Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A noble compromise

With my summer electioneering plans now off, the Blue Jays really need to start playing some decent baseball again. Unless I can find a pick-up election somewhere.

All in all, while this week didn’t unfold the way I’d have played it, I think the Liberals and Conservatives have acted responsibly today, reaching a compromise that moves us closer to real employment insurance reform, ensures real transparency around financial reporting, and avoids the summer election Canadian want while ensuring there will be real election triggers in place for the fall.

Now, for those of you who want an election now, obviously no compromise was going to be acceptable, so it's all moot. We can't always have what we want, though.

And I’ll note that “election now” was a position held by NONE of the major political parties. That includes the BQ and the NDP. They both insist they don’t want an election, but they also weren’t willing to do anything cooperative or substantive to avoid one. So it fell to the grown-up parties to see if common-ground could be found, and if an election actually could be avoided.

The question, of course becomes can enough common ground be found to avoid an election. For those of you that say the “get” wasn’t big enough here, assuming you didn’t favour an election, I’m curious what you would have considered a sufficient get to avoid an election all parties agree they don’t want, bearing in mind it needs to be something both sides are likely to agree to.

Let’s delve into just what this agreement entails.

*A Pabst blue ribbon panel on EI. 3 Liberal appointees, 3 Conservatives. They’ll work through the summer and report by Sept. 28th.

In a minority government, any EI reform is going to require multiple parties to come together, each group giving something. Right now the Liberals want a 360 hour national standard, but only temporarily. The BQ and NDP want it permanently. The Conservatives have offered movement on self-employment.

Obviously, we’ll have to move from the 360 hour position to find consensus. And the Conservatives have already made a major move. In his presser today, Harper acknowledged the patchwork of differing regional standards has to go. That’s a significant concession from his past position of staunchly defending the system that has been achieved already by this Liberal initiated cooperative process.

The panel will take the summer to try to narrow the gap further, and will report to Parliament in September. If they reach a consensus both sides find acceptable, it can be passed with majority support in the House.

To those who say this is too long to way for meaningful EI reform, I ask you what’s the alternative you’d propose? A compromise can’t be achieved overnight on the back of a napkin, and an election would mean a reconstituted parliament couldn’t even begin to consider the issue until the fall, at which point (assuming no one got a majority) a consensus would STILL need to be negotiated.

This is the fastest way to meaningful EI reform. I’d also add that this Liberal process has pushed the Conservatives to speed-up plans (that maybe they never even had) to bring EI benefits to the self-employed, a significant reform as well.

*On the reporting front, we get an additional fiscal report card from the Conservatives that wasn’t scheduled before, and it will be due Sept. 28th.

The report is required to have the real, detailed information that was missing from the Duffy infomercial, specifically details on actual stimulus dollars spent, jobs created, and real, go-forward deficit projections with their plan to balance the budget.

*Finally, we have taken back control of the timing of opposition days, including a Liberal opposition day following the Sept. 28th reporting deadline for the fiscal report card and the EI panel. This is more of a significant get than it may appear to be.

Like the Martin Liberals did (to the Conservatives’ distaste) the Harper Conservatives have shown a habit of manipulating opposition days to avoid confidence votes. They pushed back the opposition days in this session to this week, so to preclude any possibility of an election other than late July/early August. And they had already signaled their clear intention to similarly manipulate the fall schedule.

Left unchecked, they could well have jury-rigged the fall schedule to avoid giving the opposition the possibility of voting them down before the 2010 Games, other than a possible Christmas election. Now, the Liberals have taken that hammer back, and, should we choose to use it, we’ll have the ability to force a fall election. Well, maybe early November e-day, but its still fall. And its definitely not Christmas, or next spring.

The aftermath

So there you go, that’s the get. Now, my feeling going into this thing last week was as follows: let’s stop doing anything to support this government. If the NDP or BQ want to make a deal, fine. I think they would (I still do). Frankly, my preferred timing would be the fall. But if pulling our support means a summer election, so be it.

Obviously, a different tact was taken: one of compromise, of trying to make parliament work. I think this desire from Ignatieff was genuine. It wasn’t gamesmanship. Will it play out better for the party in the long-term? Only time will tell.

We know what they’ll say in Ottawa. The media had already written the cooperative approach off before the agreement was announced. It’s not surprising. The same media pundits that said forcing a summer election would be madness will now decry the Liberals for not forcing a summer election.

