Thursday, February 14, 2008

A few questions for Bob Rae and the other nervous nellies

I flew down to Orlando yesterday, where it's sunny and warm, for a conference. While I won't get to Disneyland, and most of my time will be spent in the hotel confernce centre, I am hoping to get to the pool a little later.

First though, having got on the Interwebs I'm catching up on the news from the Great Frozen North. And it doesn't seem like much has changed since I left:
Former leadership rival Bob Rae urged Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion yesterday to wait until spring to pull the plug on the minority Harper government rather than forcing an early election over the Tory budget.

"He made a good case," one MP from Southern Ontario said. "He said we shouldn't let Harper choose the date."

Mr. Rae's views were echoed by many MPs and senators at the closed-door national caucus, who warned the leader to wait and buy time by not defeating the Harper minority government any time soon.
When I read the headline I was ready to lay into Bob Rae for blathering on in public instead of picking up a frickin' phone and calling Stephane Dion. Reading on though, it's clear his comments were leaked from a close-door caucus meeting, and he didn't give an interview to the paper. So, we don't know which MP has been breaking caucus confidentiality and leaking to the Globe's resident gossip columnist. Someone from Southern Ontario, it would seem.

Anyway, leakers aside, going on to read Bob's argument, it seems he doesn't want an election until at least after the March 17th byelections. And don't let Harper dictate the timing, others say, the economy is going to worsen and that's why Harper wants to go now, and is making everything a confidence motion, so let's wait.

Umm, how do you propose we wait Bob? I mean, everything else you and the caucus nervous nellies are saying makes sense. I'd love to get those by-elections done first too, get some momentum from hopefully having Bob and some other new Liberal MPs in the house. I'd love to wait until the economy has worsened. I'd love to wait until the Liberals are at 100 per cent in the polls, and Stephane Dion is more popular than The Beatles.

There's a few roadblacks in the way though, besides Stephane's lack of musical ability. First one: the budget. The first votes are going to be in a few weeks, well before the byelections. What does Bob propose we do on the budget. Does he want us to vote in favour of what's going to be a minimalist budget that does nothing to address the worsening economic situation, and prop-up this government that stands for everything we don't? Or would Bob rather we prop-up this government by abstaining, and look the laughing-stocks again?

Neither option is particularly attractive. At a time when we're moving-up in the polls, and are starting to get some traction, either option would be a huge setback that would cause many people to write off the Liberal Party all together. Jack Layton would have kittens.

There's talk the BQ and the Cons are trying to work a deal for the BQ's support on the budget, which means it would pass no matter what we do. I don't care. A Liberal no-vote or abstention in that scenario would still have the same harmful effect, and would still be completely unacceptable.

And even if we somehow miraciously got past the budget, maybe the Cons decide to cancel it or something and just use last year's again, the week after is the Afghanistan vote. I'd like to write more about the Liberal amendment when I have the time, but long-story short I think all this conciliatory talk from both sides is predicated on there not actually being a vote on this thing. The Liberal motion moves toward the hawkish side somewhat to try to keep the caucus together, while Harper is playing nice to appear to Canadians like he's reasonable and moderating. Harper wants to get a majority and do what he wants on the issue, togetherness be dammed, and a Liberal government would pull back some of the concessions. An actual vote on this thing is not in our interests. That's another reason we need to vote no on the budget.

So, while I like Bob's theory, it's the practice I have some issues with. If he has some brilliant plan for getting us past the budget vote without looking like complete tools, I'd love to hear it. Maybe the leaker forgot to tell Jane Taber that part.

Nervous nellies, buck up. Find your cojones. The election train is moving out of the station. Get on board or get out of the way. We cannot prop-up this government any more.

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JimBobby said...

Whooee! Loose lips? Maybe Garth's up to his old tricks.

I'm a little out of my depth on the by-election deal. There's a by-election in TO Centre on March 17. If there is a general election in April or May, does TO Centre vote again? Seems like a waste of money if they do. Of course, it could be a do-over for the losers and they'd have the advantage of knowing what the winning strategy was.

