Monday, February 25, 2008

What Do The Liberals Want?

It's actually kind of pathetic when you think about it. We know where the NDP stands, we know where the Bloc stands, both have laid down lines in the sand as far as the budget is concerned. A minority government needs the support of another party to pass its budget, this fact guarantees that said party can demand certain concessions for their support. Within this reality, isn't just astounding that all we have heard from the Liberals on the budget is this "if it isn't too bad, we might support it" line.

Is the party in such disarray, that it has forgotten its role as official opposition, that it enjoys leverage? Why haven't the Liberals demanded that the budget confront certain issues, to secure their support? It seems to me, that if you there is a chance of voting against the budget, forcing an election, you would want some clear demands to demonstrate your reasonings. If you are trying to avoid an election, shouldn't you be working for some "consensus" on the budget, engaging the government to curry your favor?

I find it amazing that the Liberals enter the Parliament tomorrow with no specifics in mind, just a calibration of how hard they are prepared to swallow. If the budget is "not too bad", doesn't damage Canada too much, then the Liberals will possibly support. What nonsense. There is really only one question, is the budget good for Canada or not? And, if you can't make that stark determination, then the next question, does the budget move towards some of our positions? What exactly are the Liberal positions, why hasn't the leadership released a set of pre-conditions for support? Why are the Liberals so passive that they essentially allow Harper to act within a quasi-majority frame, the only caveat, just don't be too outlandish, mitigate the harm.

What do the Liberals want from this budget? I haven't a clue.

28 comments:

Mushroom said...

"If you are trying to avoid an election, shouldn't you be working for some "consensus" on the budget, engaging the government to curry your favor?"

The consensus is that the economy will hit hard times and it hurts all governments in power. Better to be in Opposition during a downturn then an upturn.

Repeat this mantra two or three times. It takes primacy over lower corporate taxes and 30/50 poverty goals. Both are good ideas. Can't have the Cons keep cutting taxes without our approval so we must stay silent on this issue.

Raphael Alexander said...

I admire your principled stand, Steve. Just as you won't support a party who dithers in opposition, I am not going to support an empty budget for Canadians. If only our democracy allowed MPs to vote according to their constituent needs instead of the party wants.

Steve V said...

mushroom

I'm curious about this waiting in the weeds, wait for the economy to tank, tactic. Even if the economy slows, nobody is predicting a hard landing, nor is any downturn expected to last. After we get through this flurry of non-confidence motions, I see nothing on the horizon to force an election, and I doubt the government will force one if the economy sours. The government legislation is pretty thin right now, it might be months before there is something juicy to force an election. We could very well be in the status quo until next year, and by that time, the economic forecasts seem to improve. Waiting on the theoretical, calculations based on the unknown, doesn't seem particularly wise to me. Are we going to allow this budget to pass, only to be here again next year, and if so, then let's do something in the meantime.

Steve V said...

"If only our democracy allowed MPs to vote according to their constituent needs instead of the party wants."

Raphael, wasn't that idea championed by Harper and his old reformers? If anything, MP's have less latitude with this government, a real central control. Seems nobody wants to change things, once they take the reigns themselves.

Raphael Alexander said...

Well, party dissent isn't handled very well by any leader. But the Conservatives certainly are the most controlling in this area.

Mushroom said...

I was out with Martha Hall Findlay's campaign this past weekend and she seems to be supporting the wait and see approach. She will also be at caucus on Wednesday.

I have not told MHF my stance which you know by now. While Martha is a fresh face for the party, she admitted one thing. The initial attack ads on Stephane Dion worked but Martha is confident he can fight back. She admits the party's finances make it difficult to respond to a barrage of CPC attack ads. I see from Martha that she believes that Canadians will one day be tired of attack ads and negative campaigning, which will help Dion eventually.

Of course, you are thinking differently. It seems that you have been critical of Dion and see very little change in perspective in the near future. For me, I will readily admit a series of mistakes have been made. I will not say that they are damaging, but these errors need to be corrected if the Grits become seek to achieve their ultimate goal. That is to be the restoration as the natural ruling party of Canada.

Mushroom said...

