Tag Archives: Dion

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.

Negotiating within a coalition – or why Liberals don't trust Jack

So the one thing I glossed over the other day about negotiating in coalitions is that you’d better have already completed your negotiations within your coalition. Reading Andrew Coyne’s blog (among others) suggests that this has not happened. This project seems to have been cooked up by Dion and foisted on the party and there are a few disgruntled MPs starting to emerge from the woodwork.

Toronto MP Jim Karygiannis said “a lot of my constituents” are saying Dion should go. He also complained that MPs had been kept out of the loop on the coalition negotiations.

Just add this on to the further stresses for the coalition. If this thing even begins to teeter, someone is going to have to wear this, and the blame game isn’t going to be pretty.

Another big problem is Jack Layton. Interestingly I think a lot of Liberals are more wary of working with Jack than with Gilles Duceppe. Gilles intentions are always very clear – he’ll do whatever is in Quebec’s interests. Layton’s motivation and history is a little more shaky. Take, for example, that Layton never had to wear the fact that he got us all into this mess three years ago when he helped bring down Paul Martin’s government.

Here was a man who was getting the goodies he wanted added to the budget and yet voted against the Liberals so that he could what… win an extra dozen seats in the house? Layton has had his opportunity to work with Liberals to advance his agenda and he instead opted to give the Conservatives the opportunity they were craving. I suspect the trust threshold between most Liberals and the NDP leadership is so low that it will take real skill to sustain a working partnership.

Again, a common threat can bring people together, but as the threat recedes (the conservatives lose power, or even more intriguing, Harper is forced to resign) then the capacity to work together becomes more important. Canadian political parties have never invested much in this capacity… can they make it work now?