made his second, glowingly positive stimulus spending report, not to Parliament but to a captive audience reeking campaign hoopla. Michael Ignatieff, having foolishly locked his party into periodically deciding to pass or fail a government "on probation," responded by pushing the country to the precipice of a summer election Liberals are far from ready to fight.
Repeating the same behaviour while expecting a different result is one definition of insanity. Another is presenting a frighteningly narrow escape as a brilliant exit strategy. Harper and Ignatieff blended the two yesterday by jointly boasting that cleaning up their own mess is housekeeping that would make Molly Maid proud.
A makeshift committee of MPs isn't needed to make obvious and urgent short-term adjustments to an employment insurance system that's regionally skewed and failing to cope with this recession's staggering job losses. It is needed to save face and avoid a summer election the two party leaders now agree isn't fully in either's interest.
Conservatives are struggling against economic tides and opinion polls. Liberals have yet to make a compelling case for forcing Canadians to vote for the fourth time in five years, or that a once-dominant party has a reason to return to power – other than power itself.
Even so, a fragile flower is sprouting in the rubble. Getting the two largest parties in a minority Parliament to at least discuss issues vital to Canadians is a stutter step forward. It grudgingly recognizes that in the absence of majority governments, a near certainty in the foreseeable future, a fresh model is required.
It's cold comfort for those who must wait at least three months for fair and more generous EI rules, but getting Harper to reconsider a national standard is what Ignatieff salvages from a testing week. Liberals will now tour the barbecue circuit talking EI reform and making the most of a minor success in holding Conservatives to account.
Harper's prize has a different glitter. A prime minister infamous for rigidity seized an unexpected opportunity to show flexibility without surrendering much of value.
Separating winners from losers matters inside this capital's bubble. It won't matter a bit across a country that can now wallow in summer without worrying until fall about the next crisis or Parliament's premature death.
James Travers' column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

No comments: