Friday, September 11, 2009

Read My Lips

If you're a big coalition supporter, Ignatieff's unequivocal words today have you in a tizzy. I think the move was shrewd politically, as well as sound philosophically. I also think nothing Michael said today precludes a good relationship with other parties, a co-operative spirit, a compromise flavor, mutual respect, etc. A simple fact, pet arrangements aside, you don't need a coalition to make a minority government work. It's a dubious choice that people have presented, either the Liberals support a coalition, or any sense of parliamentary representation is lost. Bullocks.

From a political perspective, there is nothing to be gained for the Liberals, if Ignatieff engages in hypotheticals, if he's "fuzzy" on a potential coalition. That's exactly what the Conservatives would love to see. Want proof? CTV reports the PMO is up in arms at the media today, because they're saying Ignatieff was unequivocal on a coalition, "case closed". That is the Conservative nightmare, they want blurred lines, they want Ignatieff to entertain, they want the media to speculate, they want FUEL for their hysteria. The Conservatives started ads today speaking about the coalition threat, and Ignatieff cut it off at the knees before it festered. In taking such an early position, by the time we reach the actual campaign, this issue will wane as the repetitive "what don't you understand about NO" bores us all to tears. The debate will move to who can get Parliament to work, who can bring people together. Ignatieff has set his parameters, let's debate within that, rather than speculate on things that aren't on the table. FIRM was required, there is no upside for the Liberals to get drawn in to protracted coalition discussion. How other parties view that position is entirely irrelevant, as well as self serving. I really don't want to hear Layton and Duceppe telling Canadians they need a stronger voice in a coalition so send more MP's to Ottawa. Pardon me if that doesn't work for the Liberals, and if the roles were reversed, the tune would change.

On the substance of what Ignatieff said, I think this issue of co-operation and respect will be a central theme in this election. People are sick of the status quo, Harper wants more power, we counter with HIM as the core problem. Give the Liberals a chance to make it work, Harper had his chance and failed. We will work with others, in the spirit of Pearson and Trudeau, without the need for formal arrangements. The other parties will have a voice, the Liberals will bend, but we won't be beholden beyond a particular issue at hand. That's reasonable, that sets a different tone, that speaks to the current dysfunction. Ignatieff as bridge builder, placed perfectly on the political spectrum to have some appeal. Harper as divisive, unable to play with others, Ignatieff offering a different approach that pledges to find consensus and provide good government. Sounds good to me.


RuralSandi said...

I'm getting a headache - the Macleans bunch are obsessed with Ignatieff's past and current statement on the coalition.

I wonder if Tommy Douglas went through this?

Steve V said...


It's good that this discussion is happening pre-writ, they'll be bored out of their minds before a campaign even starts. This was 7th inning stuff I thought, and Flanagan saying it's all a bit "early" tells me so.

Northern PoV said...

Iggy may regret his words as he wriggles through the next Parliament.

That said, in regards to this video gem there has been far too much attention to the coalition-red-herring at the expense of ignoring the very real litany of Harper's "accomplishments" (and hence the evil coalition/impending threat to their continuation)
* killed court challenges funding (by decree)
* has been appointing right-wing ideologues to judge-ships at all levels, Senate & other bodies
* undermining gun registry while waiting for final chance to kill it
* undermines vulnerable minorities
* abandons Canandas' traditional foreign policy

DL said...

Has Ignatieff actually rules out forming a coalition with the Conservatives after the election? That's probably what he has in mind.

Scott in Montreal said...

Good points here. Politically shrewd because it sends a message to all who want to dump the current government that they risk scuttling it all by voting for a third party. We all know only the Libs can save us. It'll be a nose-holding experience for many, but one that most Canadians can live with, given the alternatives. Too early to say so, but I think today's unequivocable no is a key to Iggy building up to his own majority.

DL said...

