Ignatieff: A Paper Tiger


As usual, Paul Wells hit the nail on the head the other day with what’s sure to be a prescient (if rather obvious) forecast of a mercifully election-free summer:

I now believe the opposition parties will not get their act together to vote the government down until after it delivers its next full budget. Of course that’s the worst possible time from the opposition’s point of view, because a budget is a chance to spend $200 billion: it’s the moment of maximum strength for any government.

But there’s always a reason not to make a decision. Was it 10 days ago the opposition parties, led by the Liberals, were demanding the finance minister be fired because he’d dug a $50 billion deficit? Stephen Harper ignored them. They did nothing in response…

Indeed. Harper has once again cleverly managed to gain a reprieve for himself and his party that also benefits everyone by sparing us all from the dreary horror and needless expense of yet another completely pointless election. Not that there aren’t a number of reasonably legitimate reasons to force one, of course — stubbornly disturbing grievances that are more than sufficient in the minds of some to “revoke this government’s probation.” But there’s an inconvenient problem with pulling the rug out from Harper at the moment, as made clear by Chantel Hébert this morning (emphasis added):

the notion that the thrust of a Liberal government would be dramatically different from that of the Conservatives is hard to sustain with facts. Moreover, given that the ship of state cannot be turned around overnight, the time it would take a new government to change tack might actually outrun the recession.

Polls show that the Liberals could eke out a victory in a summer vote, although it would hardly be a sure thing. But at the end of the day, the real question Ignatieff has to wrestle with is what, if anything, he has to offer that could possibly justify a second election in less than a year.

I’d go even further and suggest that until such time as Ignatieff can find some way of surmounting this awkwardly formidable stumbling block of distancing himself from the Conservatives, it’s difficult to imagine that the Liberals will be sending Canadians to the polls before sometime next year. Which brings us rather neatly back to Mr. Wells’ column:

Wow, does Michael Ignatieff ever talk a lot when he has nothing to say.

Sad but true. I look forward to the day when the Liberal leader has something positive to say, something that’s actually motivating or inspirational to communicate, rather than just faking outrage and endlessly sniping at the government of the day with empty bluster and hollow rhetoric…

And lest you think that’s a baseless charge, let me offer up this shining example of his fact-free rhetoric:

“My vision of the future of Canada is that we must urgently find other markets than that of America.”

Well, that’s certainly an astonishingly brilliant and innovative concept, isn’t it? Or at least it might be if it didn’t simply reflect government policy of the last thirty years while completely ignoring that in actuality (for better or worse) the Conservatives have been conducting business as usual by generously backstopping the EDC and assiduously hammering away at free trade pacts with various countries in the Caribbean and other nations throughout Central and South America in addition to rapidly moving to strengthen our ties with Asia and crafting a much stronger economic link to the European Union.

So what else is Mr. Ignatieff offering as part of his “vision for the future of Canada”? Anyone? Anyone? …Buehler?