Monday, June 15, 2009

Ignatieff press conference

Updated (8:00 p.m.) below...

Earlier post:

Well so much for "reliable sources," Le Devoir! Good thing there was a heavy deployment of the "if" in the previous post.

So, having heard the press conference, we know there are four areas of concern that have been made conditions of confidence support:
The Liberal leader is demanding more information on proposed EI changes, stimulus spending, the country's finances, and the medical isotope shortage, to avoid a summer election.
Ignatieff said Harper must agree to provide the information before the House of Commons rises - even if it means extending the session beyond this week.
"Canadians don't want an election, I don't want an election," Ignatieff said Monday in his response to the minority Conservative government's economic progress report.
"But our job means standing up for our principles, standing up when the government lets Canadians down."
Ignatieff said he's willing to compromise to make Parliament work and it's up to Harper to co-operate and provide transparent government.
Now the question will be how genuine Mr. Harper is in coming to the table to answer questions that are, respectively, quite serious. Of the issues set out, EI and the isotope issue are clearly the pressing ones, the other two more akin to "management" of larger issues that are in motion and for which answers may be "created" more readily.

Ignatieff conveyed a few times during the back and forth question period with reporters just how blocked the personal dynamics in this parliament have become and I wish he'd done it slightly more forcibly. It is, however, understandable that he didn't, given the reasonable tone he wanted to convey today. This is a minority parliament, yes, but as Ignatieff pointed out, no constructive engagement occurs among the parties. This is a result of the tone set by the Prime Minister and his confrontational wedge-driven politics (see the law and order agenda being rolled out, bit by bit, in contrast to the more serious issues raised today). As we heard on the Raitt tapes, even his own ministers speak to that dynamic. The Prime Minister and leader of the opposition haven't met since January, not surprising for us to learn, but still, that's a good reminder to Canadians of the dysfunctional government they've elected with Mr. Harper's party in charge. The point being, it's not remarkable that the leader of the opposition asks such questions and demands answers. That it has to be done on the eve of a confidence vote, so be it as a result of Mr. Harper's parliamentary style.

So now we'll get to see whether there's an adult response or whether we're in for some brinksmanship and the net gets cast wider on the EI issue, for example. The tone set today was positive and we'll see if that's reciprocated.

Given Mr. Harper's poor polling of late and the massive advertising campaign that has been launched by the Conservative government in support of this latest economic report (print ad onslaught, government web site update, television commercials on tax breaks, sham-wow road show last week, wonder how much all of that is costing us?)...it's probably fair to say Mr. Harper doesn't want that election either and will move heaven and earth now to prevent it.

Update: Leading in to Ignatieff's statement, John Baird decries games and speaks of Conservatives putting politics aside while comically injecting the word "coalition" into his remarks wherever humanly possible. And, uh, those negative ads, Mr. Baird?

Update II: Speculation and positioning continues, no way to know how this is going to play out. But the PMO has taken Ignatieff up on his request for a meeting on Tuesday, CP report here has details. If the Conservatives had intended to just let Ignatieff twist, as anonymous Conservatives were suggesting to Paul Wells via email, that's probably not on. So, take it as an initial sign of cooperation (caving?) from the PMO.

Other signs: "Nobody wants an election." For what that's worth, the tyranny of the polls continues to box Canada in as a conveniently timed poll is released.