Sunday, February 01, 2009

Sunday notes

A few items to mull over today...

1. This Douglas Bell item from Friday is worth another look:
The Liberals' attitude towards a coalition government was (like a lot of failed relationships) a good deal more amicable in the moment than hindsight might suggest. And in the end, the recrimination comes down to who dumped who. Ig's misgivings may have had more to do with whether the GG was willing to sanction the love match than anything between the newly canoodling love bunnies.

In the “cesspool that constitutes the practice of Canadian constitutional law,” the consensus seems to be that, had the coalition defeated the budget, her excellency would have granted Steve-o's request to dissolve Parliament and move to a vote. This in turn would have hung Ig with both the election (remember that hole in the head?) and the delay in stimulus. “And don't forget we're twice shy," our Liberal added. "The advice we had the first time around (from that same cesspool) was that there was no way she'd grant prorogation.”(emphasis added)
That would explain a lot. Uncertainty in the constitutional position seems to have been a big factor in this week's events, assuming that this is not just spin being peddled. This, in spite of the opinion of the experts that had been circulated in the lead up to the budget. The fact that the Governor General, as a wild card, can figure so prominently in our political deliberations is something that may continue to vex us in this minority parliament era. See next item.

2. Brian Topp provided this useful little reminder of the electoral lockbox we find ourselves in these days:
Let's look at the current political reality. The Conservatives likely have an irreducible 80 seats or so, centred in Western Canada. The Bloc seems to have a lock on 40 to 50 seats. The NDP is doing well at holding its incumbents under this Leader and is now in the 30-40 seat range. That's some 160 seats in a future 340-seat house. Leaving 180 ridings for the Liberal party to compete for seats in with varying prospects, with 170 needed for a majority. It's hard to see how anyone gets a majority as long as this is the frame. So I suspect the coalition concept has a future.
Picking that lock is the key. Retreating to hard line positions, seems to me, is not helpful.

3. Read this piece in the New Yorker yesterday, "Ms. Kennedy Regrets: She's unable to be in the Senate today." This is one of those great New Yorker pieces where they really don't do anything but meticulously tell you the truth, by itemizing recent events and consulting with many acquaintances of Caroline Kennedy to tell the story of what went on in the past few weeks. There's nothing that overtly grabs you as the penultimate reason for her withdrawal, there's no revelation. It's the character sketch that tells it all and it's a bit sad.

4. The Ignatieff "profile," if you want to call it that, in the New York Times yesterday was disappointing. What did we learn? Well, beside the fact that few political leaders in Canada will warrant such real estate in the New York Times. The Rae quote is a good one, as it usually will be in any given context, as is the contribution of famed New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier. It's quite the image he offers up. The public intellectual "accusation," which may be a line of attack sprouting from such images, is actually quite an asset. We've had a strong tradition in this country of valuing such leaders and when you combine it with someone of Ignatieff's obvious political skill, about which there were doubts until the past two months, it may be devastating to his opponents. Universities are some of the most viciously political institutions going. Surviving and thriving in them can provide excellent political training. Look around at what populates the Canadian political scene and there's plenty of evidence of that.

5. Super Bowl? What Super Bowl?

Update (5:25 p.m.): A Dave sighting!

Update II (6:15 p.m.): Why I read Willy Loman.