Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Conditional Support


The Liberal party had a choice to make today and I'm certainly reading a lot about it. I know many thought that Ignatieff made the wrong choice. At the risk of being lambasted, I don't.

The idealist in me wanted him to push more amendments. Specifically I would like to have seen more 'green' and I think changes should have been made to the EI program and obviously the pay equity issue. Will some issues be tackled in Committee? I hope so. Overall I thought the budget lacked a clear focus and was scatter shot in it's approach.

That said, it's the Conservatives budget. They own it and will be judged on it's ability to do what they say it will. They were forced into writing such a budget and in that sense, the coalition did work. It's hilarious to hear Conservative MP's insist they would have come up with this on their own. They apparently believe that the country hasn't been paying attention. They have that part dead wrong and here is where the pragmatist in me comes forward.

What Ignatieff laid down today was clever. The reporting and deadlines are beside the point really, but to Canadians watching, he was doing the responsible thing. We who stay glued to this stuff tend to forget about the vast majority of people who simply want government to get on with things. Tired of the brinkmanship, most polls suggest that people were neither interested in an election or a coalition. They are worried about the economy. So, the Liberal party decided to allow the budget to pass while holding Harper's feet to the fire.

Now, it could be said that minority governments have that kind of scrutiny anyway and that there are checks and balances already in place. While that is true, Harper isn't one for sticking to the rules is he? So, Ignatieff lays down a marker insisting that the government be held to account, in the light of day and in a timely fashion. Will Harper follow these rules? Time will tell but there is a difference here.

In the past when Harper stepped out of line, we would respond and that was it. The media would be on to the next thing. Here, if Harper flouts the deadline or obscures the facts, there will be a procedure in place that will keep his transgression in the news cycle. That's no small thing. Harper doesn't like the spotlight being shone on him unless he is directing the drama. Will he play games? Time will tell.

So, the idealist in me would have put forward more amendments, but I doubt they would have been accepted. Furthermore, I doubt that would have been enough for Layton either. As much as it is nice to think that we had Harper in a corner the pragmatist in me knows that the Conservatives were ready to frame the issue and go to an election. There was too much in the budget, accepted and applauded by too many quarters, for any opposition to stand any real test. Could the GG have turned to the coalition and prevented an election? I suppose, but outside of the changes I mentioned and I suppose a few others, would the public have really bought the fact that our budget was sooo different that it required a shift of power? I doubt it.

As much as I want to see the back of Harper, I think we did what we had to today and in the end, I think it will pay off. Journalists are suggesting that there won't be an election until the next budget. I disagree. I think there will be an election this year and I think we will be glad we waited.

Idealism is a wonderful thing, but it holds little sway in modern politics. The Liberals had to re-establish themselves. This move, while not ideal for some, will help us do that.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well said!

Dame said...

The ultimate pragmatic act would have been the Coalition for the next two years however Canadians need more time for thinking about combining forces and Compromising .
I am happy with Iggy's steps and the way he is explaining the whole complex situation and his choices .
Of Course I wanted the deceiving snake out of our HOUSE .
Hope the LEASH will be Tight >..
/can You imagin a leash on a snake??? well that is why I said it has to be Tight!!!! lololo
/

Cherniak_WTF said...

You seem a little haphazard in this post. Maybe it's the being conflicted between politics and what's right for Canadians....
The idealist in me wanted him to push more amendments.
Basically you are admitting that this enormous deficit is deeply flawed...

It's hilarious to hear Conservative MP's insist they would have come up with this on their own.
It shows that the Connies are hypocrites, yes. Then you state that the coalition did work.
So why not have the coalition administer this budget for 18 months? What was there to loose, instead of giving in to Harper?

Accountability is only a word and as we have seen, does not mean or count for much with most governments. A few days there was a report about the leak at Chalk River. When we remember the firing of the regulator last year, some were outraged because her job was to prevent such idiocy. Now we seem to accept it.

Who says the optics on the budget will be different? I think it will be more of the same. Window dressing hiding the real problems.

The Liberals have splintered themselves.

Canadians are waking up to the horrors of Harper. This was a chance to put Canada before politics and Liberals blew it.

The Mound of Sound said...

