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Tory minority in jeopardy as opposition talks coalition. Will there be another election?

Kirkhill

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MCG - are you truly surprised?

First the populace is outraged at the tactics of the coalition.

Then, are they outraged to discover that the game was played by the rules?

Next, will they be outraged by the rules themselves?

Patently the rules don't deliver the democracy that they thought they were getting.

Kind of like discovering that the fine print on your home insurance policy releases you insurer from any obligation except supplying compensation when King Kong is in town.


You can argue they should have read the fine print all you like.  But they'll never buy another policy from that supplier.
 

McG

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Kirkhill said:
MCG - are you truly surprised?
Not surprised, but still disappointed.  It is much easier to discuss the relevant facts when one does not first have to correct a maze of misconceptions.  It is also very difficult to support others, who have arrived at similar conclusions as your own, when the path to their conclusion was based on misconceptions, exaggerations, and untruths.
 

Rifleman62

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You know, all this shidt that is being presented in the last few posting (and generally most postings) is coming from the same source. The G & M, CTV are controlled by the same beneficial ownership. Who is on CTV's Question Period? Who co hosts it? The answer is G & M employees.
Keep quoting CTV/G & M. That's just spreading LPC hate. We all know where their political loyalty lies. Did you read Lawrence Martin today? Hate. The media want the good old LPC back so everything is handed to them on a platter for the media to REPEAT. "Bully" Harper wants to make them work for it. I don't think Mr Harper is a bully. In your face, take no prisoners leadership. Or do you like Mr Dithers?
Yes. what is so important to Brisson and MCCallum that the world will stop on Friday if the CPC does not produce the "right" financial figures. Who are these guys? Maybe the bar is closing early.
 

Kirkhill

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MCG said:
.. It is also very difficult to support others, who have arrived at similar conclusions as your own, when the path to their conclusion was based on misconceptions, exaggerations, and untruths.

OK - I admit.  I am having diffi.culty parsing this.  ;D  I fear that I am being considered  a dupe, OR that I am being castigated for duping others, OR for taking advantage of those that are duped.

Please clarify if I am to take offense. ;)

As to your greater point, it is disappointing but is our situation much different than what the Americans felt when they discovered their President being picked by The Electoral College and The Supreme Court?

It is within the rules - but those may not necessarily reflect the democracy  they now expect.
 

retiredgrunt45

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For those of you who think that Harper will enjoy an easy majority if there is another election next year, er I would think again. The vote rich province of Ontario has gone from a "have abundance" to a "have not" province in the span of two and a half years, that's about as long as the conservatives have been in power. Back in May of 2008 there was already grumblings of how the conservatives were handling the economy, now just a short eight months later we see, mass layoffs in the auto sector and the manufacturing sector in Ontario, the likes we haven' seen in decades and people are going to be looking for someone to blame. "Hello Mr. Primeminister"

Harper can sow gold linings into his stimulus package, but it won't matter, because its way to late, the jobs are already gone and people are sitting at home with fingers wagging and pointed at, "Guess who" and no it it's not the liberals, NDP or Gilles.

I recently read a posters reply on this thread on how Canadians don't know much about their political system, well the same can be said about those same people, when they lose their jobs and lively hoods. They don't care much about politics, but what they do want is someone to blame for their misfortune and all the phyco babble and politico speak is not going to change that one little bit.

Like it or not as to whether or not they are to blame or not, one simple fact remains and that who ever was residing at 24 Sussex Drive at the time those jobs disappeared will get all the blame.

If the world financial crisis had never happened, if the Iraq war had never happened, we would have seen John McCain as the next president instead of Barrack Obama, but the financial crisis and the war did happen, so people blamed George Bush, but they also blamed John McCain through his association with Bush the crisis and the war. McCain was the loser even before he entered the game, it just hadn't been realized yet.

As George Bush said "the buck stops here".

 

a_majoor

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retiredgrunt45 said:
For those of you who think that Harper will enjoy an easy majority if there is another election next year, er I would think again. The vote rich province of Ontario has gone from a "have abundance" to a "have not" province in the span of two and a half years, that's about as long as the conservatives have been in power.

Actually, the "buck" stops at Dalton McGuinty's desk in Queens Park, and the federal Minister of Finance has been very vocal and public in demonstrating the difference between the fiscal prudence of the Federal Government vs the reckless actions of the Provincial Government. (as a libertarian myself, I find Jim Flarhety's definition of fiscal prudence to be a bit  *strained*, to say the least.)

