Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ignatieff Interview

Ignatieff interview with the Globe and Mail, and his comments on the coalition sound strangely similar to recent one's by Jack Layton:
Mr. Ignatieff, installed as Liberal Leader earlier this month, expressed pessimism that the Harper government would unveil a budget in January that his party could support.

“The thing that frankly concerns me is that the autumn statement so failed the test of leadership that Canadians required of the situation, that I'm not optimistic that the government will come up with a budget that meets Canada's needs,” Mr. Ignatieff said.

“But I live in hope, as it were, that Mr. Harper will rise to the demands of the hour.”
At the very least, that kind of attitude keeps the pressure on.

Ignatieff also commented on a possible future election theme, one that may resonate, although it's pretty involved:
“The market meltdown has been a moment of truth for conservative ideology, and a moment of validation for liberal ideology,” Mr. Ignatieff said.

I think you can make a pretty powerful argument now, for the benefits of regulation and government intervention in the market. People have a graphic example of the dangers of laissez-faire economics, the amoral market, that fails to put public interest ahead of self-interest. If one was ever to make the case against conservatism, Ignatieff has found his moment, but it must be a concise argument. Whatever the eventual budget, it is important to demonstrate that Harper revised, only as a matter of last resort, completely reactive rather than proactive. More an acknowledgement of philosophical failure, than doing what's necessary. It will be interesting to see how Ignatieff makes the case, because while it rejects the Harper ideology, it also breathes new life into the Liberal identity.


Anonymous said...

Iggy may be laying the groundwork for an informal coalition with the other two rather than the formal one signed by Dion. It'll make life easier for everybody, including the GG.

CuzBen said...

"I think you can make a pretty powerful argument now, for the benefits of regulation and government intervention in the market."

Unless you put the word "temproary" in there, I couldn't disagree more. The "amoral" market is not perfect, but preferable to the "immoral" market that arises from political intrusion.

There is not much a government can do about a giant market correction and extremely low demand. What they can do is use the interim period to increase Canada's competitiveness and productivity by streamlining regulations, simplifying taxes, and creating a more level playing field for small/medium sized businesses. Demand will return, we need to be well poised when that happens. Increased intervention and regulation is going in the exact wrong direction, in my very humble opinion, except for the protection of the most vulnerable.

As an election issue, an attack on conservatism might fly, but I think there is little appetite for any kind of ideological debate. There is so much fodder to attack Harper's character and tactics, why scare away all those would-be-Liberal-voters from the red tory camp?

Steve V said...


But, you can make a coherent argument that the free market has failed miserably, true capitalism dead. I mean, you have the financial markets destroyed, government bailouts, government intrusion a necessity to keep the economy afloat. It's an amazing statement on our economic system, and proves that the Harris/Harper model of preferring less regulation and oversight is an impractical view of the nature. Harper loves to go on and on about our banking system, but it was the Liberals that kept the rules tight, Harper actually spoke to less regulation, if he had his way, then that "pillar" would have been different. I don't think you alienate the center, in the least, if you argue that government has a place in "free market", as a matter of fact, it's the adult view, that isn't as ideologically rigid as modern conservatism.

CuzBen said...

"Capitalism dead"? Is this Steve V or Hugo Chavez? Free markets have "failed miserably"? Last time I looked outside the sky was still in place, few were starving and the streets were relatively peaceful. I think history and present comparisons prove the value of a free market economy, as does the rise of emerging economies like China.

This is a market correction, painful but temporary. It reveals past mistakes, yes, but hardly calls for a overhaul of the system.

I'm not saying that there should be less regulation absolutely, let alone none at all. Neither am I arguing ideologically on behalf of modern conservatism, whatever that is. I agree with your "adult view" that sees a minimal role for gov in the market and I also condemn Harper and Harris for going too far the other way. But I do think that we have to be smart about where to reduce/streamline regulation and where to keep it rigid. Blanket policies that call for more oversight and interference are as dangerous as Harpernomics because governments get caught on that slipperly slope that eventually stifles innovation and entrepreneurial culture.

Centrists tend to be a practical lot, as you say. Reactive policy based on emotion rather than evidence will appease only the NDP.

burlivespipe said...

I'd find some agreement that the target should remain dead-on Harper's actions and words on deregulation, the economy etc. How he pushed for Canada jumping in to the 40-year 0-down mortgage racket when nearly economist was pointing out the storm clouds ahead... Tie that with his deregulation of the food inspection services, his cutting of checks and balances through out our judicial and political systems.
His general mode of "attack" as opposed to "working together". The 'my-way-or-the-highway' agenda during these times, by someone who's own core belief is to 'let the free market decide' will bear fruit.
I'd steer clear from sticking a stick in the eye of capitalism, symbolically, at least. Leave that for the unelected eggheads.

Anonymous said...

There's a rumour floating around that fourteen members of the caucus are considering leaving after New Years to sit as independents.

How would that effect Ignatieff's plans?

Gayle said...

Oh look, Biff is back.

Silly little anons trying to scare us. Will they ever learn?

Steve - the rumour I heard on Garth Turner's site is that Harper plans on caving in on all opposition demands, but he will also retain the party financing clawback.

Iggy may need to keep saying these things as cover in case the oppositions' hands are forced by this measure.

Or not.

Anyway, I want to take the chance to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and to thank you for your blog.


Steve V said...


Not completely dead, I think you know what I mean. I heard today that Alberta might "bail out" some oil companies, if that isn't an amazing event, I don't what...


First I heard of Cons leaving caucus, but that would be interesting and could alter Ignatieff's plans.

Steve V said...


I can't see him keeping the fundraising item. First, Harper has already dropped it. Second, to include it again would be seen in the most SCATHING of light, and could justify bringing him down. Even the government's friends in the media would have a hard time defending such provocation, considering what's happened. I honestly don't believe it, not as part of the budget, it's frankly too stupid for words.

ottlib said...

First of all the idea of a "free market" is a myth. The continuing concentration of corporate power into the hands of a few mega-corporations pretty much killed the "free market", if it ever existed beyond the mind of Adam Smith to begin with.

Second, those very same mega-corporations are not above demanding (note I did not use "requesting") market distorting government intervention when it is in their best interests. They usually dress these demands up by calling it de-regulation, to make it more palatable to the great unwashed. Of course, these very same mega-corporations then howl in outrage if governments do anything that may give the average consumer a break at the cost of their interests.

Third, most of the investment banking industry in the US and much of the commercial banking industry in the English speaking world was nationalized after the big credit meltdown in October.

Finally, if there was a true "free market" then any ideas of bailouts would be non-starters. By their very nature they distort markets because they artificially prop up companies and enterprises that the "free market" would allow to be destroyed.

So, this whole argument about non-intervention vs. intervention in the "free market" is a shell game. Governments constantly intervene and distort the market so the question then becomes to what end do governments make these interventions?

And how that questioned is answered is the essence of modern politics.

Steve V said...


Well said. Is there anything more obscene, than the prospect of bailing out an industry, that has routinely had bigger profits than the GDP of some countries.

Anonymous said...

Steve and Ottlib make good points here, this is far from a "market correction" or a bear market. It is the failure of improperly regulated speculation capitalism. Free market capitalism will always exist in one form or another, it is just that this (per)version of it is unsustainable. Ignatieff is correct when he says that this is a "moment of truth for conservative ideology" and a validation for "liberal ideology" (something which has already been proven in recent history to work in times like these).

Free market capitalism was hijacked, not by governments, but by private speculators in collaboration with neo-liberal governments masquerading as conservatives. If they were in fact real conservatives, they would be all for reducing consumption, not unrestrained debt creation at the expense of the middle class.