KNB, like virtually every Iggy supporter I've read, your focus is on how he's supposedly positioning the LPC - the standard fare. That's just not good enough this time. This is about the greatest economic downturn faced by Canada in years, possibly generations. That requires all of us, all parliamentarians, to put Canada first ahead of partisan politicking. Harper couldn't do that, neither could Ignatieff.

That budget MI supports becomes MI's and the LPC's budget in these circumstances and it will leave Canadians deficit-strapped for a decade at least while giving them a mediocre at best stimulus package.

Ignatieff had a two month break. He and his caucus ought to have come forward over the past three days with a clear, visionary stimulus package of their own. It's not like it would have been hard to do better than the thin gruel Harper dished up.

But they didn't. They decided to play politics with the recession and that, KNB, is despicable.

Canada is being left to wallow under this hapless stimulus plan for at least six months, delaying any real remedial measures for a year or more, potentially far more. That's what Iggy has strapped Canada to for the sake of political posturing.

That's rank garbage. We, Canadians and Liberals, deserve better.

gingercat said...

Thanks for always being a voice of reason. You have always been one of my favorite reads.

knb said...

can You imagin a leash on a snake???

In this case, I can.

WesternGrit said...

Well thought out KNB. I too want to see the end of Harper, but patience is a virtue - a great virtue in politics. Wearing your heart on your sleeve leaves it open for others to hack to pieces. Mr. Ignatieff is a tactician, and he has surrounded himself with other tacticians. The Canadian public has a greater appreciation for him because of it - and more importantly, the Canadian media, who create Canadian public opinion.

The difference, with the change in leadership, is that we're not being pushed around anymore (or perceived to be). We're holding the reins.

No matter how much we feel we can do better, we MUST earn the public trust, if we are to win. I prefer an election over a coalition because I don't think we can work with Jack (note that I say "Jack", and not the NDP).

Some of us are lamenting the "loss" of "friendship" with Jack that the coalition brought. Remember, only days before the coalition, Jack was busy tearing us a new one every opportunity he had. Jack is a blatant opportunist, and we've figured this out. Next time we need to use him, he'll be there - just as he was willing to use our friendship this time around. In politics positions change in minutes - as does public opinion.

I would much rather that Harper wear the recession/depression. We owe him that much... lol... When it get's worse - as it always does right before it gets better - we jettison him, and march to victory.

We must look at the long-term greater good, rather than the immediate (12-18 month) expediency...

WesternGrit said...

... In the meantime, we need to busily be looking like the government in waiting - which we are. We have a leader who looks very Prime-Ministerial, and we need to ensure our party is also ready. Time to get down to business - party business.

Remember VictoryFund.ca.

knb said...

c_wtf. Well, I suppose in a sense I am conflicted because I would have liked to have extracted more, but I don't think I'm realistic in thinking that.

You ask: So why not have the coalition administer this budget for 18 months? What was there to loose...

Credibility. How could Canadians be expected to watch further gamesmanship on the Hill, delay in addressing what are immediate problems while the coalition took power only to implement much of what the Con's had there in the first place?

Harper would have wasted no time in painting it as a power grab and indeed has already been e-mailing for money and running ad's suggesting just that.

In addition to Harper making that claim, I suspect the media would have backed him on it.

The party needs to re-establish itself. Should we have to? That obviously is another story but we are where we are.

I don't think we've blown it and I think the horrors of Harper will become even more evident.

I do think he'll be held to account and if we back down from doing that, we deserve to be kept from power.

FredfromBC said...

I must be missing something here.

KNB finally makes some points that don't look like they were written by a starry-eyed teenager with her head in the clouds, and the rest of you want to castigate her for it? WTF, Cherniak?..;)

The reality is, Canadians rejected the idea of a Coalition vehemently and immediately; poll numbers for the Conservatives went as high as 51% while the Liberals went down to 20% and the NDP 10%
(yes, that's TEN PERCENT national support).

Even after dumping his Coalition partners (which also doesn't make him look very trustworthy, I'm afraid)Ignatieff is still in no position to defeat Harper and go into an election. The Liberals aren't just broke...they are heavily in debt. Not only that, but the party is still split down the middle no matter how passionately they deny it in public, and both Ignatieff and Rae need to settle their differences one way or another before you can hope to move forward.