Indeed, should there be an election in the near future, the CPC can draw the link between the economic performance of the Provincial Liberals and the proposed "stimulus package" of the Federal Liberals. As an added method of sticking a fork in the Liberals, they can always use the slogan "The Liberal economic package: Rae Days for Everyone!"
 

retiredgrunt45

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Indeed, should there be an election in the near future, the CPC can draw the link between the economic performance of the Provincial Liberals and the proposed "stimulus package" of the Federal Liberals. As an added method of sticking a fork in the Liberals, they can always use the slogan "The Liberal economic package: Rae Days for Everyone!"

Maybe, maybe not; difference is, it won't be a provincial election and McGuinty won't be the one on the hot seat. People haven't forgotten about the Harris Tories and the slash and burn tactics he used in Ontario in the mid nineties, yet are they soon to forget that while they were loosing their jobs the Neophytes sat back and said don't panic everything is OK. The provincial liberals will be the lesser of the two evils come election time, besides its not McGuinty's picture that's plastered in the papers, television and web everyday, it's Harper's and the more negative exposure the MSM gives to the Harper Tories, the less people will think about McGuinty's liberals. Besides McGuinty had his hand out since late last year asking for help from the Neophytes, but Flaherty slapped it and said go away, no one should invest in Ontario, the MSM took that "slip of the tongue" and has been running a marathon with it ever since.

I live in the real world, not some ideological world were everyone has angels flying out of there arses. My world is job= house, food, clothing and whatever is left goes to a little enjoyment. Take way the job, you take away everything, including sometimes even ones self respect. So please don't sit there and tell me that come election time that suddenly Harper becomes our saviour, because that's probably the farthest thing from our minds. Maybe you should get out there and talk to people in Windsor, Oshawa and Oakville and listen to what average every day people are saying instead of some office dwelling has-beens, who's only purpose in life is to manufacture "fairy dust" to shove up our their asses so the shit they throw at us doesn't smell like the sewage it actually is. As for McGuinty, he's covered his tracks, he's so much as told us over the past two years, not to expect much from Ottawa, but he will keep on trying, now that realization has come true and that leaves McGuinty smelling like a bottle of febreeze.
 

Edward Campbell

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According to this report, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has, and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty soon will, changed his economic tune:
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http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081216.wflaherty16/BNStory/politics/home

PM's economic flip: 'I've never seen such uncertainty'

BRIAN LAGHI , STEVEN CHASE and BILL CURRY

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
December 16, 2008 at 3:30 AM EST

OTTAWA — Stephen Harper has delivered his bleakest forecast yet for the Canadian economy, warning yesterday the future is increasingly hard to read and conceding the possibility of a depression.

"The truth is, I've never seen such uncertainty in terms of looking forward to the future," the Prime Minister told CTV News in Halifax.

"I'm very worried about the Canadian economy."

When asked whether a depression might be possible, he answered:

"It could be, but I think we've learned enough about depression; we've learned enough from the 1930s to avoid some of the mistakes that caused a recession in 1929 to become a depression in the 1930s."

A recession is often defined as two consecutive quarters of shrinking economic output.

The definition of a depression is less established, but is considered to be a prolonged recession where output declines by more than 10 per cent.

Mr. Harper also confirmed in the interview that his January budget will push Canada into a deficit and include billions of dollars in spending, which he hopes to combine with provincial spending to boost the Canadian economy.

"Obviously, we're going to have to run a deficit," he said. "We're talking about spending billions of dollars that was not planned."

Mr. Harper's darker forecast was yet another shift in tone for the government on the economic story. Last Friday, for example, his ministers appeared to deliver contradictory messages on the speed with which the government should be reacting to the crisis.

Hours before Industry Minister Tony Clement called a hasty Toronto news conference to buck up the Ontario auto industry, the message emerging from Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was a plea to be patient with the Harper government as it planned a stimulus package.

"This is not a sprint," Mr. Flaherty told an audience in Saint John, preaching the virtues of "thoughtful consideration" before acting with stimulus.

Later that day, however, Mr. Clement, signalled that Ottawa was indeed moving quickly to help out auto makers, announcing the general outlines of a package that could lead to $3.4-billion in Canadian aid.

