Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Perfect Retort

The Conservatives are determined to make the coalition debate a focus in the next election. The Conservatives will attempt to distort past history and capitalize at the Liberals expense. Readers might recall that on several occasions, I've offered a simple, soundbite response that offers effective counter, without getting drawn onto the Conservatives chosen ground. The Liberals can't ignore entirely, as evidenced in today's Ignatieff presser, but they can swat the accusations away in convincing fashion. My suggestion, simply remind Canadians that if Michael Ignatieff really wanted a coalition, he'd already be Prime Minister. We already have a practical example at our disposal that cuts through the manufactured hysteria. With my want in mind, needless to say I'm pleased as punch to hear Ignatieff today, and this should become his standard answer:
Michael Ignatieff says the proof that he's not scheming to head a coalition government is that he rejected the prime minister's chair in January,

But as proof that is not his goal, Mr. Ignatieff points to the face that after he became Liberal Leader he declined to defeat the Tories eight weeks later on their January budget, killing off the coalition.

“I could have been standing here as prime minister of Canada, but I turned it down,” he said.

This renders the future, theoretical coalition plotting argument meaningless, because it's countered with what Ignatieff did in the practical sense. The fact of the matter, if Ignatieff wanted a coalition he would already be PM, Harper would be gone. There is no way around that fact, it supercedes signatures, speculation, scenarios, it's brick and mortar, you can touch it. It also speaks to naked ambition. Nothing more be said, move on.


Anonymous said...

Also, there is far too much in the way of bickering and childish behaviour going on in Ottawa. What I'm hearing from Harpo is "waaaah! They're co-operating!! Working together!!"

That's exactly what I expect from Members of Parliament. I want them to be working together cooperatively. Not behaving like 4 year olds who can only have one king in the sandbox at a time.

Steve V said...

Canadians overwhelming want the parties to co-operate. Liberals shouldn't be afraid of that conversation, they should embrace it. A simple pledge to not engage in any formal arrangement, and then you can start talking about making parliament work, Harper as obstacle. Ignatieff will reach out to provide good government, through consultation, compromise and respect. As an added kicker, tell Canadians the PM's will always be open to Harper, maybe he'll be more manageable in opposition.

Anonymous said...

Ignatieff was not officially leader of the Liberal party until his coronation in May so he could not have become PM with the menage a trois until after then so what is he talking about.


Steve V said...

You're ignorance is stunning. Wow.

Mark Richard Francis said...

Of course Iggy would have been PM. His own party would merely have to not oppose it. As if.

Steve, the problem is, Iggy publicly opposing a coalition is also something Harper wants. He is trying to isolate the Liberals in a post-election scenario where the Libs can form a minority government. If the Libs try to form even a loose coalition, Harper will scream bloody murder claiming there is no mandate. This possibly could go to the GG, the courts, the streets. We are dealing with a man who prorogued Parliament to avoid a non-confidence motion. I assure you, Harper will scorch earth if he feels he needs to.

Be warned.

Anonymous said...

All the Liberal party needs to do is improve healthcare and base the campaign on that. And then actually do SOMETHING about it when they win.

If an election does come and there isn't any talk of improving healthcare, I'm not voting. It's been too much of this election crap and the reason few are voting is because the politicians are ignoring what we WANT to talk about and need improved. This is their last shot. We're all too disillusioned with all the parties.

Dan said...

Hi Marie, just because Ignatieff wasn't the official leader of the party doesn't have anything to do with whether or not he could Prime Minister. He had the option to become Prime Minister by voting down Harper's last budget and forming a coalition with Layton and with support from Duceppe. He chose not to.

In many other parliamentary systems the Prime Minister is often not the leader of their Party. Besides, for all intents in purposes Ignatieff was the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada at that point.

Of course Ignatieff MIGHT want to form a coalition in the future but then again Harper MIGHT want to appoint Preston Manning to the Supreme Court or MIGHT want to prorogue Parliament again.

Steve V said...


I hear you. The trouble is, the Liberals can't just ignore the whole debate. We need to answer the question in some capacity, avoidance will just escalate. When Harper speaks of the past, we use this soundbite, it's perfect. When talk moves to what the Liberals do after the election, we stress that will co-operate with others, but you don't recall the formality. When people posit all these hypotheticals, you say you are focusing on getting Liberals elected, not entertaining what if's.

I must say though, the Conservative strategy is very weak beyond the superficial. If, and it's starting to look like it might, this becomes a central theme (minority, majority, co-operation, constant elections), then we get into the arguments in detail and we can have rational debate. We win if we get there, Harper has nothing when you delve deeper but fear and hysteria.

ottlib said...

First of all, if Mr. Harper loses the election he is gone on election night. Full stop. So, he will be in no position to scream about the make-up of the government.

Second, if he only achieves another minority his remaining political career will be counted in weeks if not days. So, again he will be in no position to scream about the make-up of the government.

Steve: You have a good point. As far as I am concerned I have no problems with the Conservatives fearmongering about a coalition for 36 days, provided the Liberals actually put out a decent platform and run a decent campaign.

The contrast will be striking and it may cause many swing voters who might be looking for a reason to vote Liberal to find that very reason.

Mark, do not forget a Liberal majority as another possibility. A majority is probably not in the cards or any party but I dare say the Liberals have a better shot than the Conservatives. Stephen Harper was not able to close the deal in two seperate occasion despite being up against a Liberal Party in disarray being lead by leaders widely perceived to be weak. The Liberals now have their shit together, they are flush with cash and their leader demonstrated a couple of weeks ago that he has a full set of gnads. Mr. Harper on the other hand finds his approval rating going down and they may just continue in that direction if Mr. Ignatieff can put together a decent campaign.

