Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Ignatieff strategy

In a nutshell, letting the Conservatives self-immolate seems to be the strategy the Liberals have adopted today toward the Harper government. The problems in the budget are clear - yet there are good things too. So what does a political party do that has the ultimate goal of replacing the Harper government? Let the Conservatives defend the choices they have made. Let them defend their EI choices over the coming months. Let them demonstrate the infrastructure moneys are flowing. And so on, and so on, and so on.

At the risk of being pilloried, and I'm not sure how coherent this will come across, here we go...

In staking out this position, the Liberals are reasserting, for lack of a better word, their stature in the House of Commons. This has been missing in the past few years, it pains me to say as a supporter of Stephane Dion. They have been batted around like a cat's toy by their political opponents on all sides. In this move, that changes. There is a return to a more proper functioning of the House of Commons. Accountability and engagement is the goal. A return to parliamentary supremacy. That, I like. The requirement of updates in this amendment to the budget adds a very visible mechanism to the mix. And it appears, from comments made in the House of Commons this afternoon by excellent Conservative from Burlington, Mike Wallace, that the Conservatives will acquiesce. This will be a recognition, as Scott Tribe put it, that the Conservatives cannot be trusted on their own to move forward: "If the Conservatives vote for it, they’ll be admitting they can’t be trusted to follow through on their Budget promises." The Harper Conservatives will likely go along in order to save their government's fate but it likely won't be playing out as they like, down the road.

The goal is to replace this government, legitimately and for the long-term. Politics is not always what you idealistically want it to be. We have the luxury in the blogosphere of our pure idealism. We're clearly feeling that today. Do I want to see the back of Stephen Harper exiting the front seats of government? Absolutely, I rail against his government on a daily basis. But the Liberal approach is, in my view, going to achieve the departure of Stephen Harper, it'll just take a little longer and it won't be through an immediate exercise of the coalition option. At least, it so appears that way at the moment.

For anyone criticizing the Liberals for playing politics at the expense of greater principles, well, this is politics isn't it? And besides, there's plenty of that to go around. Is there any political self-interest in the NDP wanting a coalition immediately? Of course there is. There are two sides of that coin.

And with respect to coalitions, we should not rule them out for Canada in the near or long-term future. We should remain open to that possibility and not crucify each other politically for our actions. Because coalitions may become part of our governance on a regular basis in the future if the country continues to be as fractured as it presently is. The presence of the Bloc, which does not seem to be going away, dictates that.

The Liberal amendment will continue to pit Ignatieff against Harper. There will be an ongoing confrontation here. The match-up is a good one and from early indications, it really doesn't favour Mr. Harper.

P.S. What else did I learn today...oh yes, always remain vigilant about what you read in the newspapers.