When people mention the Liberals forcing an election, supporters of other parties, and some in the pundit class, like to remind everyone that they can't defeat the government by themselves, they need the assistance of all opposition parties. That fact isn't in dispute, so yes it's entirely true, the Liberals don't have the "hammer" in isolation. With Layton's flip flop, some argue that the NDP will not play along with the Liberals, they will move at a time of their own choosing, in their own self interest, not ours. Fair enough, but really, it's hard to see the downside for the Liberals within this reality.
When Liberals weigh the pros and cons of election timing, at or near the top of the list for the "sooner rather than later" crowd is this notion that there is a risk on the "propping up" front. It's easy to dismiss the negative ramifications to date, because frankly nobody is paying attention, or more rightly the attack isn't resonating, the Liberals have suffered no ill effects by letting the government survive. While that is an objective fact, many Liberals are well aware of past perceptions and recognize that the longer we manoeuver around confidence motions, the more a sense of "weak" opposition could take hold. COULD being the key word, because it's unclear if that sentiment will ever develop, but part of the thinking in pushing a fall or spring vote is that it would nullify any potential unattractive frame on the real opposition front. At a certain point, you begin to "own" some of the government's baggage, if a well established trend of compliance or approval develops.
When people point to the necessity of other party support to bring down the government, they miss a very crucial point, that radically changes the dynamic. If the NDP or Bloc decide that an election isn't in their best interest, and refuse to bring the government down, the Liberals are given a free pass to be aggressive, they can oppose the government with impunity. Any concern about perceived weakness evaporates, and along with it a terrific opportunity to differentiate and contrast our approach with that of the government. Let other parties "prop up" the government, it will have the dual of effect of undercutting any former criticisms directed at the Liberals, as well as giving us the latitude to PUSH hard with our agenda. To give an example, let's say the Liberals do present a EI reform motion this spring, which the government rejects. Fast forward to the fall, the Liberals re-visit the resistance to reform, try and force a non-confidence. This will leave the other opposition parties with two choices, bring them down or cower, which then leaves the Liberals on the EI reform "high ground" so to speak. I fail to see how the appearance of a strong, vibrant opposition, armed with attractive alternatives presented, doesn't help the overall cause. If the NDP wants to avoid an election, so be it, because the optics are favorable for the Liberals.
There is a little fact at play here- time is the Liberals friend. With a fall economic rebound looking less and less realistic with each passing day, there is really nothing on the horizon that can change the government's fortunes. Couple that probability with the disappearance of the potential "enabler" tag, and there is very little risk for the Liberals. More time to fundraise and compete with the Conservatives, more time to rebuild the party where we need to, more time to attract a strong slate of candidates, more time to do the myriad of things the Liberals need to achieve optimal election readiness. If the Liberals are afforded that time, without the pressure of perceived support for the government, it's almost the preferred scenario, because a main impetus for going early is removed. Within the environment of other parties actively trying to avoid an election, the Liberals will look every bit the "real opposition" and in so doing, Canadians will have a better sense of our agenda.
If anyone suggests that the NDP or Bloc will be an obstacle to Liberal desires for an election, I say without hesitation- works for me.