What next for Liberals? – Proceed with Caution

I’ve yet to talk to a Liberal who is excited by this coalition. I’m sure they are out there – I just have yet to meet one. From what I have heard, most feel the coalition proposal is a necessary evil – one required to reign in a Prime Minister who -during a period of economic crises – became partisan, out of touch and just plain nasty in his approach. I see that Bob Rae wants to champion the coalition idea – I think he’ll find it a hard sell in many corners.

The smart move for a leadership candidate now is to not get more partisan, but instead to try to be a statesman-like. Canadians are tired of this political mess, they want someone to end it – and there are probably political points to be earned. Herein lies the opportunity.

I’m looking for the leadership candidate who says:

First, I don’t agree with the Governor General’s decision. I think it is wrong for a Government to escape a confidence vote with a procedural move – I think it sets a bad precedent and weakens our parliamentary democracy. That said, I respect the decision and this is the situation we must work with.

The Conservatives now have a month with which to rethink their approach to the economy and how they wish to manage parliament. They should use this time carefully. Canadians, the Liberal Party, and I’m sure the NDP and the Bloc are all eager to have a parliament that is focused on the critical issues of the day, not partisan infighting. That said, Canadians, and this parliament, have lost faith in the Prime Minister – in his priorities, in his approach and in his leadership.

The Liberal party is prepared to work with all parties both to make this parliament work and ensure Canadians are well represented in this time of economic turmoil. To this end, we think talk of a coalition should be suspended, if, and only if, the Prime Minister resigns and/or a new budget with a sufficiently credible stimulus package is put forward. We say this because the Prime Minister’s capacity to lead a cooperative, effective parliament has been fatally compromised, and because, given the severity of the economic crises confronting us a real stimulus package is essential to the financial well being of the country.

Such an approach has several benefits. It offers a clear route out of the crisis. It allows the proposer to be appear above the fray – trying to reconcile a partisan battle. It also gives Conservatives a clear choice while simultaneously fostering tension within their party. It temporarily ends the discussion of a coalition by enabling opposition parties to score a significant victory. Finally, it allows the crises to be pulled back from the brink, but sustains the threat of a coalition to compel the Conservatives to act responsibly on policy matters in the future.

Finally, as an after thought I suspect that. as it becomes more and more obvious that the public is uncomfortable with the idea of this coalition, Dion and Layton are going to wear the coalition proposal like an anchor around their neck (Gilles will get away scot free because, well, it doesn’t really matter for him – the Bloc win no matter what happens at the moment). Consequently, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that all of the authors of this disaster – Harper (for instigating the crises) and Layton and Dion (for overplaying their hand and perpetuating it) – could lose their jobs over the comping months.

14 thoughts on “What next for Liberals? – Proceed with Caution

  1. Trent

    Of course Rae wants to champion the coalition between the Liberals and the NDP. WHERE DO YOU THINK RAE CAME FROM?Something to think about, guys……….

  2. Fredm

    When you say “out of touch” what exactly does that mean? Yesterday and today all polls point towards Harper handling the economy and leading the country in Canada's best interest. Including another poll saying 61% of Canadians dont like the government getting handouts to pay for elections. Harper is gaining seats every election, and killing in the polls, liberals are getting the smack down in everything they do but Harper is out of touch. Please explain.

  3. TAC

    And the tooth fairy brings money for each molar and Santa Claus is watching you to make sure you are naughty or nice.Firstly, the GG did not set a precedent. She followed a long-standing convention when it comes to proroguing a Parliament — the advice is proffered by the PM and she looks at it pure and simple. In addition, she has done something else. She has established her bona fide as the GG through this decision and if a non-confidence vote is ever successful in the future, she will look at the issue in pure and simple terms, i.e. the government lost confidence and there is an option of another party forming the government with the support of other parties. She will more than likely accept to allow the coalition party its chance at securing the confidence at the House — and the Conservatives cannot say that she is biased as she has been consistent with her decisions based on Constitutional Law and Convention.As to the matter of the coalition — it's still viable. However, be prepared that the PM will not use the time he has to craft a budget acceptable to all parties. He doesn't want agreement as much as he wants his majoirty and so it means he wants an election in the near future — he sincerely believes he can continue his political march using the money his party has available and the levers of power that governing brings.As for the Liberals — they don't show leadership by being faux “states men and women”. They cannot be saints, unless they believe that in martyrdom you win. They prepare by using the coalition to showcase the issues. And however much I think Mr. Dion can serve as interim leader, he needs to step aside as he has become the distraction which derrogates from focusing attention on preparing to battle Harper, his autocracy, his desire to castrate if not eliminate the opposition from the democratic equation and his ideological bend seeking to inculcate conservative values, as he defines them, in the Canadian psyche.Perhaps the caucus and Party executive should be considering how the former might select a new leader from the current leadership candidates who could be appointed by the Party executive under provisions of the Party constitution to serve as “interim leader” for an indefinite period. In this way, Liberals are fully prepared and in the case of a non-confidence vote and the accendancy of a coalition — the coalition is not lead by an interim PM until May, but by a full-time PM for the term of the agreement. And the Liberal Party focusses on doing all it has to so as to assure it is in the 21st century.