"Raphael, wasn't that idea championed by Harper and his old reformers?"

I would absolve Harper from this. When he left for the National Citizens Coalition in 1997, he had already thought Manning was a bit loopy. Harper is more ideological, wanting to create a right wing imperative to challenge the Grits. To do this, he needs control freakism. Can't tolerate the likes of Myron Thompson and Randy White from mouthing off.

Steve V said...

mushroom

I see no improvement for Dion, if Liberals hide from an election. The only chance moving forward, the permancy of the Liberal brand, which allows for some optimism. I hate to be fatalistic here, but in my view, Dion never gets traction, nothing will change for him personally.

Steve V said...

mushroom

Harper was pushing for more free votes in parliament up until he took office.

Mushroom said...

"nothing will change for him personally."

I think that his new pair of glasses will help somewhat.

MarkCh said...

"What do the Liberals want from this budget" - It's simple: they want to return to power. That's all there is to it. Whether they pass the budget or vote against it has nothing at all to do with whether it is good for Canada, and only whether they expect to win or lose a subsequent election.

MarkCh said...

I think that if the Liberal strategy is "wait, and hope for a recession", they wouldn't want too many Canadians to hear about it. Some people might not take it kindly.

Raphael Alexander said...

By the way, I don't know if you've mentioned this yet but a Nanos Leadership poll is out. I have the link on my blog. You can skip my partisan analysis :)

Raphael Alexander said...

I think that if the Liberal strategy is "wait, and hope for a recession", they wouldn't want too many Canadians to hear about it. Some people might not take it kindly.

Mark, it's interesting because I wrote pretty much the same speculation on my blog today. Actually I think both parties are putting politics ahead of people here. It's the PARTY before the PEOPLE. And don't you little people forget it. Now vote for me. lol..

Steve V said...

I seem to remember Harper abstaining, when it didn't suit his purposes, so Cons should be cautious here.

Jim said...

It is my belief that one of the reasons the Cons abstained on the Martin budget was so that the Martin government would not be brought down before the results of the Gomery inquiry were made public...better to have the guilty party in office and under the spotlight rather than buried in the hub bub of an election.

I think the main reason that the Libs have not made demands about the content of the budget is fear. What if they make demands and they don't get them? Then they will look twice as weak when they vote for the budget anyway.

As to that "permancy" of the Liberal brand, I assume you mean permanency. If so, I believe that it erodes a little more each day that Dion sways in the breeze.

Steve V said...

jim

Yes, thanks for the correction. It is true that if the Libs made demands, then they could set themselves up. I would argue, that the Liberals should have started putting out the idea of a negotiation a few weeks ago. In that way, it would have tested the Conservatives, the illusion of not wanting an election. Some general themes, a few broad ideas, force Harper to respond, remind everyone that this is a minority, compare the budget to Afghanistan. I mean, if we don't want an election, does that mean we don't want anything for the country too? What's the point then really...

Hockey Teeth said...

Jim is right. You’re assuming that the Tories want to keep governing which of course they will be happy to do but I imagine what they really want is an election. If that is the case then the Liberals have zero leverage with which to negotiate. The only thing a public demand for the budget would accomplish for the Liberals is to ensure the Conservatives don’t include it in the budget. Thus making it even harder for the Libs to abstain if that’s what they decide to do.

Steve V said...

hockey

I would believe that, except for the Con stance on the Afghanistan motion. Why put the vote after the budget, if you want to fall, why try so hard to get the Libs on board? If you follow the logic that the Cons wanted Afghanistan off the table for an election, then it doesn't make sense to put that vote after the budget, unless you think the budget will pass.

Anonymous said...

If every MP voted as their constituents wanted, one of two things would happen. Either the country would go bankrupt meeting their demands, or we would simply never pass a budget and have elections every 4 months.

We elect politicians to broker our interests. That conciliation has to happen in the to and fro of Parliament. And it is preferably done through diverse parties then through narrow interests

Susan said...

I think the Liberals are going to vote down the budget and they will give their reasons after so that Harper can't steal them and neutralize the Liberals as they did with Afghanistan. Expect an election.

Steve V said...

Hope you're right Susan.

