Sunday, February 08, 2009

Coalition Baggage

Janke "articulates" a very probable line of attack the Conservatives will use in the next election. Apart from the fact the post reads like someone who's played way too much RISK, this is the main thrust:
Michael Ignatieff, on the other hand, has a problem. He can't rewrite the past. He did sign the coalition letter that went to the Governor General, and has spoken favourably of the coalition - this will all come back to haunt him.
Not really a revelation, we already know that if the Conservatives were defeated, and we had an election, the coalition would be the primary attack line, they've made that obvious. If, the strategy still holds true for a future election, I would suggest it's probably a weak one at best, because the counters are powerful.

The most compelling argument, is entirely based on "the past". Conservatives seem to be clinging to Ignatieff's signature on the coalition letter. That is a fact, which Ignatieff can't deny. True enough, but there are other facts, which tend to swamp the argument. The truth of the matter, Ignatieff rejected the coalition option, despite the fact it was there for the taking, almost universal agreement amongst constitutional scholars, that he had his chance to become Prime Minister. If Ignatieff were truly part of the conspiracy to usurp the results of the last election, as Conservatives will argue, and if he presents a real threat to revive a coalition in the future, then WHY didn't he do so when the opportunity presented himself? If it's all about a power grab, a deal with socialists and separatists, then it doesn't quite jive with the practical application. In FACT, Ignatieff resisted the "power grab", he didn't take the option staring him the face, so positing the "coalition threat" really flys in the face of reality.

The most common narrative we've heard, as it relates to Ignatieff and the coalition, he was always "cool" to the idea. That view has been expressed ad nauseum, to the point of concrete truth. If the Conservatives think that irrational howls, attempting to paint Ignatieff as vehicle for a future coalition will find resonance, then they misread sentiment. If they raise the spectre of national unity, attempting to fire up their western base, they actually play into Ignatieff's hand. Part of the rationale, in avoiding the coalition option, was entirely a consideration on national unity, Ignatieff can tell western Canadians that his stance was partially a recognition of western alienation, the belief that the coalition didn't enjoy support across the country. Ignatieff can make the argument, using the coalition, to demonstrate that he is receptive to western sentiment, and he sacrificed a real opportunity for power, because he recognized the "mood". Rather than an albatross, I think Ignatieff can pivot and turn his decision into an example that he is "listening" to the views of all Canadians, personal ambition is secondary to responsibility. If Ignatieff takes western Canada for granted, if the Liberals are primarily an eastern-centric entity, then why didn't he move forward and install himself as PM? The Ignatieff decision, the facts, actually shows a sensitivity to western sentiments, rather than the craven opportunism the Conservatives will argue. The entire coalition debate is a testament to Ignatieff's desire to bring Canadians together, to be a force for unity, part of his grand vision for the country.

Stephen Harper has signed some "dubious" letters in the past, with separatists and socialists, but the real issue is the final manifestation. Ignatieff was forever "cool", he is not synonymous with the "three headed monster", in fact he's seen as the vehicle that disentangled the Liberals from the coalition. Nobody disputes that, and the letter is secondary to the events that followed. Ignatieff had a clear opportunity, nothing standing in his way, two years of government guaranteed, Harper turfed, it was all RIGHT THERE. When the Conservatives fear monger, Ignatieff has history on his side and he can turn the argument around. We don't need to entertain theoreticals, we already have the reality that played itself out, and that "fact" leaves the Conservative argument decidedly weak. I understand why the Conservatives will resort to fear mongering, after all they've sold their soul and they stand for NOTHING, but if the coalition is the centerpiece of the next "battle", I'd say you've picked the wrong target, because this guy has plenty of ammunition, and it just happens to be based on irrefutable practical evidence. Good luck.

25 comments:

Scott Tribe said...

I'd argue something else, Steve.

If the economy continues to crater, I highly doubt Canadians (particularly the ones losing their jobs) are going to care too much whether Iggy supported a coalition or not. They'll be more concerned with what Harper did or didn't do to help ameliorate the effects of it.

Steve V said...

Agreed.

Anonymous said...

Baggage aside, let's say Ignatieff denies he will ever form a coalition with the NDP after the next election.

And then the results are
Cons 120
Libs 115
NDP 40

How about if the results were
Cons 130
Libs 100
NDP 35

Would you be in favour of a coalition then or not? Even if Iggy said he would never do it?

The Right is Where it's At said...

Mr.Ignatieff would not be able to hide from it.There is a document/letter with is name on it. Don't count out the NDP of using the same attack ads in English Canada during the next election whenever it will take place. I could very well see the NDP and the Conservatives showing Mr.Ignatieff signature on TV and in different newspaper's across our great country.Even though we all know that Mr.Ignatieff wasn't keen on this so called coalition government in the first place. At least this is my opinion.

