Ivison: Talking about a more bi-partisan Parliament, what steps are you personally going to take to ensure that? For example, during the election, the idea that the justice package was a matter of confidence — are you in a position now to say that only money bills are measures of confidence, given your focus on the economy?
Harper: I wouldn’t go that far. Obviously the economy is everyone’s number one priority. It would be unwise for a prime minister to say he would narrow the range of confidence measures unilaterally, if the opposition parties would not be prepared to do exactly the same thing. I don’t want to be in a position where I would say only one or two or three things would be confidence while they would get up and say: “we reserve the right to bring forward a motion of confidence on every thing.” I think if we could get together and agree that a narrow range of things would be confidence — that would be useful to the functioning of this Parliament. I haven’t had that kind of discussion with Mr. Ignatieff and that would be a judgment he would have to make. But I do think that Canadians want to see Parliament work. We’ve had three elections in four years.
Not only is Harper offering to stop the flurry of confidence votes, Harper goes further this time, asking for assurance from the opposition. Why? Some believe it's all a ruse, Harper is just trying to look "bi-partisan", but will strike at the first opportunity. I believe that to be true in the long term, but clearly the Conservatives have decided they need to avoid an election until the economy starts to turn around. It really is pretty simple and stark when you think about it- no sitting government wants to go to the people, while the economic news is disasterous, a utter recipe for potential disaster, you don't control the agenda, you're vulnerable. The snap election call last fall supports the same rationale, head to the polls before it gets worse and you pay a political price. This latest "offer" to the opposition is completely consistent, Harper now wants to ride out the economic storm and is prepared to play "nice", if it achieves his goal.
Operating on the assumption that the government doesn't want an election, it provides the opposition with full knowledge. The Liberals SHOULD NOT agree to Harper's declared set of possible confidence matters, they should REFUSE any overture which boxes them in. Let Harper make "unilateral" declarations, the onus is on the government to make Parliament work, they're the one's who have failed, almost universal sentiment of their unseemly role in dysfunction. The Liberals should state clearly that we reserve the right to bring forth a confidence motion whenever we see fit, if the government wants to avoid that development, all they need to do is act responsibly, no need for "formal" declarations. Harper is merely trying to take the hammer away, once the budget passes, remove any opportunity to upset his plans.
The above quote from Harper is entirely transparent, no need to prescribe the hidden meanings or alterior motives. The Conservatives desperately don't want an election, and they will do what is required to avoid one. Not making legislation a matter of confidence isn't a way to show Canadians you have a desire to work together, it's a tactic to run out the economic clock. Lay low, don't piss in the pool, and see what happens. When old Harper returns, you know the economy is turning the corner. The trick for the Liberals, quickly get into readiness mode, then take Harper out at the knees, before the economic numbers improve. Above that, NEVER agree to a narrow range of confidence motions, keep the hammer.