"The seriousness of the situation dictates that we be here this evening," Mr. Clement said of his last-minute appearance.

As chief salesman for Tory economic policies, Mr. Flaherty is often the one left taking the blame for conflicting messages on how the Conservatives will respond to the faltering economy.

This was the case in the Nov. 27 fall fiscal update. On Nov. 23, after months of insisting his government had already done much to stimulate the economy, Mr. Harper abruptly changed tone after an international leaders meeting in Peru. He warned reporters that "it may well be necessary to take unprecedented fiscal stimulus."

Four days later, however, Mr. Flaherty's economic update offered only a modest injection of assistance, while also announcing billions of dollars in budget cuts - the very opposite of fiscal stimulus.

"They moved in the wrong direction," IHS Global Insight managing director Dale Orr said yesterday.

The update prompted calls for Mr. Flaherty's resignation from some critics - and unease within the Tory caucus.

Aside from a lack of stimulus, the update also contained two politically explosive measures: a move to scrap per-vote subsidies for political parties and a bid to ban public-sector workers from striking.

"It was just outrageous and absolutely improper," said University of Western Ontario economics professor emeritus David Laidler, a member of the C.D. Howe Institute's monetary policy council.

"I was frankly very surprised because I thought Flaherty was a pretty competent guy."

Prof. Laidler, who emphasized he was speaking only for himself, said he thinks Mr. Flaherty should have stepped down after he was forced to withdraw the more controversial items in the face of unanimous opposition party rejection of the update.

"He should have resigned either because they were his policies and they were rejected so firmly he had to withdraw them - or they weren't his policies and he shouldn't have allowed them in his statement."

But one senior Tory aide said that Mr. Flaherty is not likely to lose his job because his office is compliant with the Prime Minister's wishes.

Mr. Flaherty spent an hour yesterday meeting with Liberal MPs John McCallum and Scott Brison, who said he conceded that the relatively rosy economic projections in last month's controversial fiscal update have been overtaken by worsening conditions.

"He certainly admitted that the economic situation has deteriorated since receiving the forecasts [for the Nov. 27 fiscal and economic statement.] He does agree that the forecasts were too rosy [given the deterioration,]" Mr. McCallum told The Canadian Press.

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What Mr. Harper is doing, in part, is to prepare himself and the fiscally conservative part of his ‘base’ (people like me) for a great load of useless, wasteful even counter-productive spending that will aim to satisfy the usual whiners in big business and big labour but that will do little real good for the economy.

 

Edward Campbell

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But, according to this report, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from the CTV News web site – sorry Rifleman62 for quoting another bête noir – Stephen Harper has not changed his tune on the coalition of the dimwits:
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http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20081215/harper_atlantic_081215/20081215?hub=TopStories

Stephen Harper has tough words for coalition

Updated Mon. Dec. 15 2008 10:47 PM ET

CTV.ca News Staff

Despite having to shut down Parliament to save his government from being toppled by a furious opposition coalition, Prime Minister Stephen Harper pulled no punches when discussing his political rivals in a year-end interview with CTV Atlantic.

Harper accused the coalition of trying to "overthrow" the government, refused to answer critics' repeated demands to apologize for the fiscal update that sparked the turmoil on Parliament Hill, and defended his move to appoint senators to the upper chamber -- the same institute he has derided for being undemocratic.

Asked repeatedly whether he regretted unveiling a fiscal update that would have financially crippled the opposition parties, while saving roughly $27 million a year, Harper said he had acted in the best interest of Canadians.

He also suggested the anger displayed by the opposition was exaggerated, noting reports that the NDP and Bloc had talked about a possible coalition around the time of the election.

"We only found out later that they had been planning to overturn the results of the election ever since election night. But in terms of the political financing measures, we believe these are in the public interest, and the public overwhelmingly supports these measures," he said.

With Michael Ignatieff now holding the reins of the Liberal party, it's become uncertain whether the Liberal-NDP coalition will last until the government unveils its budget in late January.

The coalition needs the support of the Bloc Quebecois to survive, which has proven to be a sore point for many Canadians. In a recent Strategic Counsel poll, 58 per cent of voters across the country said they opposed the coalition.

Harper told CTV Atlantic he met with Ignatieff last week, but said he still knew little about the former Harvard scholar and author.

"I've read very little of what he's written. I certainly know he's a noted academic," he said.