Anonymous said...

All the speculating is pointless. The most likely scenario if we have an election is that the Cons will win a reduced minority, with a very likely possibility that the Libs and NDP together will have more seats, but still short of majority territory.

For Iggy to categorically deny that a coalition is never going to be considered is a bold faced lie and everyone knows it. There will be discussions the very next day between Iggy, Layton and likely Duceppe on how to handle this new configuration.

Iggy knows he can't go to the electorate with this very real possibility. He's deliberately misleading Canadians.

Harper misleads and misrepresents too, don't get me wrong, but Iggy's nose has grown 3 inches after his recent comments and the media is starting to call him on it.

THIS will be the ballot question. "Con majority or VERY high probabiliy of a Lib led coalition, in some form or another."

To deny that is to wear partisan blinders.

Mark McLaughlin

Steve V said...

"To deny that is to wear partisan blinders"

Ya, but you're a Con sympathizer, so why the hell do we care what you think? Good grief.

BTW, the Quebec press is saying Harper is dead in the province now, with his coalition rhetoric behind closed doors. Keep talking Harpo!

Dan said...

You're not wearing partisan blinders if you consider a Liberal minority or majority a possibility. Especially with Ignatieff having as good a day today as he is having.

It's also not completely unrealistic for Harper to continue governing with a reduced minority and depending on other parties for support beyond this election (if there is one). Although it is difficult to imagine Harper actually governing in consult with other parties. If Harper can't get through a few months with other party support it would be impossible for ideas of coalition to not rise again.

DL said...

The thing is also that if Ignatieff were to say "I will NEVER EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES take power as PM unless the Liberals party has the most seats" - he is effectively saying - Give me the most seats or else i will prop up Harper for the foreseeable future. What if the Tory Throne Speech includes cancelling the party funding and all the other objectionable stuff in the economic statement last year? Is anyone suggesting that if the Liberals are one seat behind the Tories in the seat count - they should vote Yes to all that crap?

Mark Richard Francis said...

I don't know if Harper will be gone ASAP if he loses. I can see how, but he is stubborn. And don't forget that his Party shares his attitudes.

The worst scenario is one where Harper won't let go because he has a plurality of seats, but where the other parties strike an accord and go to the GG. Harper would fight then. Sadly, I think this is the most likely electoral outcome, so is a not unlikely scenario, especially given Harper's personality.

I do not favour the Liberals waffling. I have long favoured a formal two year accord. All of Harper's bluster would fail outside of his base if the response was handled correctly.

You can't react to Harper too much. The game is a not safe with him around. You have to be brave and lead opinion.

I'm not supporting the Liberals this time out, but I am trying to see clear evidence that they have learned something.

Jerry Prager said...

I'm beginning to think Harper knows he's going to lose and thats why he released the Soo tape to CBC, he wants to rally those he come with and avoid some of the more unpleasantness with the Cons in parting, fly the ugly colours and head for the sunset.

Dan said...

"BTW, the Quebec press is saying Harper is dead in the province now, with his coalition rhetoric behind closed doors. Keep talking Harpo!"

Yah, and one of their top Quebec advisors Pierre Brien has quit and is thinking of running for the Bloc...

Alberta Report said...

Hey conservative trolls, how many of you are speculating that the daggers will be out for your dear leader when he delivers yet another non-majority for his conservative base?

Furthermore, if an election were called I would gather that the other parties would be more likely to form a majority coalition, rendering dear leader to the opposition side of the house. And, we all know that Steve will likely take his marbles and go back to some right wing think tank should that happen.

So don't be so smug fellas. The poll numbers don't speak to the real truth that when your hamfisted leader steps down the right will once again be in complete disarray.

Anonymous said...

4:34 post, I did not write that post Steve. Anon is too chicken to sign his own name so resorts to using others. This how the Reform/trolls work. Stealing peoples identities and telling lies. Little people with no guts.

Just like his Leader Harper.

Marie L

Steve V said...


Pretty obvious that wasn't you. That kind of stupid sticks out ;)

JimmE said...

If we do go to the polls this fall what would it take for the present PM to continue? May I suggest a majority? For this to happen Iggy would have to run THE worst election campaign since Pappa Louis; I meant worse than THE LAND IS STRONG and worse than 2008 combined. In 3 outings each time polls show folks think the present PM has the lead, people pull back.

Let me put it another way; if IDENTIFIED Liberals from 2008 vote at rates of 65% turnout or more, the result is increased Liberal seat counts.
Forget Liberal government for a moment, this result means no more sad, tired, angry small man as PM.

For Iggy to to do worst than M Dion that would mean that people who hate what the present PM has done to diminish this country would hold their noses just to end minority government.

I'm sure that even the most blind Harper lover may pause when this is proposed.

Harper lover; that must be some kind of oxymoron, what?

Steve V said...


Hebert made some good points tonight. No politician has every cobbled together a majority without a presence in Quebec. This coalition strategy will kill the Cons in Quebec, they will lose seats, so there's no math elsewhere to make it up. It can't happen if he alienates Quebec.

Jon Pertwee said...

"To deny that is to wear partisan blinders."

If only we could harness the power of conservative hypocrisy. An unlimited source of electricity for all!

Harness the Bluster!

Steve V said...

We could even meet our Kyoto targets with some to spare.