The media, and politicos for that matter, as I wrote yesterday view these things through confrontational lenses. They like confrontation. Chest-thumping. You know what swinging. Bravado. They can only view cooperation as a ploy, a cynical strategy designed to gain position. Actual desire for an cooperative approach is alien to them. They also prefer writing confrontation stories, of picking winners and losers. It makes their jobs easier.

Then there’s the opposition parties, whose response has been predictable. They didn’t want an election either, but they’ll be upset at the Liberals for not giving them one. But you know, they’ve become increasingly irrelevant through this process. The NDP’s non-binding EI bill isn’t going to do anything for anyone, just like all the other non-binding feel-good motions they’ve passed. But it’s the Liberals that have brought us a process that can lead to actual EI reform that can actually be passed into law with majority support, while the NDP watches from the sidelines.

And out there in real Canada, they’ll be glad that at least some of those idiots up there in Ottawa are acting like grown-ups and trying to get things accomplished.

Meanwhile, since I really did want an election, all you people that didn't want an election should invite me to your cottages so I have something to do this summer.

UPDATE: Video from Ignatieff's statement on the compromise.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers


ibis said...

All this amounts to is BS.
1. No EI reform. Instead a useless committee to talk about EI reform until there is less need for reform.
2. No accounting of spending or numbers now. Instead a promise to provide numbers months down the road & yet another opportunity for a Harper Sham-Wow Event.
3. Opposition Days in the fall that will just be yet more chances for Ignatieff to look like a push-over and for the other opposition parties to do whatever is most opportune for them at the moment. Do we really need the Cons. in for another year? two?
4. Nothing on isotopes (or CBC, AECL, Canadian citizens outside the country)

In other words, this was not a comprimise for Harper, it was a compromise for the Liberals. Which everyone will see, making him look just like an echo of Dion. Do you think the Libs will be in a better position in Ontario or Quebec after this? NO.

A BCer in Toronto said...

How would you have gotten immediate EI reform, ibis?

Do you feel there is a reform the Conservatives would have immediately agreed to? If so, what is it?

If not, the only alternative is an election, which would mean when the house gets back in September, likely another minority, the parties could then sit down to reach a compromise on EI and maybe have legislation passed in the new year.

What's your preferred superior alternative that is realistically achievable?

ibis said...

I honestly think that Ignatieff had the upper hand. Harper didn't want an election more than the Liberals (and even Canadians in general) didn't want an election. We saw what lengths H. went to before to hold on to power, you don't think he would have bent on EI (and if he's not going to bend now when things are this dire, think he'll bend later after some committee report?).
As for minority parliaments: yes likely another minority (that's probably going to be the case for the next couple of decades unless something drastic happens), but a minority likely with the Libs in charge of gov't backed up by Bloc & NDP--a much more pleasant prospect than this nightmare. They'd support Kelowna, Kyoto/Copenhagen, ECE, repatriation of Khadr and Abelrazik, CBC funding, and a whole slew of other progressive policy issues. I don't think we can do better than that right now. Not a majority with the East/West/Quebec split we have.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Let's say that Harper would have agreed to a policy reform of EI now. I don't see how something that complicated could be done on a back of a napkin, but for argument's sake let's say they reached a comprimise.

The only way to push it through the house quickly, ie. without taking months, would be to hold no committee hearings and push it through the House all at once. That would require unanimous content, meaning the compromise would have to be acceptable to all parties. Can you envision a back of the napkin EI compromise acceptable to all four parties?

The alternative would be to sit through June and July and maybe have it passed by the fall. I don't remember if all party support is required to extend the sitting or not. But it seems like an unlikely scenario.

As for after an election, yes it would hopefully lead to a more acceptable-looking parliament. Then again, maybe not. The NDP and Liberals and BQ still do have serious differences on EI policy though, namely should a lower standard be temporary or permanent. That difference would still take time to bridge.

Walks With Coffee said...

I would not expect, but not be surprised, if Mr. Harper goes to the GG in September and just ask for an election before the opposition can bring him down. He will work very hard over the summer to find a way not to give the opposition what it demands. What that "non-cooperation" looks like, I don't know - but expect more smoke from Mr. Harper.

Malcolm+ said...

I believe it was the Greatest Canadian who once observed, "The Liberals have a wishbone where they ought to have a backbone."

penlan said...