That said, you might find it amusing that many Conservatives are angry about Stephen Harper not calling Ignatieff's bluff, thereby forcing him into a humiliating (and very public)retreat.

Cherniak_WTF said...

That's just not good enough this time. This is about the greatest economic downturn faced by Canada in years, possibly generations. That requires all of us, all parliamentarians, to put Canada first ahead of partisan politicking. Harper couldn't do that, neither could Ignatieff.
Maybe some should remember how bad it was under Mulroney...

I agree with everything you have said. It seems that petty politics trumps all - we really are a few years behind the Americans...

Cherniak_WTF said...

KNB finally makes some points that don't look like they were written by a starry-eyed teenager with her head in the clouds, and the rest of you want to castigate her for it? WTF, Cherniak?..;)
I was not trying - believe me I have the utmost respect for KNB.
I am (I mean was) a long term Liberal from Quebec. I applauded Dion for his stance on Quebec. What the Liberals need is principles - not the "marshmallowing" that I've been seeing.

I am tired of bullshit politics as witnessed by the dumbing down practised by Harper. I had hoped that the Liberals would not embrace it.


As for the Connies not liking the budget, well they are a bunch of deluded half-wits but at least some are openly criticizing it.

Sure it's nice to think that Harper will wear the recession/depression/deflation but at what human cost? I remember the Mulroney years and this is déja vue...

knb said...

MoS, I'm a party supporter. Ignatieff is leading it.

This is not MI's budget, nor will the public interpret it as such. Layton and Harper can scream that to the rooftops, but everyday people will hold the government in power responsible for it.

You know, I think the Lib's did have a shadow budget written. If that is true, I suspect it was more focused and included some of what I previously mentioned, but I'm not sure those distinctions would have mattered a whit to most people.

Some of what is in the budget will be measurable in short order. If it doesn't produce as advertised, so be it. We gave ourselves an option, one at least that Canadians can readily understand. 'Harper promised he'd do X, he hasn't done it, we will have a vote of confidence...'

Felling the government for the sake of it would also be playing politics.

I don't believe that the Liberals would allow the country to fail just for the sake of political posturing MoS. You're right, that would be dispicable. Additionally, it would be stupid as there wouldn't even be an opportunistic upside to that. What would be gained by achieving power only to preside over an irreparable state of affairs?

knb said...

KNB finally makes some points that don't look like they were written by a starry-eyed teenager

Hmm. I hope you don't mean this post is a departure for me? ;)

ottlib said...

There is a part of me that wants to see Mr. Harper gone and gone yesterday. The coalition taking over right now would accomplish that but there would be a cost.

But whose kidding who. A coalition with the main party only numbering about 75 seats, supported by Jack Layton (who cannot be trusted) and a seperatist (terrible optics no matter that they are really not relevent any more) during the worst economic downturn in a generation. Talk about a recipe for political disaster.

The result would likely have been a Conservative majority in about 18 months with a new and more cuddly leader but the same old neo-cons that we have now.

Or to put it another way I want to see Stephen Harper gone but I want the likes of John Baird, Deficit Jim, Pierre Poilevre et al to join him in looking for real jobs. The current actions of the Liberal Party increase the chance of such an outcome.

As for those who are disappointed because the Liberals put "politics over the country" all I can say is what tripe.

Stop believing your own hype. The Liberals are not miracle workers in turning around the economy. They would be a powerless as and the Conservatives are and will be in having any positive impact on the recession and its effects on Canadians.

When the Liberals did work their "miracle" in the '90s the economy was already out of recession and the recovery was well on its way. The Liberals merely took advantage of that situation. The current situation is completely opposite of that. We are just beginning the recession. It is going to get worse before it gets better and no one, Liberal, Conservative, Dipper or any other ideology will change that reality.

Stephen Harper is a damaged government leader, during a recession, facing a chief opponent who is smart and articulate and who has some rather good political instincts.

Having the government report three times a year, guaranteeing the economy and how the government is handling it remains in the forefront, is rather clever. It keeps the pressure on Stephen Harper and as I have been saying for months the Liberals have to find a way to put sustained pressure on him. He has demonstrated many times that he does not react well to it.

knb said...

c_wtf, I know you aren't castigating me. I respect your opinion and I think I know where you stand on where things are at the moment.

