It's become a common refrain in Parliament, the Conservatives complaining that the "opposition", namely the Liberals, have failed to provide an alternative, detailed policy position on how to deal with the economy. Today's Hebert column picks up on that theme, although in a broader sense. I confess, I would like to see more meat to the bone, so we could get a better sense of where the Liberals are going. However, some broad strokes aside, it's almost amusing to follow the Conservatives logic to its rightful conclusion.
Last time I checked, the Conservatives are the government. If I have my history right, no opposition party has ever offered expansive detail, to the extent that their ideas parallel the position of the government of the day, in terms of substance. What the Conservatives are really saying, we need your help to govern, we lack ideas and the opposition is obligated to fill the void. The complaint is actually a recognition of incompetence, and if the Conservatives really believe the rhetoric, then they should simply resign and offer to let the Liberals govern, Ignatieff become Prime Minister.
The simple fact of the matter, in our parliamentary tradition, the onus is NOT on the official opposition to guide the government. Ignatieff has been quite vague to date(although a four month reign allows for some latitude), but that doesn't translate to legitimate criticism, in terms of acting as though Prime Minister. It's a nonsensical demand, the government asking the Liberals what they want them to do on the economy. When the parties face the voters, then we must provide a clear, detailed alternative, and we will have the debate, the contrast. To hold the view that the Liberals are derelict by not releasing an economic red book NOW, is an unrealistic demand, not to mention a dishonest protrayal of the opposition role in our parliamentary system.
If the Liberals flesh out their direction, I see it more as an attempt to define ourselves to the public. It really is nothing more than a theoretical presentation, based on the IF, should we become government. The Conservatives are arguing a practical application, and in so doing, all they project is a sense that they are incapable of fulfilling their responsibilities. Why anyone would support the "alternative" criticism as legitimate escapes me. Not only is it bad strategy at the moment, it's also a unrealistic expectation, given our current system. Do your "job" Conservatives, and we'll do ours, as it always has been, as the current PM did when he was in opposition, as his predecessors did before.