There are a few different ways to look at the Harper government's move away from confidence motions, their signature tactic to push through legislation since first elected.
A reaction to a strengthened Liberal Party, the new approach could be a seen as a recognition that the Conservatives understand they are now dealing with a different animal, one that is better placed to replace them. Ignatieff is already on record, saying the Liberals won't tolerate continual confidence motions, so there is some logic in believing Harper is merely responding to a new landscape. There is probably some merit in that view, although I think the changing tactics are indicative of something else.
The government may have calculated, that their best hope with the Canadian people is too look conciliatory and non-confrontational. Dumping confidence motions at every turn, is a way to denote a serious agenda, that doesn't voluntarily seek conflict, but wishes to govern by finding common ground. A healthy dose of cynicism, any epiphany on this score is surely a political survival tactic, rather than genuine want. Whatever, moving away from constant conflict, would probably help Harper reshape his badly damaged image. Again, I see some merit in this particular impetus for the new approach, but it's only part of the story.
I believe, the most credible rationale for the changed approach, the Harper government merely wants to wait out the economy. Harper's latest interview on the economy offers some clues, as the Prime Minister sees a relatively strong position, that should result in a less protracted downturn. In other words, Harper sees a light at the end of the tunnel, which is politically advantageous. Avoid confrontation in the short term, don't allow election justification, and then when things start to turn around, revert back to previous form. At this point, the government would have a compelling argument, they could take credit for any perceived turnaround, a sense that the worst is behind us, their policies having helped the situation. A risky assumption, because nobody really knows the depth and length of this downturn, but clearly Harper is counting on some rebound in the not to distant future. Whatever the odds, it's probably the government's best hope, so operating within that scenario, does make sense politically.
This government will avoid non-confidence motions because it fears going to the polls in the present circumstance. In essence, Harper will try to ride out the economy, dance with the opposition, until he sees a future opportunity. I don't buy a "different approach", in the sense that it has nothing to do with good government, but what is good for the government, entirely motivated by self interest. Harper will look the "team" player, because that is what he needs, until the economy gives rise to reasonable optimism. "We made it through the worst of this crisis under this government, and our sound management deserves partial credit for our ability to come through it". To my mind, that is the preferred slogan for the next election, and everything will be done in the intermediary to ensure avoidance, until the time is right when the desired sales job finds empirical backing.