Wednesday, June 17, 2009

EXCLUSIVE report from Harper/Ignatieff talks

I can report from top unnamed sources close to the talks that, after a day of talks that have been termed as "productive", an accord has been reached between Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff.

I don't have all the details, but I'm told what broke the deadlock is when Ignatieff offered Bob Rae's help to move the Harper family into Stornoway. The Liberal Party has agreed to cover the costs of any damages to the Harper family television sustained in the move, to a maximum of $400.

Exclusive, must credit A BCer in Toronto.

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Walks With Coffee said...


An election now would be a good thing.

The fiscal report was a fraud; Unfortunately, the public doesn't know yet and a vote now might mean Mr. Harper would get away with it - perhaps.

RayK said...

So, Michael Ignatieff has agreed to support Stephen Harper without obtaining any policy concessions whatsoever and yet is claiming victory in this little kabuki dance.

Gee, who could have thunk it.

Jeff said...

Ray, before we debate that, to help frame the discussion, let me ask you this. What "get" would you have considered a good get by the Liberals, bearing in mind it needs to be a get the Conservatives would have reasonably given. Or, alternatively, do you feel no justifiable get was gettable, and they should have just moved to an election?

Jason Hickman said...

Jeff, it wasn't RayK (or me) who was standing up in the H of C talking about how "[p]eople are going to starve this summer" if EI wasn't "fixed", pronto. That was a Liberal MP. (Admittedly, it was Coderre, but still...)

Jeff said...

Jason, I think I've made my feelings on Monsieur Coderre clear in the past, and they haven't changed.

Jason Hickman said...

Fair enough, you have. I knew it was a bit of a cheap shot :)

RayK said...

That's a very interesting question, BCer. I think depends on how you define a "good get": something genuinely worth of Liberal support, something that could legitimately be called a victory or just enough to reach a deal that would not qualify as backing down?

I don't think the Conservatives would ever have offered policy concessions worthy of genuine support. That’s why I thought it was a tremendous blow for the country when Ignatieff killed the opposition coalition and let the Conservatives remain in power. That's over and done with, obviously, but I think that context-- that Iggy accepted a government he knew would never be genuinely worthy of support--is important to remember. It might have been acceptable if he was planning on either getting massive concessions or promptly defeating them, but not if he intended to just let them govern.

I think a real victory would have been a comprehensive EI reform package along the lines of the NDP motion that passed by parliament (with the caveat that I understand the Liberals wanted these changes made temporarily, not permanently). I wouldn’t expect the Conservatives to adopt all of these changes, but to meet the opposition half way. That would have been a victory.

Michael Ignatieff lowered the bar significantly from that point by making the 360 hour standard for eligibility his clear bottom line when he was elected leader. That was at the start of May and it should be noted that Ignatieff has now agreed to support the Harper government for five months--May through September--with no agreement on 360 hour eligibility. Had he got the 360 hours standard alone that would have been enough to convincingly claim that at least he had not backed down.

Now you may say “What if he gets that out of the blue-ribbon panel? Will that mean he didn’t back down after all?”

In short: no. First, the Conservatives have made it clear they won’t adopt the 360 hours standard. Second, any further compromise (480 hours?) would represent an even further come down from what Ignatieff supported in the Commons. Third, no matter what comes out of the blue-ribbon commission the last five months of benefits are lost forever. Fourth, under any circumstance Ignatieff has already given up five months of leverage--after all, that’s how these deals work: we want these concessions in exchange for giving you more time in office.

Now you may also say “Those concessions--actually “that concession”--were/was not realistic.”

You may be right. But all that means is that Ignatieff never had the leverage--based on the Libs vs. the Cons relative desire to avoid an election--to get even part of what he wanted, that he’s been making totally empty threats for the last seven months and that ultimately he has just been supporting the Conservative government in the same way that Stephane Dion did.

In fact, Ignatieff didn’t even keep the theatre going as long Stephane Dion. If I recall correctly, Dion was became leader in December and didn’t start propping up the Conservatives until after Outremont.

Sorry for the length of my response, but I think this stuff is complicated and worthy of detail.

RayK said...

"Jason, I think I've made my feelings on Monsieur Coderre clear in the past, and they haven't changed."

Now that's something we can all agree on.

Jeff said...

Ray, I'm going to have a blog post up shortly that will detail my views on the deal and addresses my view on some of these points.

For now though, I'd just say in brief:

*360 hours was always the starting Liberal position. We've always said this is our starting-point, let's hear your proposals.

*EI reform is going to take some time. Michael and Stephen couldn't do it on the back of a napkin in a day or two. Provinces will need to be consulted, for example.

*I think there is room for compromise close to the 360 hour mark, on the temporary basis favoured by the Liberals. That's because Harper is lying when he says this would mean work for a month, EI for a year. That's just their hardline spin. Once we sit down seriously and look at the actual weeks of benefits granted, I think we can come to a good middle-ground.

*We have already gotten one major concession from Harper. He has gone from steadfastly defending the patchwork of regional eligibility levels to admitting it doesn't make sense. That's a major concession. Now it's just a matter of coming together on hours and benefits. And you know he won't want to alienate the current low-threshold provinces too much. So there seems like daylight for a compromise there.