I don't have any answers but what I do know is Harper can't be trusted - at all. Look at the past 3 1/2 years. He says one thing & does another. He's a liar. HE has threatened an election in the past few months, played games, like the stupid spectacle of the update with the Duffy infomercial that had zero information, no statistics of any kind. And you believe what he says now? Do you really think he will allow an opposition day on Sept. 29th? I don't. After a summer of campaigning & negative Ignatieff ad framing I wouldn't put it past him to go for another election before Parliament sits again. There is no way that man will concede any power to anyone - least of all Ignatieff & the Libs. It's all a sham. Past history shows us that. He hasn't changed nor will he. He's a manipulator & will do whatever it takes to stay in power - something he's proven over & over again. And there's no difference now.

nbcdipper said...

For all of these threats and grandstanding what do the Liberals get?

A working group on EI on which the Conservatives have a veto.

A promise for more information. Another economic report. Opposition days.

When you had the government by the throat, you'd they the Liberals could have gotten a little more.

But I guess even the "pathetic", "sad", 19 seat fourth party that you make fun of can make a better deal that this.

Barcs said...

compromise?? no, The Iggy-Dion caved.

What did he get? A opposition day set in stone... and the opportunity to appoint 3 people out of 6 who will write a report advising the government what to do.... And the government can decide to take the advice or stick it on a shelf.

And in return he supports Harper one more time. Supports the government that he has called several people in incompetent. Supports the government that he says is doing nothing on the important issues. Supports the government that he keeps threatening to bring down every other day because they are not doing the job.

(sound like anyone??)

The Iggy-Dion got crumbs compared to what he demanded last week. Crumbs compared to his lesser demands on friday, and crumbs compared to his lesser request on monday. Harper got every thing he wanted. That is not a compromise. That is a cave.

And speaking of caving. I have not heard the Iggy-Dion say that 360 hour part since friday. only that he would like to see a national standard.

ibis said...

Let's take your hypothetical (though I wasn't really specific about what issue they could've got Harper to make concessions on -- but jeez on *something*). Something temporary, but beneficial on the EI front would be difficult for the NDP to reject outright in favour of election. Yes, they want permanent changes, but they know as well as anyone that that would be impossible with Harper gov't and unlikely though the odds better with an Ignatieff gov't. It's impossible for them to ever form a gov't of their own in which they could force the issue. Same with Bloc. Rejecting an EI plan that gives some concessions in favour of nothing makes them look bad & it surely doesn't make the Libs look any worse. Ignatieff could have said, if we can't get some real movement on this now I will vote your gov't down. Then it would be incumbent upon Harper to cooperate and find some common ground--even if it meant working through July. As it is, it was all empty posturing and everyone knows it. Blech.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Walks, if he triggers an election under those circumstances its fine with me.

malcom, if only the NDP's skill at winning online popularity contests could translate to the ballot box.

penlan, it's a written agreement that will be passed in parliament. And if he does decide to flout the agreement, that won't sit well with Canadians at all who wanted parliament to work, and at least the Liberals can say we made an honest effort.

dipper, I know you guys are upset at your increasing irrelevance for being left at the kids table with the BQ. I understand it must suck.

On the working group, what veto? Each side appoints 3 members. And the Conservatives are actually giving one of their spots to a non-partisan civil servant. so its 3 Liberals, 2 Conservatives, 1 civil servant.

On the Martin budget, yes, you guys got a promise of some billions. Then, seeing a chance to get more seats, you pulled the plug on parliament before that money could actually flow to housing, to poverty, to transit. So your ace bargainers in the end got a nice piece of paper. Kudos.

But back to present day. You lament Michael's negotiating skills. Fine. But what did Jack get? What did your party do to make this party work? Nada.

The NDP could have said we want to make this parliament work, but we want concessions from Harper. Why didn't you? Why, the things you could have gotten with Jack's superior negotiation skills, with his hand on Harper's throat?

No, instead you guys took the position of not wanting an election, but not wanting to do anything to prevent one either. Hardly mature. Hardly leadership.

A BCer in Toronto said...

barcs, what did he demand last week actually? I recall reading many commentaries about how he demanded nothing, and actually how he looked weak for not calling his questions demands. Yet now I'm to believe he made extravagant demands that he then short-delivered on? That's an interesting version of a fictional history.

ibis, I don't think you want to half-ass EI reform. It's going to take some time to do it right. Hopefully this process can lead to real, effective change. As I said, I don't think it's feasible to legislate anything in a day or two.