Gayle said...

The LPC should not allow Harper to make the next election about the coalition.

It will be about the economy - and any attempt on Harper's part to deflect attention from his economic mismanagement should be called out.

Keep the focus where it belongs - on Harper.

Northern PoV said...

Iggy missed his best chance to deal with this attack:
Run a decent coalition gov't for at least six months.

Rae knew the way
But to save the day
he gave his chance away
Ya'll watch with dismay
As Harper says hurray!

The Right is Where it's At said...

Anon 10:35 am

If the liberals campaign against a coalition government even if it's only with the NDP it still shouldn't happen. The people should have a say on it.

Just take a look at the "green shift" plan the liberals campaigned in the last election,if they would have won then they would have had all the right in the world to go along with their plan.

Let the people decide! I don't care that 60% voted against the Conservatives.No-one voted for a coalition government! Even if it is legal to do so.

Mushroom said...

Anon at 10:35,

It will be political suicide for Iggy to not form a coalition with the NDP. Majority or bust is going to be Harper's final political battle. The Grits need to counter the Con attacks, but the economy will be an issue that will help.

Of course, the focus on the coalition is no longer on Iggy but on Layton. It would be stupid for him to shut the door completely, but running attack ads against a much more credible Grit party does him no favours.

The Right is Where it's At said...

"The LPC should not allow Harper to make the next election about the coalition.

It will be about the economy - and any attempt on Harper's part to deflect attention from his economic mismanagement should be called out.

Keep the focus where it belongs - on Harper."

Gayle how would they do this?
I could easily see what the NDP would be saying about the economy. "If the liberals were so concern about the economy then why did they let the budget pass?" You know that's what the NDP saying. The liberals can't turn around and " say that they didn't want to send the country into another election just after a few weeks." That is when the NDP and the Bloc would be saying "we didn't have to have an election,because we had a deal of a coalition."

In other words Gayle whether you like it or not the coalition along with the economy will be front and center in the next federal election,the way the "green shift"was in the last one.

Steve V said...

"Don't count out the NDP of using the same attack ads in English Canada during the next election whenever it will take place."

Yes, the NDP running ads saying Ignatieff bailed on the coalition, the Cons saying Ignatieff is a coalition lover. Sounds good to me.

Antonio said...

Among the two crazy ideas of last fall, which will canadians remember more?

the failed coalition...or the failed economic statement.

Tories are in denial here.

Canadians also distrust the coalition in the future given jack Layton's incessant need to attack the Liberal Party.

The Liberals just need to run a campaign with the theme..."has your life improved since the last election"

The Right is Where it's At said...

"Yes, the NDP running ads saying Ignatieff bailed on the coalition, the Cons saying Ignatieff is a coalition lover. Sounds good to me."

No Steve they would be saying that you can't trust him. He signs a document stating that he is in total agreement,but then he goes back on his word.

Mr.Harper can say "what makes you thing that the liberals will not try to do the same thing we've seen last fall? Like it or not Steve this coalition is something the liberals wish they don't have to deal with in the next election whenever it will take place.

Steve V said...

Right

I think it's wishful thinking to believe we're particularly worried. But, then again, you guys really have nothing. What are you going to run on, your record? LOL.



Further to Antonio's point, most people agree that Harper started the crisis, and while they didn't support a coalition, they believe it moved the government.

Scott Tribe said...

Hmm.. Some people are in a bit of denial here, if they think ads airing about what Iggy did or didn't do with regards to a coalition is going to resonate with Canadians in the middle of an economic crisis - one economists south of the border say could be the worse in a long long time, even rivaling the Great Depression.

If that's the strategy of the Conservative bloggers and/or the Conservative War Room, I say knock yourselves out fellas.

Steve V said...

"one economists south of the border say could be the worse in a long long time, even rivaling the Great Depression."

The facts do support that view.

RuralSandi said...

Let the people decide! I don't care that 60% voted against the Conservatives.No-one voted for a coalition government! Even if it is legal to do so.

Right Where its At - do you not understand our parliamenary system? This is inexcusable. No one voted for Harper as PM. He was voted by his constuents in Calgary as MP and because he was the leader of the winning party became PM - got it?

Now, just because it's not used, the coalition is a legal option in our parliamentary system, like it or not.

It is absolutely shameful that so many don't understand our system and yet think they can make a viable comment - shameful. Did you not study this in school?

Actually, Right Where.... you should watch the video of Rick Mercer setting out our parliamentary system - well done and explains it.

And this whole thing about the separatists - as of now they are still Canadians legally and pay the federal taxes. Harper should not take taxes off them if he felt they didn't have a say.

Personally, I'm not for the coalition because of the players involved. I was more worred about Layton/Mulcair than I was the separtists - and it certainly proved to be true when the day after they did the pathetic radio attack ads.

burlivespipe said...

