There is a point of view making the rounds, that should Ignatieff let the budget pass, he will be well on his way to suffering the same fate as Dion. The "weak" leader narrative, the sense of "cave", "rolling over", the criticisms of "real opposition", all the things that plagued Dion during his tenure, which ultimately made Harper appear much stronger, relative to his primary opponent. I respectfully disagree with that sentiment, in fact I see little in the way of revelant analogies, nor do I think Ignatieff damages himself, in any lasting way, in this instance.
Mr. Dion, for a myriad of reasons, never enjoyed a strong hold on his leadership. Not to rehash, but just as a point of fact, the "weak leader" narrative was entirely supported by the internal machinations of the Liberal Party. I think it beyond obvious at this point, that Ignatieff is, and will be, in far greater control, little prospects for divisions, camps, all the stuff that tends to undermine a leaders authority. That reality is entirely relevant, because much of the Dion frame was media generated, and the seeds of that sentiment were a reflection of party optics. When people sense weakness within, the performance in Parliament only amplifies and cements the narrative.
If, we are sitting here, this time next year, and the Ignatieff Liberals have continually avoided any challenges by the Conservatives, my opinion may change, but as of now, on this particular vote, there is nothing that suggest Ignatieff will be wounded. In fact, if you peruse the media, couple that with public sentiment, a vote for the budget contains little risk. This isn't a situation, wherein Harper "bullies" the Liberals, the suggestion really laughable. As I've already stated, this budget has left Conservatives scratching their heads, so far removed from the initial positions, so removed from the core tenets. Ignatieff never moved, not really one iota, the rhetoric of November identical to the demands of today, and those demands largely met. The universal media opinion, is that Harper has moved to appease the opposition, nobody recognizes him- no sentiment at all, of the Liberals painted into a corner, victim of Harper's strategic prowess. It is for that reason, along with the public want to see politics put aside, and something concrete delivered, that leaves little room for a backlash against Ignatieff, should we support the budget.
Ignatieff is a new leader, putting in place a new team, beginning to articulate his vision for the country. The dynamic of "new" affords Ignatieff some breathing space, no one is entirely surprised, or ready to pass definitive judgement, on a man and party retooling in the early days. "Avoiding" an election isn't a sign of weakness, it's seen as pretty reasonable, given the timing of the last election, given the new regime. Important to separate the musings of those with an agenda, who can say whatever they choose, with how the unaffiliated conduit interprets the maneuvers. With almost universal agreement, the idea that the Conservatives have moved to appease the Liberals, and the Liberals, under the new leader, rightfully want more time. That's the overarching view that I see and hear, so with that in mind, I fail to see DION II. Very different times, very different dynamics at play, very different men to be frank.
There is some sense that the Liberals are on the move under Ignatieff. How much of that is real, or just wishful thinking, remains to be seen. But, there is no question that Ignatieff is commanding a different level of respect, he is not the human pinata. Of course, that perspective can change, but it won't, as a result of this one vote, future events will dictate.
Comparing what appears to be happening, as of tomorrow, with the abstaining routine of the Dion regime, is a useless comparison. As someone who railed against the abstaining strategy last year, primarily because it further cemented Dion's "weak" position, I see little here that re-ignites my previous concern. Nobody is being bullied, Harper isn't forcing his agenda, while we run and hide behind the curtains. Ignatieff isn't under the gun to "stand up", in fact he's pretty much driven this debate, and looked very much a PM in waiting in the process. I will judge the Liberal strategy as we move forward, and it should it appear an overall liability, that hurts the brand or leader, I'll criticize. However, at this moment, on this vote, I see nothing of real substance, to support the argument that Ignatieff is following the same path as his predecessor, with similar risks and downside.