Carrie said...

I've noticed something lately amongst Canadian political bloggers. Many are sounding more like mainstream media or political insiders.

That's not good because few, if any, seem to understand the "Canadian public".

For the last several elections, Canadians have voted in minority governments. They do that to force everyone to work together as professionals. Until now, the Liberals haven't had a leader capable of doing that. Dion could have, but Harper didn't respect him. Harper respects Iggy even if he doesn't like him much.

Ultimately, many many Canadians are currently turfed out of jobs, stressed to the max, and some are about to be turfed from jobs. Everybody is too busy caring for their families and trying to survive financially. For that reason, most Canadians DO NOT WANT and election now. And that's it. I can't understand why Libloggers don't see that. It really surprises me actually.

I am very happy that Iggy and Harper are FINALLY working together. This is how a minority government is supposed to work. Canadians have been telling the parties this for how many years and elections now? All in all, most Canadians are happy to see Ottawa acting like adults again. We don't expect a lucky pot of gold instantaneously. We do expect honest efforts to do the right things or try their hardest to do the right things. Iggy has succeeded in that.

This was good. Really good. Libloggers may not be able to see it yet, but it's really excellent for Liberals AND this country and it's citizens.

Barcs said...

The Iggy-Dion's Demands?
EI reform by friday or atleast the plan that is going to be tabled later.

Isotopes! give me a plan for fixing the problem and keeping the supply flowing in the meantime. (No mention in the deal today).

Stimulus cash! A report to the decimal about how much is already out. (no mention in today's deal)

A 5 year plan! to show how the country is going to get out of deficit. (but one more time: no mention in todays deal)

All by last friday. But that was last monday. All those pressing questions and then he didn't actually ask any of them in the house on monday, just in the media. (that must mean he is willing to do business if he is negotiating though the media instead of parliament, right?)

Weak as those demands actually were. You seemed to still call them as such. And week as they were.... they got weaker as the week went on.... to the point where many disappeared into thin air by the time the "deal" (read capitulation) was announced.

"As I said, I don't think it's feasible to legislate anything in a day or two."

Denni Coderre does... Yesterday he was pontificating in a passionate plea about people starving over summer without immediate changes to EI.... Today The Iggy-Dion claims victory because he gets to appoint 3 people to a panel that will advise the government... if the report doesn't get put on a shelf like many reports do over the decades.

"Each side appoints 3 members. And the Conservatives are actually giving one of their spots to a non-partisan civil servant. so its 3 Liberals, 2 Conservatives, 1 civil servant."

I thought you keep telling me that it is the Tories that are hyper partisan, not the liberals.... Will the liberals commit to appointing a non partisan too??

Harper got everything he wanted. out of the deal. And even came out looking conciliatory. (even the liberals and the media types said so on powerplay today, even if they did try to suggest this was the first time). What did the Iggy-Dion get? a reprieve from election speculation till fall,... where he will be forced to make the choice again.

penlan said...

Carrie, That's really good. And it's true. But I am more concerned about Harper & what he's up to right now. He's the most devious, dangerous & creepy politician I've ever encountered.

But you are right - Canadians are busy with many different issues & some are just busy making summer plans.

Malcolm+ said...

BCer, pity that Liberal apologists can't bother to learn spelkling or capitalization.

Facts is facts, buddy. Your new leader is following the same discredited strategy of your old leader. Your opposition to the Harper government is, in the words of the bard, "a tale, told by an idiot - full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Greg said...

dipper, I know you guys are upset at your increasing irrelevance for being left at the kids table with the BQ. I understand it must suck.

Jeff, I will excuse this outburst because I know you are caught up in a partisan fever, but do you must realize how arrogant and anti-democratic that statement is? Just because the NDP and Bloc have fundamental differences with the Conservatives, it does not make them children. The ultimate conclusion of that kind of thinking is that anyone opposed to the government is a child and that is a dangerous idea to put out there. Your party did what it did for its own reasons. Fine, I accept that. But it doesn't make its members more adult than anyone else.

bigcitylib said...

"With my summer electioneering plans now off, the Blue Jays really need to start playing some decent baseball again. Unless I can find a pick-up election somewhere."

I hear there's something going on in Iran.

Sean Cummings said...