I'm not sure what you mean by unequivocal. Let's say that the election results are 120 Tories, 110 Liberals, 38 NDP and 40 BQ and the Tories lose the vote on their throne speech, what happens next? The GG would then have to ask the leader of the next largest party to form a government. What difference does it make whether the Liberals have 10 seats more or ten seats fewer than the Tories, they still are the government until the opposition defeats them and the more NDP and BQ MPs there are and the weaker a hand the Liberals have - the more a Liberal minority government would be forced to actually keep all the lavish promises they will make in the upcoming campaign - promises that we all know they have every intention of breaking if they can.

Anonymous said...

My gosh how many hypotheticals can one pile into a sentence?

At some indeterminate point in the future when an election is called yielding results we can't foresee, should one party fail to maintain confidence, might some other party be forced to consider yet undefined demands of another minority party causing the second party - plus or minus some amount of seats - to adapt campaign pledges no one has heard yet and which some sitting here today may suspect they possibly had no intention of even partially fulfilling anyhow?

Whew, I'm tired. Can I go get a beer now?

Scott in Montreal said...

@ DL: are there no bridges we can avoid passing until we actually get there?

@joseph: well put. when I start saying "unequivocable" instead of "unequivocal" it is definitely time for a beer.

Steve V said...


The NDP want us to carry their coalition water.

marie said...

The Harper bunch are obsessed with anything and everything but the most important item to them, is have another election soon because its very plain that he wants one desperately. They have been campaigning non stop since the last one and obviously feel ready now as they have been preparing for one for months.This should prove to Canadians that Harper has no intention of ever working with opposition. Maybe he's afraid with more time, they will see him for the jerk he really is.

JimmE said...

The more folks see Iggy looking like the adult in the room, the more likely folks (including Reform-a-tories) will just want this over. Folks will vote for the fella that reminds them most of their image of themselves; ie. reasonable, pragmatic, & NOT a partisan. If, as you say, the emotion of the Evil Coalition is off the table even in Alberta folks will vote, emotionally for a calm voice.
But hey, I still think we are not going to the polls until spring.
If this comes to an election this fall, I think the adult wins a majority.

Mark Richard Francis said...

Iggy either had to completely endorse a coalition, or abandon it. I support having one, but there's no time to do what needs doing, that is, having an agreed upon platform, an agreement on what ridings to not fight over, and so on. Also, having a coalition will make the election about that rather than be about Harper's record. So, Iggy has made the right choice politically.

Steve is right. Iggy has given the best answer politically.

I want a two year coalition myself, as it would be more stable than what we've had. I do not see a majority in the cards for anyone.

Tof KW said...

I think JimmE got it right. The contrasts now between Harper and Ignatieff are striking. And by throwing the 'scary coalition' stuff out early they; a) clearly show they're scared of an election, and b) this will stale by the time ballots are being cast.

Plus with the separatist talk from Harper's latest home video, he just lost 9 out of his 10 Quebec seats, as I'm guessing Bernier will probably be safe. There is no way he can gain those 12 extra seats he needs for a majority as that means now finding 21 in order to replace those 9. And even here I am making a big assumption that he will hold all his current seats.

There is no 'winning' anymore for Harper, the only scenarios for him are various degrees of loosing. His best outcome now is another minority win, and even that may not be good enough as the Tories may begin to break apart again once they realize they will never form a majority with Harper at the helm.

Harper is a wounded animal and is lashing out, this can be very good for the Liberals provided they stay the adults through all this.

Jerry Prager said...

The other point Iggy made that I think bear remaking as a core fact, is that Harper has had four years of failed minority government: his term is up. I think the cons are going to get wiped out in this election because once it become obvious they are going to lose, his core won't even bother to show up and voted.
It's also not hard for a man like Iggy who has been out in the world, to know what a real Canadian value is, and what a Bush League value is, and Harper is pure Bush League.

Steve V said...


It was no accident that Ignatieff kept saying "four years" when he announced our new stance. We need to keep repeating that, because it speaks to a longer legacy than the "last election", it reminds people that this guy has had his turn and failed.