  4. janfromthebruce

    “I’ve yet to talk to a Liberal who is excited by this coalition.” Perhaps you are talking to partisan liberals too much, because this poll completely contradicts your assertion. Time for more contemplation: Canadians who vote Liberal strongly support the idea of a coalition between the Grits and the New Democratic Party, even when the separatist Bloc Quebecois is thrown into the mix.An exclusive poll for Sun Media by Leger Marketing shows 78% of identified Liberal voters would have preferred a three-way coalition rather than an election had the Tories been defeated in the House of Commons. Only 13% favoured an election.Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean took away the election option yesterday — at least for the next several weeks — when she gave consent to a request from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to prorogue Parliament until late January.POWER HUNGRYThe numbers supporting the coalition show Liberal backers are more interested in regaining power than in worrying about who they must ally with to achieve that goal.”If (Liberal Leader Stephane) Dion had known these numbers that we are seeing here before he went into the coalition … yes, this is a natural course for him to take,” said Leger marketing vice-president Dave Scholz.Even Bloc Quebecois involvement doesn't faze Liberal voters, he said.Fifty-seven percent of NDP supporters also liked the coalition, but one-quarter did not. That suggests, said Scholz, that many would rather have held another election than simply transfer power from one group to another.Bloc Quebecois backers were happiest with the idea of a coalition: 79% favoured it over an election, whereas only 8% disagreed. http://www.torontosun.com/news/canada/2008/12/0

  5. Sarah

    Ah, yes – Rae running around like a crazed activist. Excuse me, didn't anyone tell Rae about democracy and that a new leader hasn't been selected yet? I find it offensive.Liberals lost partially because they went too left – wake up Liberals!

  6. shaun

    Great post David, I was thinking of writing something similar myself. The PM has backed down, witnessing a viable political alternative to his machiavellian tactics. I was happy to hear that Dion is open to listening to the budget and see if Canadians (not grits or tories) benefit. As a liberal who was pro-coalition, i'm really disappointed in Rae who now appears foaming mad for power. For the grits to “win” like this would almost certainly hand the tories a majority in the next election. Despite the legality many people feel the coalition is unelected and power-hungry.You've made them backdown now let's get back to work and deal with the issues. Stop acting like a rabid dog with a bone.

  7. Eugene Forsey Liberal

    I'm excited by the coalition, as are my many friends & family, who also actually campaign on the ground for the Liberals during elections and are calling and emailing and demonstrating all around right now. For the record.

  8. Jeremy Vernon

    Wilson raises an excellent point. As a progressive Liberal I find the coalition to be tremendously unappealing because it teaches the party (that is, my party) the wrong lessons – that we don't need to change to appeal to Canadians, heck, we don't even need to appeal to Canadians, period!A coalition threat is for having not for using – it would be mutually assured destruction in the election (MADE), likely pushing voter cynicism up and voter turnout down. The degree of psychological denial from within my own party is staggering – Harper won because more people are willing to vote for him, get over it. Only when you accept this truth can our party begin to move on – we have to admit we've got a problem; we're addicted to stagnant 1960's notions of middle-ground politics.The coalition kills progressive innovation and cements tired, old-dog policy ideology that has remained in our federal system long past its expiration date.All the parties should be less concerned about convincing Canadians about the merits of their case and instead focus on crafting themselves in the image of the country.

  9. Larry

    Call an election.If the coalition wins, there's your legitimacy…otherwise you're saddling us with a Liberal party led government nobody wants.

  10. Kim Feraday

    I'm not sure if when you wrote this but it seems Michael Ignatieff may be reading. I wonder if it's possible for the Liberal's to push for both Harper's resignation and a budget that addresses the economic problems. I have a difficult time seeing parliament working for more than a few months if Harper stays. Trust and respect seems to be completely gone and Harper is the focal point of the problem.

  11. Larry

    Call an election.If the coalition wins, there's your legitimacy…otherwise you're saddling us with a Liberal party led government nobody wants.

  12. Kim Feraday

    I'm not sure if when you wrote this but it seems Michael Ignatieff may be reading. I wonder if it's possible for the Liberal's to push for both Harper's resignation and a budget that addresses the economic problems. I have a difficult time seeing parliament working for more than a few months if Harper stays. Trust and respect seems to be completely gone and Harper is the focal point of the problem.

  13. Pingback: The Coalition that never was | eaves.ca

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