Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ignatieff Puts Tories "On Probation"

To no one's surprise, Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff today opted not to bring down Stephen Harper's Tory government.

Instead, Ignatieff has opted to put the Conservatives "on probation" as he put it. He introduced a motion that would require the Tories to give Parliament a status report on the implementation of the budget in March, June and December. This is a prudent political move on Ignatieff's part. It keeps the Tories on their toes as well as bides time for Ignatieff. The Tories have to wonder if it is a question of when and not if Ignatieff will bring down the government. At the same time, Ignatieff doesn't want to take over when everything is in absolute collapse because then it would become his mess.

Ignatieff's strategy hinges on support from his party. If there is an undercurrent of discontent amongst Liberal members that he is unnecessarily prolonging the Tory government then he could face trouble down the road. If that were to come about look at the doorstep of former leader Stephane Dion and leadership rivals like Bob Rae, Dominic LeBlanc and Gerard Kennedy. Ignatieff will no doubt turn on the heat on the Tories at the Liberal Party Convention this May in Vancouver (assuming he hasn't already pulled the trigger.) However, Liberals might not like being kept high and dry should Ignatieff opt to prop up the Tories the following month. So while Ignatieff puts the Tories on probation he could be on probation from fellow Liberals.

Of course, the NDP and Bloc Quebecois are livid with Ignatieff especially the NDP who had visions of being cabinet ministers and having bigger offices. NDP Jack Layton, who would have been part of the governing coalition, stopped short of declaring it dead while Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Ducceppe, who would not have been part of the governing coalition but would have voted with it, has declared the coalition dead. As Ignatieff put it, "A coalition if necessary, but not necessarily a coalition." So right now it's not necessary for Ignatieff to lead a coalition although it could become necessary. Politics Canadian style. I do miss home sometimes.

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