Can I ask you though, honestly. If Dion had proposed this, would you feel the same way?

You know I'm with you on the dumbing down issue, but I don't see that here. The country is paying attention and people are concerned with stability. Ignatieff gave them that today.

Conversely, Layton went into a fever pitch and began his juvenile sloganeering. That's keeping it dumbed down.

I agree with WG on that count. I'm happy to work with the NDP, but not sorry to loose Jack. He wanted the coalition to work for all the wrong reasons. His taunting of 'there is a new coalition now...' , the man obviously has amnesia.

Oh and did you hear Mulcair? He threw a dig at Ignatieff for not having lived in Canada as long as he has. I know you like the guy and I'm sure with good reason, but really, that was dumbing it down.

knb said...

ottlib: the Liberals have to find a way to put sustained pressure on him. He has demonstrated many times that he does not react well to it.

True enough.

Cherniak_WTF said...

supported by Jack Layton (who cannot be trusted) and a seperatist (terrible optics no matter that they are really not relevent any more) during the worst economic downturn in a generation.
I'll trust Jack over Harper.

A separatist? Sure but still elected in Quebec - hardly irrelevant. They saved Canada from a Harper majority.
Now, it seems that Quebec is being punished. The BQ will benefit from that.

Worst economic downturn - agreed. So why put politics in front of it...

WesternGrit said...

"I am tired of bullshit politics as witnessed by the dumbing down practised by Harper. I had hoped that the Liberals would not embrace it."

I think the public perceives us as standing "head and shoulders" above the political game. Layton appears to be the power-hungry loon, and Harper looks like the scolded child.

On the "dumbing down" - that is the whole idea of lessening political discourse on "ideas". I think that, by holding their feet to the fire on the issues, we are forcing a discussion on the issues, and on ideas. We'll have a debate in Parliament - rather than a partisan back and forth in an election and a year round "pre-writ".

ottlib said...

"A separatist? Sure but still elected in Quebec..."

True fact. Bad optics. Too easily attacked.

Another true fact. The Green Shift would have been very good for the country on many levels. However it suffered from the same problem. Too easy to depict it as just another tax grab.

An axiom of politics. Perception is more important than reality. Like the Green Shift a coalition supported by the Bloc is too easily depicted as bad for the country.

"Worst economic downturn - agreed. So why put politics in front of it..."

As much as you would like to seperate politics from the current economic downturn it is not going to happen. It will be the topic of Canadian politics for the next two years, at least. To deny that is to deny reality.

The Mound of Sound said...

How about people who drag hackneyed phrases such as "holding feet to the fire" avoid discussing dumbing down? What a load of bollocks!

knb said...

gingercat, thank you.

Cherniak_WTF said...

Oh and did you hear Mulcair? He threw a dig at Ignatieff for not having lived in Canada as long as he has. I know you like the guy and I'm sure with good reason, but really, that was dumbing it down.
Yes, that was low.
He should keep his anger in check...

I have a feeling that in Quebec, the BQ will be doing better now. Duceppe has called off his "truce" with the Liberals. The party apparatus in Quebec is inept - so that's that.

WesternGrit said...

Yeah, I guess "feet to the fire" was a little "dumbed down". I think holding Harper accountable is critical. I really think the Canadian people would reject an immediate coalition. They may warm to the idea of a Liberal majority, on the other hand, if we show that we are concerned about progress, and making Parliament work (to use another "overused" phrase).

My definition of "dumbing down" refers to what the right has done by pulling away the desire of the public to question anything. To fundamentally go against the realities and facts of science and experts in various fields. To simplify things with catch phrases. There are extremes. Perhaps our definitions of "dumbing down" are different - I refer mainly to the rejection of common sense and science, and the massive conservative movement to call any intellectual a "pie-eyed elitist".

I supported the idea of a coalition at first, but after thinking through the logistics, and observing public opinion - not to mention the $Millions lined up against us (in attack ads) - I realized that even being in power un-interrupted for 18 months would not be enough when coupled with a worsening economic crisis.

