Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Good, and he's smart to do so. Thus far Ignatieff has said and done the right thing almost all the time since becoming the leader of the Liberal Party. I thought his recent trip to the US to meet with Obama administration officials was a mistake, but it turns out in the end that it just wasn't a big enough story and quickly fell from the radar, so no harm done there. In Ignatieff's recent interview on CTV he voiced a few concerns about the coalition that the rest of the country was having at the time, namely that:
the federal Liberal leader also said the coalition came at a time when the party's right to govern would have been called into question after one of the worst election results in its history.That's exactly right. It wasn't so much that the country was opposed to the idea of a coalition per se, but rather that it was done only a month after an election in which the party had a much worse showing than before. In other words, Dion's path to Prime Minister would have been 1) become Liberal leader, 2) lose big time in election, 3) shrug shoulders at huge loss, ignore calls for resignation as Liberal leader and become Prime Minister anyway.
What Ignatieff has done so far is in line with what I thought he would do back in January:
3) Votes with the budget, finds a reason to not support the coalition, and then spends the next while making himself better known to the public, raises funds for the party, looks for an opportunity another day.Now the big problem for him is this: now that the Liberals are up in Quebec the Bloc will certainly not be willing to go to another election, and without them there's no way the Liberals will be able to force an election. The NDP is also not too eager to go to an election either since there's really no driving reason for them to do so as support is either the same or down a bit since last election, and there's no real issue to run on at the moment either. The best thing the NDP could do for themselves now is to try to marginalize the Green Party; not too obviously, but by attempting to appeal to potential Green Party voters, perhaps through a series of high-profile public events related to environmentalism, new technology and the like. Jack Layton goes on a road trip through Canada in some sort of hybrid vehicle, something like that.
Now Ignatieff's problem is simply a matter of time. The Liberals are now 5 points ahead of the Conservatives, which is enough to win an election but perhaps not majority territory. The question now is this: will Ignatieff's numbers continue to go up, or is this change in the poll numbers simply a result of the economy? If so, will their numbers go back down once the economy improves again, if it does? In the meantime Stephen Harper still gets to appoint Conservatives to the Senate. Nine will retire this year and four in 2010, and most of these are from the Liberal party. At the moment there are 56 Liberal and 41 Conservative (38 Conservative + 3 PC) senators (plus 4 independents).
After 2009 it could be 51 Liberals, 48 Conservatives (26 C + 2 PC), 2 independents.
After 2010 it could be 48 Liberals, 51 Conservatives (49C + 2 PC), 2 independents.
So in only two years the balance of the Senate could shift to the Conservatives simply through appointment. The question is whether the Liberal Party would simply watch and let that happen, or whether they would be willing to try something to force an election to attempt to stop this.
Personally I'm rather ambivalent about this, as Canadian politicians are generally pretty tame and I could accept having Harper as PM for a few more years, or Ignatieff as PM as well. Recently I've been leaning slightly towards the Liberals simply because they have Marc Garneau (the astronaut) and I would like to see him in a position of some real authority in order to improve Canada's role in space development. Ignatieff would certainly make at least an acceptable Prime Minister; whether he could be a great one is still unknown.