Liberal insiders say Michael Ignatieff would prefer more time to rebuild the party and prepare for an election, rather than possibly topple the government next week by refusing to support the budget.
Liberal strategists see little upside to Ignatieff taking the reins of government at the start of what is promising to be a deep, severe recession.
They'd rather let Prime Minister Stephen Harper take the blame for the economic pain.
We just had an election, which gave Harper a strengthened mandate, although a minority. The Liberals were reduced, and the task at hand is considerable, on every front. The Liberals have a new leader, who has barely had time to get his team together, never mind the required policy work, fundraising, finding new, compelling candidates- rebuilding the Liberal brand. Within that reality, to feel any surprise that people in the party are preaching patience, is well, surprising.
There was nothing worse, than watching the Liberals continual abstain, time after time, during the previous regime. I believe that this routine greatly damaged our electoral chances, it created an atmosphere of weakness and an ineffective alternative. With that in mind, how can one now argue the opposite, the Liberals should bide their time in the short term, wait and pounce when optimal opportunity arises?
For the reasons stated above, the fact we just had an election and the party has a new leader, the dynamics have clearly changed. Couple the challenges of rebuilding the party, with a desire by the public to see politicians "get on with it", and in many respects it makes sense to allow a semi-acceptable budget to pass. If the goal is to rid Canada of the Harper Conservatives, you can make a pretty compelling case that conditions will be more favorable in a few months. I see nothing crass, or an abdication of responsible opposition, to take some time to get our house in order, while simultaneously watching Harper's crumble, as the economic bottoms out. In a practical sense, the economic road ahead is already paved, regardless of any government initiatives in the coming months, so it is a false frame to argue Ignatieff's short term decisions will really matter. Longer term, I completely agree, but government is simply powerless in the immediate, to offset our course. With that knowledge in mind, it is easier to "justify" any political consideration.
I don't want the Liberals to simply forget strategy and just plow ahead, guided only by our idealist want. Politics is necessarily a tension between core convictions and cold calculation- always has been, always will, with every party, every day of the week. To simply scoff at the "gameplan" is perfectly fine, it just shows no relationship to the real world.
One of the main reasons I argued against the Liberals abstaining, wasn't just a policy consideration, but the simple fact that the weakness projected was hurting our fortunes, it was reducing Dion's stature, it allowed other parties to pounce on themes of "real opposition", it made Harper look strong in contrast. I saw the abstaining strategy as a political loser, counter-productive to the ultimate goal of toppling Harper. The wanted "conditions" would never really occur, because the strategy undercut the chances of realizing those "conditions". In this new case, the dynamics are completely different, the landscape decidedly changed, which makes a temporary dodge and weave the best course.
I don't want an budget that meets all the Liberal demands, because then Harper receives a partial pass, through collective responsibility. I don't want to force an election, wherein the Liberals are forced to re-assemble a slate of recently rejected candidates, armed with a thin and hasty platform, lacking the proper planning to make a campaign hum. If conditions demand, then so much for the "best laid plans", but sitting here today, you can see better scenarios.
It is completely reasonable to give the new party leader time, when you look at the challenges, they aren't immediately remedied. Let the team put forth an agenda, let Ignatieff attract some new blood, let the party rebuild where it has too, let all the various parts begin the work, until there is a sense we can reasonably achieve our goal. Maybe we're better prepared in late spring, maybe the fall, maybe next budget, but if you detach yourself from personal want, focus solely on "when" constitutes the optimal opportunity to send Harper packing, next week isn't top of the list.