The NDP says Stephen Harper's Conservatives now basically have a majority government - and it's all thanks to the weak Liberal opposition.
Leader Jack Layton says that by agreeing to roll over on the Tory throne speech vote, the Liberals have helped the prime minister govern without fear of being defeated in the Commons.
"What effectively has happened is the gift of a majority government has been given by that party (the Liberals) to Mr. Harper."
"It's going to be very symbolic to watch our members rise in the House - willing to put their jobs, their principles, their commitments on the line - and then to watch the official opposition sit it out."
Not normally a fan of Layton's persistent attacks on the Liberals, this particular point might have merit. I guess it depends on how things proceed, but the logic for avoiding an election doesn't evaporate anytime soon, which means that the Harper government won't be defeated. If bringing down the government was Liberal "suicide" last week, that thought process will remain for the foreseeable future, which gives Layton's charge context.
It would appear that the number one issue for the Liberals in this session is too find ways to avoid a direct confrontation, manoeuvre to sidestep a confidence question. We can all live in denial land, but this posture has consequence, both for the relevance of the party and the prospects for the leader.
How do you create the "winning conditions" within this environment? Simple, you don't, not even close, you merely survive. With that reality in mind, you then are forced to entertain the idea of a long Harper reign, possibly a dodge and weave until 2009. It is this scenario where Layton's comment find solid ground. The main forum for the Liberals is effective opposition in the House of Commons. This opportunity is eliminated, with Layton and Duceppe attacking, Harper poking at a toothless tiger and Liberals pre-occupied with avoidance. Someone please explain to me how this improves the situation for Dion?
In the coming weeks, there will be tests and how the Liberals react will frame the debate one way or the other. I would suggest the emerging theme in the last days tells us all we need to know, either we act like the opposition, or someone else will do it for us and our arguments will largely surround the question of relevance.