Wednesday, June 17, 2009


So, big day or not so big day in the Canadian political world?

There's the EI working group that's been established which will work through the summer on the two stated goals, allowing self-employed Canadians to participate in the system and more importantly, working on standardizing eligibility requirements on a national basis. While the EI changes will not be immediate, neither would they be if we went off to a summer election. So, work will be done throughout the summer to change to EI on an aspect which the Prime Minister to date has said a firm no to, regional fairness.

Mr. Harper's not in the habit of playing nicely with anyone, so the EI measure is an achievement. It's something that should not need to be pushed under the guise of an election threat, however. Ideally, given that this is a minority government, all parties should work in the national interest on issues but it hasn't happened. It's the politics of minority governing at play but the Conservatives have never gotten that if they actually did govern in a manner that fostered cooperation, giving and taking, winning on some issues, losing on others, they'd be successful and would have had a majority by now. Too late for that. While it is understandable the invective that's always launched at the Liberals when we have a day like this, let's not forget who sets the tone in Ottawa, who has the most seats and who is ultimately responsible for the working of the government we've got. The Canadian people gave the Conservatives 143 seats in October, too.

The commitment to a definite opposition day in the fall shouldn't be discounted either. Cold comfort to those wanting an election immediately. But there have been the circulating rumours of Mr. Harper's departure and the musings about wanting to have a post-Olympic glow election campaign with Mr. Harper all wrapped up in the Canadian flag. The parliamentary schedule in the fall now prohibits any Conservative manipulation of that opportunity. It requires Mr. Harper to sit in his place. Bet he's not too happy about that.

More speculation to end with here...beyond today's events, there's a dynamic developing in the Canadian electorate that's going to remain untouched by all the commentary. People want a change from Stephen Harper. The Liberals have steadily improved in the polls with Michael Ignatieff. Possibly just as simple as that. Aaron Wherry's getting a sense of it. As he articulates, there's been a heck of a lot that's happened since Ignatieff's taken on the Liberal leadership, and I think implicitly he's suggesting it should really be harming Ignatieff and the Liberals, but mysteriously, it's not. The dynamic is marching steadily along with Conservative declining fortunes, improving Liberals ones. The Dionization of Ignatieff isn't happening and I don't suspect it will happen as a result of this week's events either. The same playbook doesn't always work, not surprisingly. The demands for a Liberal alternative governing plan (what do they stand for!) aren't being met right away yet it's not mattering in the polls. Not that it can't be intelligently derived from day to day interaction in any event.

The conclusion from this corner...there's a strong current at play that's unlikely to be disturbed by the deal today. And since it's moving in one direction, that's a good thing.