Does Ignatieff support a coalition or doesn’t he, “dithering” or “pragmatic”? I must say, I’ve been entirely impressed with how Ignatieff has handled the coalition question from the onset. While some have criticized his early hesitation, and pundits like Coyne demand a clear response, Ignatieff has positioned himself within the optimal terrain. It was very shrewd to keep all options on the table, accurately reading an extremely fluid situation. There is no room for absolutes, no need to box oneself in a corner, when you have no idea how future events will unfold. I admit a grin, watching Ignatieff carefully navigate and resist, what some saw as uneven, I saw as political maturity.
As it stands right now, Canadians hate the idea of a coalition. Canadians are so weary of it, they move to support Harper, despite blaming him for the crisis. I’ve seen a lot of polls, rarely have I seen a batch so decisive in their rejection, and this fact is the bottom line consideration. A coalition simply won’t fly, unless there is public support, if the perceptions are negative, the idea is DOA. To ignore public sentiment is beyond reckless, so the fact Ignatieff has left the Liberals a clear path out, without looking entirely hypocritical, is a strategic winner. Things can change, how Harper reacts may well influence future acceptance of a coalition, but it is beyond wise to not marry oneself to a real and potential albatross.
Ignatieff has placed himself at the center of this debate, both Harper and Layton need him, ultimately he will decide the direction. If Harper caves, and the Liberals achieve a budget which reflects many of the initiatives floated in the coalition agreement, then we can declare victory and look conciliatory at the same time. However, having the threat of an alternative, leaving that option on the table, allows for leverage on the one hand, another course if need be on the other. Ignatieff has given himself so much latitude that he has control, no small feat for a party with a ¼ of seats in Parliament.
I watched Layton on CBC last night, and his main argument was the issue of “trust”, no matter what Harper presents, that issue negates any support. I appreciate that point of view, and no Liberal should “trust” the chameleon, but in the minds of Canadians that justification just doesn’t cut it. Fast forward to January, the Conservatives make concessions, essentially adopt many of the demands, and the opposition still decides to topple based on “trust”. The Canadian public, pre-occupied with the economy and wanting Parliament to just get on it, would erupt if a compromise budget was introduced and the opposition still went forward on “trust”. That scenario is a death sentence, and that absolute conviction, could well marginalize any party that ascribes to it. Much better to have wiggle room, because you simply can’t pre-judge future events.
I’m not sure if a coalition is still in the cards. I’m not sure if the public mood can, or will, change. I’m not sure if Harper will adopt the opposition’s demands. I’m not sure if we could be headed to an election. I’m not sure about much, and nobody else is for that matter, which makes the Ignatieff position an enviable one for the Liberal Party.