Steve V said...

Thought this was interesting from today:

Yet another signal of Tory bullishness was delivered Monday in the Commons in question period, when a friendly Conservative questioner asked if the government would be amenable to opposition budget amendments.

"Unlike the Liberals in previous years who amended their budget after it had been tabled, we will not accept any amendments that the Liberals would like to propose that will drive us into a deficit," responded a gleeful Ted Menzies, Flaherty's parliamentary secretary.

Dion couldn't even muster any phoney outrage at this latest Tory provocation.
"I never thought that we would be able to amend his budget anyway," he responded outside the House.
"So we'll see the budget and we'll react when we will have seen it."

It seems to be part of a Liberal pattern of sidestepping Tory-laid election triggers.

liberazzi said...

Has this suddenly turned into a coalition gov't? Dion should be listening to Chretien's advise, who knows a thing or two about winning. Do MHF and Rae have tons of cash to basically blow on two elections in less than a year? Or are we basically going to give the Cons a defacto majority and let them rule for the full four years? Enough already. Like I said before, if this party is suddenly flush with cash to spend on all these by-elections, maybe they need less of mine. The term disenchantment is starting to describe my feelings towards this party. Like you said Steve, if the Libs have not made any contributions towards the wording of the budget, then the Libs should not be allowing it to pass. We either have "confidence" in the gov't or we don't. We either believe in what the gov't is doing or we don't. And if we do, then I want no part of this party. Voters want a party and a leader they can believe in, not a bunch of bloody opportunists!

Mushroom said...

Steve,

Why did Dion say that? Did he tried to do this in the throne speech when he called for corporate tax cuts? How about the time Goodale accepted the NDP amendments to get the 2005 budget through? Should have got known your recent parliamentary history, Stephane.

Dion can also get the shadow cabinet to vote no, while leaving the backbench at home to get the budget through. May be good posturing, because it puts the onus on Harper. He may have also have to keep the backbench away to get the government to FALL.

Mushroom said...

"Has this suddenly turned into a coalition gov't? Dion should be listening to Chretien's advise, who knows a thing or two about winning. Do MHF and Rae have tons of cash to basically blow on two elections in less than a year? Or are we basically going to give the Cons a defacto majority and let them rule for the full four years?"

Who are you, liberazzi? Were you at the town hall meeting with Hall Findlay on Saturday?

Grand coalition between the Grits and the Cons due to the war in Afghanistan? Has the situation in Canada become so dire that this form of government becomes paramount for national security? Is the world in 2007, more dangerous than in 1917 or 1930?

Dion is not Chretien, a street fighter who is distant from his caucus. Chretien is happiest at the Royal Ottawa in the weekends, playing golf with the ordinary folks. Dion is mild mannered, enjoys fishing trips with close friends, and performs best in seminars. So no street fighter, here. Dion needs to win on policy and vision, not retail politics.

Toronto Centre is a well off Liberal association. If it is struggling, then the party might as hand out pink slips. Willowdale is a different story. A successful by-election run would help fill the coffers and build a bigger war chest.

Grits waiting until autumn 2009? I don't think Harper can hang on for this long. Grand coalition governments tend to punish major parties. With more viable left alternative parties at the present moment, the Grits are the initial losers.

liberazzi said...

Mushroom,

By abstaining on every confidence matter, you are only giving the opposition more ammunition when the real campaign begins. By abstaining on every matter, it only shows that you have no confidence in your leader and no real convictions. I believe in the potential of this team, but my confidence is starting to waver. I also believed in the hold your nose stategy of the fall in order to get their act together, but now if they allow this budget to pass, then they are simply going to look weak and foolish. Dion and party insiders were basically saying that they were going to take the Cons down right about now. Now the Nellies are winning, which is only going to weaken the party and start to turn-off its supporters like myself. HE WHO HESITATES IS LOST - "Swift and resolute action leads to success; self-doubt is a prelude to disaster.

Steve V said...

Easily the most confident minority government in Canadian history. Into our third year, and the Cons still are able to say they will accept no amendments on their budget. If you actually step back, pretty remarkable stuff. It's basically a majority, with the odd political capitulation throw in.