Harper also invited Ignatieff to "work with the government on dealing with the economy because nobody wants Canadians to go back to the polls."

The Liberals and Conservatives are currently discussing the upcoming budget, set to be tabled on Jan. 27. Ignatieff has said the coalition could bring down the government unless the budget includes what he has described as an adequate stimulus package, to help soften the blow of the worldwide credit crisis.

Harper said Canadians should know exactly what the coalition would do as an alternative.

"I want to see exactly what it is the opposition would have us do in the budget. I mean, we're going to proceed with the budget one way or another. But I do think, particularly as these parties talk about getting together and trying to overturn the government, I think they should tell Canadians would exactly they would do instead," he said.

Tory Senate appointments

The prime minister also addressed the controversy surrounding his plans to fill 18 vacant Senate seats, despite his opposition to appointing senators without some form of democratic process.

Currently, senators are chosen by the prime minister and keep their appointments for 45 years, or until mandatory retirement at 75. Harper wants the provinces to elect their own choices, and also wants shortened terms of just eight years.

"In a way, it's a sad day for me," said Harper. "I've waited for three years. We've invited provinces to hold elections. We've put an electoral bill before the House of Commons. But for the most part, neither in Parliament nor in the provinces has there been any willingness to move forward on reform."

Currently, there are 58 Liberals and 20 Conservatives in the 105-seat Senate, after years of successive Liberal governments.

"We're now faced with a very simple choice. Does the government Canadians elected appoint those senators, or are they going to be appointed by a coalition that nobody elected?" said Harper.

When asked by CTV Atlantic's Steve Murphy whether "two wrongs make a right," Harper repeated that he was left with little choice.

"It's the only option. There is no prospect for electing these senators in the near term," he said.

Harper also said he faces increases pressure from within his own party to appoint senators who are loyal to the ruling government. In the past, the Conservatives have accused the Liberal-dominated Senate of stalling bills passed by the lower chamber.

Senators have defended their role as overseeing the chamber of sober second thought, saying they have a duty to carefully examine any legislation, rather than rubber-stamping bills and blindly supporting the government.

"Quite frankly, I think the public would prefer to see senators supporting the government they elected," said Harper.

Afghanistan

Before the interview, the prime minister visited New Brunswick, where three soldiers killed in Afghanistan this past weekend were based.

He spent time at an elementary school where veterans of the Second World War shared their stories with students, and Harper gave his condolences to the families of the latest victims.

"It is always a tremendous tragedy when we lose people like this," he said.

Harper later spoke about the visit with CTV Atlantic and said it was important to be reminded of the sacrifices Canada's soldiers must sometimes make.

"These are the best that we have -- bright, ambitious young people who are willing to put their lives on the line for the country and their fellow human beings," he said.

"Whenever we get this news it's always terrible. And it always helps give me some perspective. Whenever we in politics complain about some of the difficulties of public life, we always have to remember that it's pretty trivial when compared to the sacrifices and risks that our men and women undertake on our behalf."

--------------------


This looks like electioneering to me.

While I agree with retiredgrunt45 that a majority in a Spring election is anything but a foregone conclusion, I cannot help but think that it may be Harper’s main chance. Memories of the unpopular coalition will fade, Iggy will get stronger and will look better and better; the economic slide will slow – Harper may decide he has to go early.

 

a_majoor

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The ghost of coalitions past now haunts Mr Ignatieff:

http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2008/12/16/kelly-mcparland-layton-adds-another-weight-to-ignatieff-s-ball-and-chain.aspx

Kelly McParland: Layton adds another weight to Ignatieff's ball and chain
Posted: December 16, 2008, 5:25 PM by Kelly McParland
Full Comment, Kelly McParland, Canadian politics

Jack Layton made it impossible for Michael Ignatieff to continue feigning allegiance to the Liberal/NDP coalition on Tuesday, when he unveiled a list of NDP demands during an appearance in Toronto.

Mr. Layton said the NDP wants a new housing program, a new daycare program and money to provide relief to individual Canadians before it will agree to support the budget Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is to introduce next month.

The NDP leader doesn’t expect the government to meet those demands, so Mr. Layton’s troops are all but certain to try and defeat the government.

“It is the season of miracles, so I suppose one always has to keep one’s mind open,” he said, before suggesting Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a man who can’t be trusted, no matter what he promises in the budget.

