One of the chief questions, being asked of returning Liberal MP's- are they prepared to endure another period of abstentions? The theory being, a weakened opposition, with no leader and no money, will be forced to dodge and weave to avoid another election. I would argue, that there should be little chance for a repeat of last spring's embarrassing string of abstentions. One simple reason, Canadians will crucify any party that forces us back to the polls within the next year.
Let's not forget, that the Harper strategy of making everything a non-confidence motion came after his government had been in office for some time. The Conservatives could leverage the Liberals, because the minority government was well into any mandate, the prospects of any election were real. The reality is much different now, and the Liberals have the benefit of potential voter wrath as useful counter.
The Liberals need to make the case immediately, that this is a minority government, that must reflect the views of a majority of members to survive. That frame is crucial, on any occasion wherein the Harper government attempts to ram through legislation, without proper input from other parties, the Liberals can argue that voting against translates to the Conservatives forcing an election, because of simple arrogance and bullying. The Liberals are in a weakened state, absolutely no reasonable scenario wherein they welcome another election, which means that as long as they make an honest effort to accommodate, they have the luxury of voting against the government, with little chance of recourse. Canadians recognize the Liberal predicament, should they draw a line in the sand, it will be rightfully characterized as a simple matter of principle, Harper would bear the full weight of plunging the country into another election.
It remains to be seen, but in the coming months, I would argue the onus is on the Harper government to be conciliatory. Should Harper begin to act as though he has a majority, attempting to jam legislation down the weakened Liberals throat, he could well face a surprise, rather than abstaining to avoid, a vote against, with the full knowledge that the government would be held to account. It is in NOBODY'S interest to play games of brinksmanship in the coming months, because in reality, there won't be an election. The party that is perceived to be playing games, acting outside of the minority reality, will pay the price, and in this way a weakened Liberal Party can turn this around to their advantage. Explain in no uncertain terms, right from the onset, that the Liberals are prepared to come to mutual agreements, but should the government present legislation, based on the assumption the Liberals will abstain, they willfully set the stage for an election of their own making.