To take over for 18 months, and watch the economy tank further - no matter what we did - would only serve to elect a massive Conservative majority in a couple of years. After looking at the global economic collapse seriously over the past few weeks, I have come to this conclusion: it is going to be much, much worse than people say it will be - and even THAT is pretty bad already (ask factory workers in Ontario, or farmers in the Far East).

What good could come of "winning" temporarily - with a short-term coalition, then watching as the Conservatives ride the economic upswing into power? Let them wear it. With their HUGE deficit precedent, we can make whatever promises we want, and get the "put people to work" projects we are looking for. Much better alternative than a future Conservative government? We need to look long-term.

At a time like this - as trite as it sounds - constructively working together is the only way. A wounded Harper will be desperate to hang onto power, and he will mind his Ps and Qs as he does it. If he steps out of line, we will say it, and the media and public will know it.

FredfromBC said...

Blogger Cherniak_WTF said...

supported by Jack Layton (who cannot be trusted) and a seperatist (terrible optics no matter that they are really not relevent any more) during the worst economic downturn in a generation.
I'll trust Jack over Harper.

--------------

Really? You'd want Taliban Jack in charge of the Canadian economy?

I'm from BC, where we have experienced a couple of provincial NDP governments with predictably disastrous results. Ontarians will probably feel the same...NEVER EVER allow the NDP to get their hands on a healthy economy, because they honestly do believe that they can simply increase taxes on the rich and the corporations to fund an endless number of better, richer social programs....

(for some reason, they seem to do all right in 'have not' provinces)

FredfromBC said...

knb said...

KNB finally makes some points that don't look like they were written by a starry-eyed teenager

Hmm. I hope you don't mean this post is a departure for me? ;)

-------------


Hey, I was young and idealistic once too (before I figured out what life was really like). I miss those days...:(

RuralSandi said...

I've come to put Cherniak-wtf and MOS on ignore. They are on a mission because they don't like Iggy. In fact, if Iggy did exactly what they thought he should do, they'd find something else - pretty tiresome isn't it?

Personalities in a coalition is important and I heard Iggy say some things about the coalition bothered him and Rae said something about a problem with chemistry. The problem I think is Layton/Mulcair - they would make demands upon demands and posture constantly. And, face, it, Layton is a political whore - he'll sleep and make deals with anyone.

Watching Iggy and Rae doing the circuit - it's team Iggy/Rae and they are a witty pair I must say.

I like Rae being in foreign affairs. I think that may be his lot in life and I think he'll be terrific. He's a good negotiator -and that's necessary in that position.

Sometimes in life, things fall where they should. I think of Pearson. It wasn't his tenure as PM that made him so famous and respected - it was his negotiating abilities and that Nobel prize.

Cherniak_WTF said...

I am amused by all the Iggy lovers out there who are applauding that Iggy will make the Harper "accountable".
Even Warren K is saying "And if he doesn’t change his ways, we will defeat him."

How's that? Duceppe and Layton have said that they will not play with Iggy anymore....
So the Liberals can vote down anything they want, but without the other opposition, Harper has a free hand.

Everyday the Liberals and Connie supporters seems to be blending - and it's not pretty.

Now Liberals can take some pride that in Quebec, you are ahead of the Conservatives in the polls. But lets not forget that the coalition was very popular here - the poll does not reflect that yet.

knb said...

Fred, sorry to disappoint you but I'm far from young but thankfully I haven't lost my idealism.

knb said...

Sandi, c_wtf and MoS may not like Ignatieff, but there are many other issues we agree on.

I like Rae in Foreign Affairs too, though I would have been happy with him a leader. That said, I'm not sure he would have been given a fair shake by the media, prodded by the raving right. The party would have had a hell of a time surviving continued pummeling.

knb said...

c_wtf, I'm not an 'Iggy lover'. I certainly don't give him a free pass and have expressed reservations in the past. That said, I'm looking to see this party get back on it's feet and I don't think constantly being at odds with the leader is a way to do that. I'll take each decision as it comes.

As to Layton and Duceppe not 'playing' with the Libs in the House, well what does that tell you? They sound like petulant school children. Layton is really showing his colours and I think he's had his last hurrah. Duceppe is being Duceppe and in fact handled yesterday much better than Layton.