That’s pretty vintage Layton, and not much of a surprise. The NDP leader’s strategy throughout the Harper government has been to oppose at all cost. He regularly derided Stephane Dion’s Liberals for lacking the backbone to defeat the Tories in the most recent session of Parliament. Mr. Layton doesn’t care what pretense is used to justify the vote; the coalition was born when he and Gilles Duceppe both seized on the Tory budget update as an opportunity to pounce, and poor Mr. Dion was foolish enough to support their scheme.

But it’s not vintage Ignatieff, who has had just a week on the job and needs to reshape the Liberal party in a more popular image. Unfortunately for him, the reality of the coalition is that every time Mr. Layton opens his mouth, Mr. Ignatieff has to nod and mumble, “Good idea.”

When he accepted his new job, Mr. Ignatieff said the three parties in the opposition alliance would continue to operate independently unless and until the government falls. The coalition only comes to life when it’s time to ask the Governor-General for a chance to rule in the Tories’ place. This, the Liberal leader would have us believe, means he’s not responsible for any fool thing Mr. Layton or Mr. Duceppe may get up to in the interim.

He’s kidding himself if he believes that. If Mr. Layton sets down non-negotiable demands for his support, he’s forcing Mr. Ignatieff to accept them or break up the alliance. The coalition can’t have three separate positions on the budget; it can only have one, and if Mr. Layton’s is set in stone, the Liberals can only take it or leave it. If they leave it, the coalition ceases to exist, and a broken coalition isn’t going to be running the Ottawa transit system, much less the federal government.

It puts Mr. Ignatieff in a ridiculous situation. He continues to pretend he’s willing to use the coalition to bring down the government, even as the claim grows more self-evidently impractical. Each time he invokes it he is tied more tightly to the coalition itself, with its embrace of the NDP and its dependence on the Bloc Quebecois. That will force him, when an election is eventually called, to spend that much more time defending an alliance that every poll and survey has shown is deeply unpopular with Canadian voters.

Rightly or wrongly, Mr. Harper succeeded in linking the coalition to separatist politics in the minds of many Canadians; Mr. Ignatieff is no friend of the separatists, but will have to explain why he was nonetheless willing to maintain the link negotiated by Mr. Dion, which gives the Bloc an effective veto on major alliance decisions. He will also have to justify his willingness to hand a large chunk of the cabinet to Mr. Layton, who attracted the support of just 18% of voters in October. Success for Mr. Ignatieff lies in moving his party to the middle ground, where  most voters live; he can’t do that if he’s simulaneously trying to defend a link to the NDP, which has entrenched itself firmly on the left and is willing to vote against sanity itself if it will bring down Stephen Harper.

The wise thing for Mr. Ignatieff is to cut the cord now and be done with the coalition. Pretending he thinks it’s a viable alternative only brings his judgement into question and strengthens the government’s hand against him. He needs to start leading: If the Liberals want to vote against the budget they should do so without concern for what the Bloc or NDP do. It’s the only way the party can regain some of its lost credibility. Which, Lord knows, it needs to do.

National Post

This is quite correct; you either are in a coalition or not; politics is not quantum physics and Schrödinger's Coalition is not a solution the public will accept (indeed they have already been pretty outspoken about it).
 

Fishbone Jones

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Just my gut, mind you, but I think SH saw this whole thing coming before Iggy or Layton did. IF that's the case, he's still the chess master and the libs will be hard pressed to play any kind of one upsmanship at a game Harper engineered. I'm sure that the CPC knew about this 'coalition' before the principals announced it. No secrets on the Hill, and all that. The dippers are yappy little ghetto dogs and always will be. Layton shot his wad on this one (the coalition) and when it doesn't fly, will forever be relegated to the political dumpster. He's used up all his favours and is being looked upon as the communist opportunist that he is. His base, the unions, are losing members and control, with the manufacturing upheaval. The members will soon figure that he, and his minions like Lewenza, were the ones that put them where they are today. Next election will see him lose more seats and end up a shadow of their once, never really important, selves. The Bloc has been quietly pushing their agenda(s), while Canadians blissfully ignored them. They put themselves in the spotlight, with this deal, and incurred the hate of, a whole new and young generation of, Canadians within the Dominion once again. Watch for a new round of anti Quebec bias throughout Canada because of the greed and opportunism shown by the BQ. Harper and the CPC will likely gain seats, that they lose in Quebec, because they'll be seen as defenders of the realm (but no one will use the word 'treasonous'). Iggy may be an intellectual, but Harper is no slouch in that department either. Harper has been accused of being wooden and standoffish. Iggy makes him look like PT Barnum welcoming you to a show. Like I say though, just my gut.
 

