The Liberals are positioning themselves as the reluctant combatant, and I think it shrewd moving forward. Acknowledging that the party isn’t really ready for a fight, the timing anything but perfect isn’t an admission of weakness. In fact, by articulating that position, it effectively insulates the Liberals from any cynical criticism, should they decide to vote against the government and force an election.
If you eliminate opportunism, and Canadians buy into the idea that you would have preferred to wait, then the decision to support a non-confidence appears to be a principled stance. Dion doesn’t want to go to the polls, but there is just no way his conscience will allow him to prop up the government. That theme will get traction, because all the media is well aware that the “Liberals not ready” angle isn’t pure creation, it is actually an objective truth.
Everyone remembers the frenzy of the potential election call in the spring. The Conservatives went to great pains to try and pin any move towards an election on the Liberals. Every quote from a Liberal that mentioned an election was used by Conservative stooges as proof that the Liberals were itching to bring down the government. This was done, because it is common knowledge that you don’t want to look opportunistic, particularly when the public doesn’t want another election. Given the recent conflicting signals from the Liberals, I think the Conservatives would have a very hard time painting the Liberals as political calculator now. The Liberals have the principle-counter, Dion as integrity first, with no regard for the polls or the coffers. If we do have an election, the Liberals should be able to sell the idea that they were dragged into an election, as opposed to actively orchestrating.