You are aware that prrrretty much every pundit in Canada agrees that:

a) Ignatieff created this mess on Monday.

b) Harper basically agreed to none of Ignatieff's demands.

c) Harper won this round.

d) Ignatieff looks like an idiot.

The honeymoon is over dudes. Get used to some serious media scrutiny on Iggy.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Carrie, I think bloggers of all political stripes tend to be much more a committed partisan that the average Canadian. As such, they naturally believe their party has the best ideas and would do the best job tackling the challenges of the day and governing the country. For some it may just be about power for power’s sake, for others it’s a genuine belief that their party has the best answers and would be the best for the country. So, they tend to take this stuff more seriously, and get more wrapped-up in it, viewing every up and down as cataclysmic, compared to the average Canadian who could care less as long as the trains run on time. Perhaps not a satisfying explanation, but I think that’s how I’d describe it. Thankfully, the hyper-partisans (of which I’ll fully confess to being a card-carrying member at times, although I do work on it) usually don’t carry the day.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Barcs, I’d suggest you go back and watch Ignatieff’s press conference on Monday, because you (and Kory Tecknye, who has used much these same talking points as you) are misrepresenting what he actually called for, trying to inflate his “demands” so as to paint the result as a failure. It’s a fairly standard, and transparently obvious, political ploy.

I’ll give you the point in isotopes, I’ve seen no “get” on that in yesterday’s agreement. That disappoints me, but to get everything you want is unrealistic.

On the others, though, he didn’t demand EI reform by Friday. He wanted to know what the government’s plans were, and if it would be possible to advance them. You’ll recall, the Conservative position was we’ll bring in something in the fall, probably to do with the self-employed, but maybe not if the economy suddenly gets better. What he got was a working group that, instead of seeing Conservative-designed legislation introduced some time in the fall, will lead to jointly-developed EI legislation as soon as late September.

Each side has already given a little on their EI positions, as happens when people cooperate. The Liberals have always said 360 hours is a starting point for negotiation, so that’s not a revelation. The CPC seems to focus on that meaning 1 year of benefits, but they know, in reality, it just doesn’t. So there’s room to compromise on the weeks of benefits without giving too much ground on hours worked. AND, after steadfastly maintaining the regional patchwork of eligibility criteria was just fine and shouldn’t change, the Liberals have gotten the Conservatives to reverse their position and admit the current system just doesn’t make sense anymore, and needs to change. That’s a significant change in the Conservative position on EI, and opens the door to real, meaningful reform.

More detailed stimulus reporting has been agreed to by the Conservatives and must be included in the September report, along with the deficit numbers.

A BCer in Toronto said...

And Barcs, you’re just plain wrong when you say he didn’t put any of those questions in the house. I’ll take them one by one, (it’s a CC transcript so excuse the typos).

First, the lead question from Monday’s QP, on isotopes:

Michael Ignatieff: Mr. Speaker, Canadians ARE Looking for a government that has the plan, and it still doesn't have one for the isotope crisis. Thousands of worried Canadians are not getting their cancer tests. The Dutch and the Americans can ramp up production. But they can't make up the shortfall, and they can't guarantee that isotopes will end up in Canadian hospitals. So we're facing a growing national health care crisis. The question therefore is what is the current shortage of isotopes supply in Canada and what is the government’s plan to make up the shortfall?

A few questions later, on the deficit:

John McCallum: Last week the government admitted it had abandoned all hope of eliminating the deficit. Calling to the budgetary budget office, the conservatives' plan was to get over the deficit, and it didn't stand up to reason. Many economists believe the same thing. Where is the economic action plan to address this problem once the recession is over?

Later, on EI:

Michael Savage: Mr. Speaker, last week the prime minister suggested he might have seen the light and finally be prepared to join for those calling for changes to employment insurance. That memo didn't get to the minister of human resources who contributed the prime minister the very next day. Then the prime minister contradicted the minister the very same day. This confusion might be amusing if it weren't so serious. While this improve routine continues, Canadians are losing jobs and they need help immediately. The government acknowledges additional EI measures are necessary. Will they deliver that help now?

And finally stimulus:

Gerard Kennedy: speaker, the unemployed can't eat off of that rhetoric, and Mr. SPEAKER, IT'S 139 DAYS Since the budget and not -- Canada’s largest city is still waiting for even 5 cents of infrastructure stimulus funding. City of Toronto has had a plan for infrastructure and jobs to build 10 billion in new transit improvements embarrassingly the federal government is a shirker paying for only 10%. This minister has no vision on his own. Will they now stop second-guessing a unanimous decision of Toronto city council. He deadline is June 27th. Will the government finally do its part, or will it once again let down the people of Toronto?