I'm plannin' on comin' to the big smoke and knockin' on doors for GPC candidate Chris Tindal. If yer out stumpin' fer Bobby Rae, maybe we'll cross paths.


MississaugaJoan said...

Rae and folks need to pay off their debts by the end of May. An election distracts them from what they should have done last year (it has been now 14 months since the convention).

The Party is not ready for a short election. I believe it could be as short as 28 days. They don't have a plane ready, which may be a good thing, since they may save some money (which they do not have a lot of). Policy-wise, we are probably better than we were last year.

A BCer in Toronto, you claim that the Conservative budget will be "a minimalist budget that does nothing to address the worsening economic situation." I disagree with you. I believe the Conservative budget will have lots of goodies, even if it may put us in a deficit. Why would the Conservatives not spend themselves out of a recession?

At the end of the day, I believe Liberals may be forced to vote for the Budget (like the Democrats in the U.S. capitulated to Bush's tax cuts) to avoid being viewed as not doing enough to avoid a recession.

Gayle said...

"There's talk the BQ and the Cons are trying to work a deal for the BQ's support on the budget, which means it would pass no matter what we do. I don't care. A Liberal no-vote or abstention in that scenario would still have the same harmful effect, and would still be completely unacceptable."

Of course if the BQ are going to support Harper the liberals can safely vote against the budget without triggering an election.

But I suppose our little anonymous MP friend couldn't wait for the outcome of these discussions before putting Dion back in the hotseat. I mean, that whole "the party is divided" thing really did a lot for the liberals last year, so might as well keep it going...

Bailey said...

While you are in Florida are you going to try and stop at any baseball Spring Training facilities? Dunedin is like 2 hours away I think but there must be a few closer to Orlando. Aren't the Braves in Orlando?

ottlib said...


The minimum number of days in an election is 36 and E-day must be on a Monday.

JB: if the election is called before March 17 I believe the by-elections are cancelled and they are just rolled into the General Election. If the election call is afterwards then they have to run again.

Jeff: Right now the perception is the Conservatives are horny for an election and they seem to be willing to do anything to get it.

If they produce an innocuous budget and the Liberals vote against it, with the other opposition parties, then that perception will change to the Liberals.

Political parties have to have a reason to go to the polls. Some issue that Canadians can latch onto. Liberals saying they are going to the polls because they do not like the budget is silly, unless there is a provision so outrageous in it they can point to it. Most indications seems to be the Conservatives are not going to do that.

I would point out that Stephen Harper supported the economic update in November 2005 and let it pass and it did not do him any harm in the subsequent election.

The Liberals can do the same thing. Let the budget pass, maybe even support it, and then find another issue to bring down the government later in the Spring. If they win the election they can then produce their own budget with their own provisions, as Stephen Harper did with his cancellation of the Child Care Program.

That would deny Mr. Harper an election on his issue and provide the Liberals an election on theirs.

cyberwanderer said...

I am so mad at what was allegedly said by a senior Liberal. One senior Liberal said that they would either make Dion change his mind (on election) or "push him off the ledge". The Liberal leadership election is over. Get over it!

Jeff said...


If the writ drops before March 17th there's no vote in TC, that campaign is canceled and the general begins. I think new spending and donation limits may also apply, since it would be a new campaign. If the writ is dropped after March 17th, they'd be out of a job and have to run all over again.

Joan, I hear they've got a plane now, so that's one off the list anyway.

Bailey, wasn't time for anything but work this trip. Didn't even make it to the pool, alas. The Braves train at Disney's Wide World of Sports I think, in Orlando. Camps don't open till next week though I don't think.

Ottlib, I don't think it would be hard at all to come-up with a narrative to justify bringing down the government. A bullying PM, contracts for friends, a laundry list of broken promises, trying to gut the wheat board, firing civil servants, inaction on the environment, and so on...topped off by a budget that doesn't address the economic needs and priorities of Canadians. It's time. And this far into the government, we can't prop them up any longer. At some point, enough is enough.