ModlrMike

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I think you're right. I think what this coalition did for the Conservatives was show small "l" Liberals just how far left their party has been swung. As much as Mr Ignatieff comes off as a centrist, he won't have enough time at the helm to change the party's course prior to the next election.
 

a_majoor

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This is a joke, right?

http://thealbertaardvark.blogspot.com/2008/12/jack-layton-to-move-into-stornoway-as.html

Jack Layton to move into Stornoway as leader of the opposition.
An AWM exclusive: Don't call the movers yet Iggy.

Having had his plans of being in a coalition cabinet thwarted by newly anointed interim Liberal leader Micheal Ignatieff; Jack Layton has made a deal with Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe that would have the NDP named as the official opposition with Layton as leader.

Similar to the failed tripartite coalition agreement the 2 parties are expected to approach the Speaker of the House of Commons with a letter of intent outlining their cooperation in forming the official opposition as their 2 parties combined have more seats than the now current official opposition Liberals.

An NDP insider said; "If Mr. Ignatieff will not honour the coalition agreement that he signed then we have no other choice but to do what Canadians have already strongly voiced with their votes in the last election." adding that "74% of Canadians voted against the Liberals being the official opposition and we are following along with the great traditions of our democracy by doing what the voters intended."

Our phone calls to the Liberal Party of Canada were not returned.

Just slightly outside the realm of tinfoil hats, it should be noted that the NDP is a Democratic Socialist party while the BQ is a National Socialist party, so the alliance of the two will have far fewer hurdles to overcome than the 3 headed "Coalition of the Inept" had.
 

Old Sweat

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Being good socialists, if that's not a contradiction in terms, he and Olivia will no doubt open the house to the street people of Ottawa.
 

Retired AF Guy

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Thucydides said:
This is a joke, right?

http://thealbertaardvark.blogspot.com/2008/12/jack-layton-to-move-into-stornoway-as.html

Just slightly outside the realm of tinfoil hats, it should be noted that the NDP is a Democratic Socialist party while the BQ is a National Socialist party, so the alliance of the two will have far fewer hurdles to overcome than the 3 headed "Coalition of the Inept" had.

An "F6" report; "F" - Reliability cannot be judged. "6" - Truth cannot be judged.
 

Bruce Monkhouse

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Well now, I sure hope everyone would stick to the same arguments, from both sides of the spectrum, if this would come to pass.

I doubt it though...........................
 

Reccesoldier

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Retired AF Guy said:
An "F6" report; "F" - Reliability cannot be judged. "6" - Truth cannot be judged.

Should be an F16 report, as in Drop a 1000 pound JDAM on both their asses.
 

Old Sweat

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There was a report and an interview with the pollster this morning on CFRA regarding a poll done for Canadian Business Magazine that indicates that the CPC would win a strong majority if an election was held today. While the Liberals have improved, this has been at the expenses of their coalition partners. Moreover, most Canadians dislike the process by which the Grits picked their new leader.

The rest of the MSM seems to have ignored it. The article in Canadian Business Magazine online can be viewed here:

http://www.canadianbusiness.com/managing/ceo-poll/article.jsp?content=20081230_074546_21312
 

Edward Campbell

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Tom Kent was, in many ways, the author of Pierre Trudeau’s disastrous reign. He (Kent) was the intellectual instigator of the 1960 Kingston Conference that caused the Liberal Party of Canada to lurch to the left, in 1967-70, and to abandon the centre so carefully nurtured by Laurier, King, St Laurent and Pearson.

Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail, is Mr. Kent’s advice to Iggy:
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http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090105.wcoliberals06/BNStory/politics/home

Dear Iggy, this is not a year for an election

TOM KENT

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
January 6, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST

The 2008 federal election seemed remarkable for how little it changed. The Conservative government remained, the exchange of insults continued to substitute for parliamentary debate. But, in late November, reality struck. We have entered 2009 with politics transformed.

