Saturday, November 15, 2008

What's our price on the throne speech?

I agree with and support the decision of Stephane Dion to stay on as Liberal leader through the leadership race and convention in May. Having an experienced, steady hand at the helm while the campaign is on is a good thing, and I look forward to Watching Stephane, Gerard Kennedy, and the rest of the new Liberal shadow cabinet take on the Conservatives in the House beginning next week.

It seems, though, at least so far, that leadership is beginning to overshadow all else. The party, and Stephane, have been very low profile of late, and that, I feel, is an unfortunate mistake.

For example, we know what the BQ want from the upcoming throne speech:

The Bloc Québécois is prepared to vote against the Conservative government's throne speech next week if it doesn't address key issues such as helping workers and reversing government cuts in funding to arts groups and non-profit economic development groups.

However, Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe said he was also prepared to negotiate with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority government, pointing out that the Bloc had been successful in the past in obtaining changes to throne speeches in exchange for its support.

"Two visions are confronting each other," he said. "The Conservatives got the majority in Canada, but the Bloc Québécois got the majority in Quebec. Stephen Harper should therefore respect the democratic choice of Quebecers by showing openness, making compromises and respecting the values and interests of Quebec."

And we know what the NDP wants from the throne speech:
NDP leader Jack Layton emerged from a late-afternoon discussion Wednesday with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to say he will be looking for help for the hard-hit sectors of the Canadian economy in next week's Throne Speech.

"When it comes to showing some sign in the general language of the Speech from the Throne that the government is going to pay attention to some of these key strategic sectors, that's vital," Mr. Layton said after his first face-to-face discussion with Mr. Harper since last month's election.

"It's manufacturing, it's auto, it's forestry. And it's the people who have been thrown out of work."
But what about the Liberals? What do we want to be in the throne speech? What's the price for our potential support? Or will we vote now out of principal as the official opposition, and leave it to the NDP or BQ to prop them up (my preferred strategy)?

I had to go back nearly two weeks to find comments about “no more free rides” for the Conservatives and a call for sped-up infrastructure spending. Nothing specific, however on the throne speech.

We can't afford to allow leadership preoccupation to let us disappear from the national debate. We need to be active, visible and vocal in and out of the House advocating for the issues and the ideas that we campaigned on. Letting the NDP and BQ hog the opposition limelight would be a serious mistake.

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WesternGrit said...

We should come out with very specific demands and say we will not support Harper unless he agrees in full. If not, WE will be the first ones to say "no". Let Layton and the Bloc prop them up...

All we have to say we won't support Harper, and the others will break down...

Mike514 said...

Someone should remind Duceppe that his party only got about 37% of the Quebec vote, far from a majority. The majority he refers to is the number of seats, which is a disproportionate 66% of Quebec seats. The media should hold Duceppe more accountable when he says such tripe.

All we have to say we won't support Harper, and the others will break down.

No. All the other parties will call the Liberals' bluff, and the Libs will be forced to abstain yet again. There are 3 reasons for this:
1-We've gone down this road before. There's no reason why it would be any different this time.
2-The Liberals' current fiscal and organisational positions are in sorry shape.
3-Many Liberals will be scared poopless (sorry, trying to keep it clean...) to risk having another election with Dion at the helm, and would much rather abstain than risk losing their seat.

Jeff said...

Mike, the fact is the NDP and the BQ don't want an election either. Particularly the NDP. And here's the advantage the Liberals have over them: we get to vote no before them. And we get to not stand up to vote yes before them.

So, speaker calls the vote. Cons all vote yey. Speaker looks over at the Liberals, we stay seated. We're not voting yes. Then it falls to the BQ. They either vote yey or stay sitting. Then it falls to the NDP, they vote yey or stay sitting.

Then come the no votes. Liberals are up first, our caucus stands up and notes Ney. Now the BQ and the NDP have a choice, assuming they haven't voted yey already. Do they vote no and topple the government, or do they abstain and keep it alive.

As official opposition, we're in the better tactical position for voting. IF we chose to leverage it. Westerngrit is right; we shoul signal our intents and punt the fall to the NDP and BQ, then can carry the water.

MississaugaPeter said...


If an election is called, all three of the Other Parties will be to blame. And the party most to lose with a snap election is the Liberal Party (lack of money/leader/policy/direction).

It's almost a Perfect Storm for the Conservatives. The positive press Harper has been receiving with respect to the current downturn, is another bonus for the Conservatives.

I sincerely doubt the Liberals could do anything but abstain or not show up if the NDP and Bloc decide to vote against the Throne Speech. The Liberals have very little leverage right now.

Mike514 said...

On another note (and you don't have to post this since it's a digression), what are your thoughts on Ignatieff refusing to have media at the leadership candidates' forum?

I'm not trying to be snarky or turn the tables on your post about Tory media restrictions at their convention. Since you're an Iggy supporter, I was genuinely wondering about your view on this.

Jeff said...

In the first six months anyways, there's the possibility the GG would turn to the leader of the opposition to form a government instead of granting dissolution. I'm sure that may temper Conservative fire.