Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Coalition members sideline themselves with dumb "strategy"

In a fit of strategic juvenalia, the NDP and Bloc have telegraphed that their vote against the budget is a foregone conclusion. Nothing like tipping your hand to make the next move easy for your opponent. That means the two marginal parties will attend the budget speech tomorrow to find out what they are against. The Liberals and Conservatives are the only players who matter. It didn't have to be that way.

For the time being, polls showing in excess of 40% support for Conservative leadership or showing that 44% prefer Conservatives as managers of the economy are relevant only if an election is actually called. Otherwise they are best seen as volatile and subject to change in response to inspiring performance. Of both immediate and long term concern is creation of the conditions that would incline the Governor General to prefer a coalition government over another election in the event that the budget fails to pass. Demonstrating the ability to work in a coordinated manner at least over the short term will be an important pre-requisite.

Given a chance by the GG, a coalition government would have the opportunity to prove itself to a skeptical public. Success in that project would depend on the depth and effectiveness of the coalition's policies. That much is right now in doubt. The new Alternate Budget just released by the CCPA should help. BC Premier Campbell is already calling for "shovel ready" projects. Long-term planning as would be required for personal rapid transit, geothermal, wind, and solar energy projects, a federal/provincial pharmaceutical industry, a revived forest industry is not part of the "shovel ready" concept.

However, the ascent of Michael Ignatieff to the Liberal leadership is a step in the right direction. Although I would have preferred Bob Rae, a reluctant coalitionist may be just what the public requires to help it change its mind. And that may be a long-term project in itself. As for Ignatieff, changing his mind or giving the illusion of changing his mind (as he has with Iraq, has contemplated with torture, and seems he might do with Afghanistan) is entirely in character. A coalition led by Ignatieff might be the most stable political configuration of all the currently available possibilities.

Assuming success, which of course is the question, a substantial run by a coalition government (15-20 years, which is strictly speaking a massive fantasy) could do more than any other approach has so far, to moderate the separatist threat by demonstrating that Anglo-Canadians are capable of the required accommodations which would benefit the whole country--including sovereigntists of the aboriginal kind. At the moment, it appears that the mood of the country is to blame the sovereigntists, not to entertain the idea that we are the ones who need to change.

The Ottawa Sun this morning reports budget gossip by unnamed "federal officials" as revelation.

"In the run-up to budget day, federal officials have revealed some of the big-ticket deficit spending: $1.5 billion for job skills retraining, $2 billion for social housing and tax cuts for the middle class."

But the Bloc and the NDP don't have to think about it. Not a very encouraging sign.Recommend this Post

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