Janke's yaking is just another bon mot to keep the coalition in the news, since it was the last piece of lint that the CONs were able to ride to anything positive... It almost (almost) covered Harper's massive bungled attempt at playing der fuhrer, but didn't completely. After all, didn't the most recent poll suggest that the coalition had become more pallatible as the public had a more of the usual from the so-called Prime Minister? No, in fact, the Liberals out-fund raised the CONs in december, certainly not the sign of a trend, but... This is just more of the CONs seeing what will drive their usually pliant supporters to cut a check (in a new fund raising period) and trying to 'anger up the blood' after signs that there is some disengagement from their own supporters. And anything to distract from his 'non-win' in the defamation case is good. Even, hey look! at those unemployment numbers!

Anonymous said...

I don't think the coalition will be much of an issue for the Tories to use in the next election. The biggest knocks against the coalition were that it would be led by Dion (no longer an issue) and that it was a concept that had never even been alluded to in the recent election. No one will be able to make that argument next time. The Liberals and NDP have lost their virginity - and from this day forward anyone voting Liberal or NDP will do so knowing that there is at least a POSSIBILITY that these parties will govern together in the event of a minority government.

To the extent that the Tories were able to whip up anti-coalition hysteria, I think that it had little to do with the NDP. In fact after the first mention of it being a deal with "separatists and socialists" we never heard Tories mention "socialists" again. Outside of a few tin-foil hat wingnuts in the Tory base - no one really cares about the notion of the NDP having a share of the power - this is a party after all that has governed four provinces and is about to take power in Nova Scotia as well. I mean seriously, do you really think that vast numbers of Canadians are ready to jump out the window because they are so terrified that people like Tom Mulcair or Judy W-L or Nathan Cullen might be in cabinet? People are probably more scared of Bob Rae and Ujjal Dosanjh (oh yeah they're Liberals now).

The real trump card the Tories had regarding the coalition is one that they probably don't dare use in a general election - the role of the BQ. Let's face it, if Harper starts running a histrionic Quebec-bashing campiagn about the evils of "separatists" it would mean that he was prepared to sacrifice all 10 Tory MPs in Quebec and try to win with no Quebec representation at all. This would spark a national unity crisis and probably make voters in Ontario turn away from Harper.

Harper will only play that kind of anti-Quebec card if he feel that the Tories are facing a 1993-style wipeout and its his only chance to "save the furniture" in western Canada.

Anonymous said...

Mr.Ignatieff would not be able to hide from it.There is a document/letter with is name on it. I remind you that there is such a letter/document with Harpers name on it so the Libs can harp at that one if the need ever arises.

Cheere, Marie

The Right is Where it's At said...

Rural Sandi post 1:38

I don't need a lecture from you or anyone else to know how our parliamentary system works.I know exactly how it works. I never said that it wasn't possible or illegal to have a coalition government period. Get it Sandi? But you completely missed the point what I was trying to convey. In fact now that I think of it you wouldn't get the point if you sat on it. So don't try to act smart,in trying lecture me on our political system. Be more respectful! You may disagree with me fine. It's a free country.

The Right is Where it's At said...

To Marie 3:19 pm

"Mr.Ignatieff would not be able to hide from it.There is a document/letter with is name on it. I remind you that there is such a letter/document with Harpers name on it so the Libs can harp at that one if the need ever arises."

Marie what you're referring to happened years ago! Two elections went by.It never really got off the ground. You want to put your head in the sand and hope that this will not come back and hunt the liberals during the next election campaign whenever that is,fine that's your choice.

Steve V said...

"I don't need a lecture from you or anyone else"

You just need a clue. Desperately.

RuralSandi said...

Don't listen to me lecturing - try learning. Would help lots.

Ignatieff doesn't have to hide from the coalition issue. He always admitted it, always said coalition if necessary and not necessarily coalition. Besides, it PAST stuff.

Hmmm....72% of Canadians are happy with what Ignatieff has done regarding the budget and coalition - doesn't seem like it's a problem does it?

Gayle said...

"Marie what you're referring to happened years ago! Two elections went by.It never really got off the ground."

Maybe, but it does expose the hypocrisy in the way Harper has addressed this issue.

An agreement with the Bloc amounts to a pact with the devil - unless Harper enters into such an agreement, and then it is all OK.

burlivespipe said...

Harper's credibility outside the 26% insanely paranoid crowd has tanked. Put a fork in it. His only hope is to scare or incite anger, but now instead of driving liberal voters away from the box, he's hitting closer to his home. Not to say people under drastic pressure won't react wildly, but even some Canwest papers are talking about Ignatieff with kind language. Guess that 'hand-out' in the budget to the media didn't help Leonard pay his hairdressing bill... Who'd of thunk it?