A Year to forget for Liberals

Actually Ignatieff's challenge to Harper was not entirely reckless. Ignatieff was in danger of falling into the same trap as DIon who constantly propped up the Harper government. This time Ignatieff was rescued by the NDP so he was fortunate that he did not actually have to pull the plug and probably lose the election. Surely to characterise Ignatieff's action as opportunist is rather strange since the polls were not that favorable to the Liberals and quickly turned back down. What was the opportunity that Ignatieff was taking advantage of?
The so-called age of aquiescence has to do only with poll numbers. If the poll numbers change back in favor of the Liberals the age will be history!


Monday, December 14, 2009

Presented by

A year to forget for the Liberals
Don Martin, National Post

Chris Wattie, Reuters
It didn't quite work out the way he intended, but a reckless one-sentence ultimatum from Michael Ignatieff defined the person, the party and ultimately his popularity for the entire fall session of Parliament.

"After four years of drift, four years of denial, four years of division and discord-- Mr. Harper, your time is up," the Liberal leader harrumphed on Sept. 1. After four months of discussion, rarely has a political statement proven to be so laughingly wrong.

By making the declaration without the approval of his MPs, he was shown to be a self-absorbed leader. By sending the country careening toward its second election in less than a year, Mr. Ignatieff defined himself as a shameless opportunist.

By not advancing a compelling reason to justify a snap vote, Mr. Ignatieff portrayed himself as an empty alternative.

The public response was not surprising. Since he had disappeared for the entire summer, their first impression of Mr. Ignatieff was entirely negative. His polling numbers went into a free fall from an approximate tie with the Conservatives to a basement below the approval level for hapless former leader Stephane Dion.

That's when the wheels really started falling off.

After taking it on the chin with a blitzkrieg of attack ads paid for by the Conservatives, Mr. Ignatieff limply responded with his own commercials, portraying himself as a policy wonk in casual clothes against a forest backdrop that turned out to be located in Metro Toronto.

Stung by the media-christened nickname of Iffy, he played leadership hardball in arbitrating a Quebec riding nomination decision, only to lose Quebec lieutenant Denis Coderre in a reactionary huff, who went down while declaring his leader brainwashed by too many Torontonians.

After denying any such thing, Mr. Ignatieff cleaned out all the loyalists who brought him back from his nomadic globe-trotting and they all returned to, um, Toronto.

Amplifying the damage caused by those developments, Mr. Ignatieff endured a scathing Facebook-posted analysis of his party's fickle behaviour by Mr. Dion's spouse. There was talk of defections, the mutter of mutiny and a series of discouraging by-election results to shrug off.

At any point Mr. Ignatieff could have been forgiven for writing off the Liberal leadership as a failed academic exercise and returning to the ivory tower. He has wisely decided to surrender instead.

The undeniable ascendency of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is more than just a matter of enhanced personal popularity played out to the tinkle of piano keys while singing a Beatles classic.

This is the dawning of the age of acquiescence, a de facto majority rule by a minority government that wants an election but can't persuade all three opposition parties to accomplish the mission. So they will govern by whim and iron will until they are taken down.

Peter Donolo, Mr. Ignatieff's new chief of staff, has decreed that the Official Opposition will no longer serve as an election-threatening Conservative antagonist. Unless the polling numbers rebound, it seems likely the Liberals won't even vote down Stephen Harper in next spring's budget.

But Mr. Harper's majority-flirting popularity level is even more surprising because the government has been whacked by a series of issues effectively raised by the Liberal bench.

The Official Opposition's research showed irregularities in the government's stimulus spending habits.

There were many signs -- and not just the ones hoisted on signposts by the federal government -- that the handouts were selectively targeted at Conservative ridings. That sense of tax-dollar entitlement was best illustrated by oversized publicity cheques for infrastructure projects sporting Conservative logos or MP signatures that are now under an ethics probe. Even so, the public yawned it off the radar screen.

The government's readiness for the H1N1 pandemic had the potential to fill a Conservative body bag or two in the next election. The Liberals furiously denounced the late order for vaccines from a single source and warned hospitals were overflowing as the rollout ran into production slowdowns.

But the pandemic appears to have fizzled, hospitals have not filled with life-threatened flu victims, the vaccination clinics are starting to close due to lack of interest. There hasn't been a lead question on swine flu in the Commons for weeks now.

Now comes the detainee abuse kerfuffle. This is not an attack on soldier behaviour, as the Conservatives allege. It's about the government's secretive, obstructionist conduct with key ministers using the soldiers as cover from Opposition fire.

But the government tactic seems to be working and the issue will languish now that the Christmas recess has sent MPs scurrying back to reality for six more weeks.

Like everything else this year, every break has gone the Conservatives' way. Even Liberals admit they have recorded their second annus horribilis in a row this year. Their only comfort is that 2010 can't possibly get much worse.

© 2009 The National Post Company. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited.

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