Canada Kicks Ass
Liberal tactics need a rethink


ridenrain @ Tue Dec 23, 2008 9:09 am

Liberal tactics need a rethink
Dec 23, 2008 04:30 AM
Rob Mitchell

It's appropriate, given the season, that recent events should bring peace to the land, at least in the short term. The Harper government has acquiesced to opposition demands and committed to a stimulus package, likely in the neighbourhood of $30 billion, to be delivered in a budget on Jan. 27.

The Liberals are claiming victory. It will mean a significant deficit, but necessary for the Canadian economy and the survival of the governing Tories. In addition, the feds have aligned with the McGuinty Liberals to assist the auto sector with $4 billion. This should put an end to the parliamentary crisis that has gripped the nation.

It may also give the federal Liberals pause to do some soul searching. Fundamental to this parliamentary crisis has been a crisis within the Liberal party itself. The instability of five leaders in as many years has been ruinous to its finances, policy development and general morale. Stephen Harper has been both clever and ruthless in exploiting this divide.

Parliament has become a nasty place, seething with anger and disdain, driven by the Liberals' continued impotence to thwart the government's agenda. The last session proved the final straw, over before it started, establishing a historic precedent and forcing a standoff yet to be resolved.

It's easy to blame the Prime Minister for the temerity to suggest political parties actually pay their own freight. Masked in all the hyperbole is the Liberals' inability to adjust to their fall from power and the lingering internecine warfare that began with the Martin-Chr├ętien rivalry. The proposed Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition is evidence of what extremes they will go to in order to regain power. It was a reckless caprice that is sure to return to haunt them in the next election.

What black farce then, that St├ęphane Dion's Blair Witch Project video was the impetus for the Liberals to finally get their act together. Overnight, a former tourist named Michael Ignatieff was installed as the new leader. Grassroots Liberals may not be happy with that turn of events, but the caucus and Bob Rae understood. Since democracy, such as it is in delegated conventions, delivered Dion, it was time for the Grit old guard to take charge.

Ignatieff still holds the sword of Damocles above Stephen Harper's head. If the coalition is unhappy with the coming budget, it will request the Governor General allow it to form a government. Failing that, it's off to the polls. However, Greek mythology redux, like Icarus, Ignatieff may find himself circling too close to the sun if he continues with taunts to bring down the government.

Conservative operatives were stunned to find they smashed all previous fundraising records in the days following the announcement of the coalition. To their surprise, the majority of donations came from Ontario. The results of the telephone solicitations were staggering, particularly the night of the Harper-Dion national television address.

Recent polls should be disturbing to the Liberals. Ignatieff enjoyed a modest bounce in popularity following his coronation, but there's no evidence Canadians want him to lead a coalition government. The same polls confirm an election could be equally calamitous to his fortunes.

The churlish antics of the Liberal caucus had their roots in the Harper threat to their electoral subsidy. That's off the table and the Prime Minister has delivered on their coveted stimulus package.

The Tories were able to rebuild from a decimating defeat in 1993 that reduced them to two seats. Putting petulance aside, there's no reason the Liberals can't return to power honestly.

Rob Mitchell was a senior aide to former premier Ernie Eves. His column appears every other week.


Toro @ Tue Dec 23, 2008 10:50 am

It still amazes me that the two leading contenders to the Liberal throne were a guy who hadn't lived in the country 25 of the past 28 years and another who was a one-term premier leading another party who is generally thought of as a failure.


ridenrain @ Tue Dec 23, 2008 1:13 pm

I agree. I guess these are the results when the leaders are selected by hidden kingmakers and back room deals. It's frightening that members put up with that crap too.