Now, does this move have the potential to create some problems in Quebec? I think so, so I hope there are people on the ground dealing with that. I saw the CROP poll and while I think Ignatieff will play better than Dion, I appreciate that the poll was done pre-budget.

Cherniak_WTF said...

c_wtf, I'm not an 'Iggy lover'. I certainly don't give him a free pass and have expressed reservations in the past. That said, I'm looking to see this party get back on it's feet and I don't think constantly being at odds with the leader is a way to do that. I'll take each decision as it comes.

My comment was not directed at you. I know that you are being pragmatic.


As to Layton and Duceppe not 'playing' with the Libs in the House, well what does that tell you? They sound like petulant school children. Layton is really showing his colours and I think he's had his last hurrah. Duceppe is being Duceppe and in fact handled yesterday much better than Layton.

Here I have to disagree.
It's a bad budget that does not deserve to be supported. Iggy is playing politics and the cute soundbyte of holding Harper accountable means nothing.
Pray tell, how will he hold Harper accountable and defeat him without the help of the opposition?

Canadians are slowly waking up to the fact that the Conservatives have misled us on the economy. The sagging numbers seem to confirm this. Duceppe does not have to worry much about the Conservatives in Quebec and can now turn his attention to the Liberals. And they are rather inept here.

Iggy has been too clever by half. Now it's all posturing on his part.






Now, does this move have the potential to create some problems in Quebec? I think so, so I hope there are people on the ground dealing with that. I saw the CROP poll and while I think Ignatieff will play better than Dion, I appreciate that the poll was done pre-budget.

It's a poor budget for Quebec. Even Charest is complaining about it. The Conservatives destroyed a lot of good will towards them in the beginning talks of the coalition...

knb said...

I found it interesting that Ignatieff spoke of Charest so much yesterday. We'll have to see where that goes.

I agree that the Lib's gained some due to the coalition, but I'm not convinced they'll automatically lose it all because of the latest move.

Honest question. If Harper is held to account and Ignatieff proposes to take him down because he's failing to live up to the amendment, how do Layton and Duceppe not support that with any credibility? Do they suddenly support the budget and worse yet, it's lack of implementation?

Cherniak_WTF said...

how do Layton and Duceppe not support that with any credibility?
They can easily say that we don't believe in having an election at this juncture... Support some sham amendments to the budget and know that they will pass. Duceppe can easily say that he does not trust the Liberals or the Conservatives and rattle on about separation without much ill effect to his popularity...

Steve V said...

Well said knb :)

FredfromBC said...

RuralSandi said...

I've come to put Cherniak-wtf and MOS on ignore. They are on a mission because they don't like Iggy. In fact, if Iggy did exactly what they thought he should do, they'd find something else - pretty tiresome isn't it?

------------

Now you know exactly how you make yourself look with your frequent partisan rants against anything and everything conservative.

FredfromBC said...

knb said...

I like Rae in Foreign Affairs too, though I would have been happy with him a leader. That said, I'm not sure he would have been given a fair shake by the media, prodded by the raving right. The party would have had a hell of a time surviving continued pummeling.

-------------------

Absolutely. But Ignatieff has his own weaknesses, as did Dion. The biggest problem with all three, though, is that none of them are the first choice of your party. Rae supporters would never vote for Ignatieff, and vice-versa (that's how you got Dion in the first place, isn't it?)...and all of this animosity goes back to the Paul Martin supporters who thought it would be a good idea to replace a three-time Prime Minister with their own candidate.

Bad mistake. Really REALLY bad mistake, as it turns out, because it split the Liberal Party down the middle and you still haven't recovered from it. Now at least some of you must know (whether you care to admit it or not)that supporting whoever takes over the leadership just because he or she is least objectionable to the largest number of delegates will not solve your problem. You brought in two 'outsiders' in an attempt to find a replacement for Martin and it backfired on you; the solution is probably to find one of the older party stalwarts with little or no baggage to try and salvage things and get you back to where you should be. Forget about the 'young guns', because most of them are associated with Paul Martin, aren't they?

Whatever. Take the time to do it right, because Stephen Harper is going to be Prime Minister for a few years yet...:)