So, point being, your assertion is demonstrably false. All four areas were addressed in QP that same day by the Liberals, and have been for some time now.

A BCer in Toronto said...

A spelling flame, Malcom? I guess that's easier than actually trying to make a logical or coherent argument.

Greg, perhaps it was an unfair comment, but I do get frustrated at the sanctimony of the NDP. I would, though, be interested in hearing an answer to my question should any of them care to put it, and that's how to they reconcile their conflicted and non-nonsensical position.

They insist they don't want an election, but they're not willing to do anything to avoid one. They say Ignatieff got hosed and they could have done much better, yet they decided to sit on the sidelines and let the Liberals do the heavy lifting. They whine they could have gotten more, they whine they're left out of the working group. But they had the same leverage we had. Why didn't they try to negotiate a deal for their support?

Calling it childish may be a tad harsh, but from my perspective, that's a fair assessment of their behavior through this whole melodrama.

Sean, well, if every pundit agrees than I guess we can all go home. Because the pundits are always right, aren't they?

If a pundit told you to jump off a bridge, would you?

I'll continue to develop my own opinions irrespective of the pundit consensus, and I'd encourage you to do so as well.

Malcolm+ said...

I'll acknowledge the irony of having a spelling mistake in a spelling flame - especially since it was the word "spelling."

But all I've seem here, BCer, is a whole lot of desperate spin, pretending that Count Ignatieff made a "noble compromise" when in fact it was an ignoble surrender.

Despite the usual Liberal bluster, you don't actually disagree with the Conservative agenda. Lot's of sound, lots of fury. But you surrender in exchange for . . . what exactly?

A "blue ribbon" talking shop and an opposition day in the fall.

Except we really can't count the opposition day, since there would have been opposition days anyway.

As to the "pabst blue ribbon" jaw-jaw, any sane human being realizes it will only accomplish what Sptephen Harper allows it to accomplish. In other words, it gives Count Ignatieff a bit of cover while he behaves like the Duke of Plaza Toro.

A BCer in Toronto said...

malcom, I explained in the post why the opposition days are significant, so I won't belabour that.

You don't like the agreement that was cooked-up. That's fine, everyone is entitled to their views. But while I'm heard that you don't like it, and why, what I haven't heard if your alternative?

What would you have liked to have seen happen? Did you want a summer election? If so, do you acknowledge that no party claimed to want that?

If you didn't want an election, what alternate resolution would you have liked to have seen, and which party would you have liked to have seen get it? And keep in mind, it needs to be something that would have been realistically achievable.

It's very easy to just rant, and oppose. But seriously, what alternate outcome do you feel would have been realistically achievable, and why?

Malcolm+ said...

You really should try capitalization. Refusing to capitalize someone else's name is simply rude. (One might say the same about spelling, but I'm accustomed to the fact that most people can't spell Malcolm.)

Opposition days are very valuable. Are you suggesting there would have been no opposition days in the fall session without this agreement? You'd best not be since that would be utter BS and you know it.

Harper agreeing to an opposition day in the fall is precisely as valuable as Harper agreeing that the sun can come up tomorrow morning or that the Fraser River will still flow from East to West. Having Harper agree that the inevitable will happen is hardly any sort of victory.

I'm tired of Liberals pretending to oppose the Harper agenda when they really support it. You now have two solid years of bluster and backdown. It isn't noble, it's crass hypocrisy.

Ironically, I actually think the common opposition position (or at least the common opposition position until Count Ignatieff surrendered) is bad public policy. It seems to me perfectly reasonable that EI should be easier to get in places where unemployment is higher.

When Layton and the NDP made a deal to prop up the crumbling Martin gong show, Jack forced the Liberals to invest millions of dollars in social infrastructure.

Michael Dion and Stephane Ignatieff have propped up the Harpoer Conservative so many times I've lost count - and all they have to show for it is an opposition day that would have happened regardless and a little bit of jaw-jaw that will only accomplish what Harper decides it will accomplish.

I'd be much happier if you Liberals would just start being honest about what you believe, and merge your party with your natural Tory allies.

Since Count Ignatieff, like his nebbishy predecessor, has no intention of bringing down the government - ever - he should stop pretending otherwise.