... here’s the thing about Michael Ignatieff. He is doing almost everything better than Stéphane Dion was doing on the eve of the Liberal wipeout in the 2008 election. Ignatieff has spent nearly a year on the road, honing his retail skills, often for audiences of strangers he had to learn to persuade. He is not putting any highly divisive policy in the window comparable to Dion’s carbon-tax scheme. He can defend himself against attack, comprehensibly and often better than that, in two languages. His Office of the Leader of the Opposition is disciplined and coherent. His caucus deploys serious talent well. Ties between his parliamentary shop and the national Liberal party are smooth and respectful. Fundraising is a gong show. You can’t have everything.
But still: it is reasonable to expect Ignatieff will field the strongest Liberal campaign operation since Jean Chrétien’s last battle in 2000. And yet he is flatlining in the polls.
... So the Liberals might prefer to wait a year for an election? Here they are quick to point out that it’s not their call. “I’ve got 76 seats,” Ignatieff says. Not enough to bring a government down. He learned that lesson, to his considerable cost, in the fall of 2009 when he tried to force an election and the NDP propped the government up. “Jack Layton’s got a say. Gilles Duceppe’s got a say. But the crucial person who’ll decide whether we have an election or not is Stephen Harper.”
What’s really happening is that the Liberals are finally beginning to realize there is a cost to every choice, including paralysis. “The window might not be wide open now, but I mean, f…, it might be closed in six months,” the senior Ignatieff adviser said.
“Especially when the cost is further self-abnegation or self-mutilation from having to pull our punches. Or vote with the government. Or whatever. It’s a vicious circle, because when you do that you inhibit your ability to differentiate yourself from the government. It actually makes a lot more sense to just say, ‘F… it. They’re wrong. This guy’s numbers don’t add up. They’re actually more about F-35s and building $9-billion prisons. This government doesn’t give a s..t about you. Let’s go.’”
Skeptics claim the election is a useless exercise because, according to current polls, the new parliament likely will look very much like the old one. But that is not so: A loss for the Liberals will result in a new leader, who in turn could finally give the party a coherent political identity, and thereby revitalize the Liberal party brand. We are not partisan Liberal supporters, but we realize that the health of our democracy rests on having at least two viable governing parties. And Michael Ignatieff 's failure to maintain the Liberal brand has created a sort of malaise among everyone to the left of the Tory party. Fresh leadership at the Liberals and New Democratic Party -and perhaps even an eventual union of those two parties, though that is a subject for another day -could go a long way to injecting more substance into our politics. (via)
... What matters here is the attempt by the Liberals to have the government do something positive for individuals and for the country. That’s a very different thing from what Mr. Harper offers, which is a tax cut for its own sake.
Liberals fundamentally disagree with how Mr. Harper governs, namely by shrinking the federal government, its role in the federation, in the economy, in our society. Those who say he is betraying his conservative principles aren't noticing the policy areas – taxes included – where Mr. Harper simply downs traditional federal government tools, often without fanfare. We have no energy policy. We have no climate-change strategy. Can anyone say we have a broadcasting policy? Or a telecommunications policy? A social policy to deal with the erosion of the middle class? An industrial policy to address our productivity slippage? A health-care policy, now that the 2004 accord is about to expire? A national unity approach? An aboriginal strategy? And for all that vacating of important policy fields, the government still spends more than it ever did.
Mr. Harper’s is a kind of laisser-tomber conservatism, quietly letting go of the federal role in key public policy fields. I don’t think this approach serves anyone terribly well, and I think it is uniquely ill-suited to a country like Canada. No one is nostalgic for the Big Ottawa of the Trudeau era; that’s what’s so smart about Mr. Ignatieff’s stripped-down Learning Passport. But I’d welcome an outraged Conservative charge of creeping centralization. At least we’d be getting some real debate, instead of this relentless, silent withdrawal of our national government from Canadian life.
[Ryan] Dolby says he did not discuss his decision with federal New Democrat officials.
“I think it's the best decision on behalf of my family, my community, and my country to do whatever I can to make sure there isn't a Conservative victory, especially in this riding,” he said.
“I want to make sure we get a progressive MP — one that cares about improvements to Canada Pension Plan, improvements to employment insurance, believes in democracy instead of contempt, and believes in sustainable job creation instead of building more prisons.”
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