Two changes are most significant. Prime Minister Stephen Harper panicked so badly as to destroy, certainly for 2009 and likely forever, his chance of attaining a majority government. No less remarkably, the Liberal Party moved into the contemporary world: It invited its members to join in an exchange of opinions through the Internet.

This second revolution has some way yet to go. The current invitation from on high is for views on what to do about the economy. That is, for better or worse, Mr. Harper's business. The Official Opposition's job is constructive criticism. But proposing immediate alternatives is not the priority for which the Liberal Party needs the involvement of its diminished membership. Only its surviving elites and functionaries cling to the image of themselves as the natural governing party. Everyone else knows that their demoralized, distrusted party will be mended only if it has a replenished membership creatively involved in shaping policy for the next government, not second-guessing for today.

The delusions of Liberal leadership were paraded in the Liberal-NDP coalition agreement. When that was signed, my congratulations went to Ed Broadbent. It might be attacked as a pact with separatists, but, in truth, the political effect was to restore the NDP to the significance it lost when the Bloc Québécois became the third party in Parliament. If a coalition government could have succeeded under Stéphane Dion, the New Democrats would have gained the most in public credit.

If, alternatively, Mr. Harper could provoke an election now, he would almost certainly get the majority he longs for. Enough people would be sensibly reluctant to risk inexperienced leadership when economic peril looms. That reluctance will decline, however, as peril becomes reality. It is already too late for fiscal and monetary stimulus to save us from rising unemployment during much of 2009. The government of the day will bear increasing blame.

That burden is now securely on Mr. Harper's back. Prorogation of Parliament has removed his power to obtain an early election. Under our monarchical conventions, we do not know what condition may have been attached to the Governor-General's acceptance of the Prime Minister's plea for time. It should have been a warning that, if he came back wanting a dissolution within the next 18 months, it would be refused in favour of a coalition government.

Even if there was no precise warning, Mr. Harper must recognize this strong probability. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff will surely take care to sustain the coalition agreement. The NDP and the Bloc have nothing to lose by keeping it in place.

By thus firmly trapping himself in the hard times of 2009, Mr. Harper has given the Liberals' new leader an early opportunity to shine. Mr. Ignatieff can lay Liberal arrogance finally to rest. He can replace it by common sense. He has only to say, soon and firmly, that this is not the year for another election. We face prolonged uncertainty about jobs and incomes, about prices and savings. Adding political uncertainty to the mix could only worsen our economic troubles. A responsible opposition would recognize that, for the present, steadiness is more important than changing the government through the conflict of election campaigning.

Such a statement would not give Mr. Harper a blank cheque. Further outrages would compel the coalition to defeat the government. But short of those, it should be held accountable not through daily debate and polling, but after enough time for the people to remake their electoral assessment. The Liberal Party, meanwhile, will probe, question, suggest; and if the government nevertheless introduces measures that Liberals cannot support, they will as a party abstain.

There is little doubt most people would greet this with relief. How much the Liberals thereby gain would depend on another change in the nature of their leadership. Just as this is not the time for an election, it is also not the time for pronouncements from the top.

The party's need is renewal of strength from below, to engage its members in the making of policies for the times: policies rooted in awareness that the prosperity of an advanced economy depends on the widespread skills possible only in a society fostering equality of opportunities.

Such engagement of the membership has to come from discussion within constituency associations and the stimulation of country-wide thinking over the Internet. Mr. Ignatieff and his associates need to concentrate their own comments on the business of the day. On the Liberals' policy directions in 2009, they need the patience to say little and listen much. There is just a chance that, in 2010, we then might enjoy democratic politics addressed to the well-being of our society in this century.

Tom Kent served as principal assistant to prime minister Lester Pearson.

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He raises an intriguing point: we do not know what, if any condition Mme. Jean may have placed on her decision to prorogue parliament.

But, I think he is correct: IF Harper can engineer a defeat, soon, on grounds that would not compel Mme. Jean to offer the coalition an opportunity to govern, then he can win a majority in 2009. What might such a condition be? Perhaps on a budget that, demonstrably, meets pretty nearly all of the conditions imposed by Brison and McCallum (Ignatieff’s budget negotiating team). Perhaps on an issue that divides the coalition and the Liberal Party: such as national defence/national security or the Middle East crisis. (My guess is that Iggy and the St Laurent/Pearson/Turner/Martin rump he commands is offside from the Trudeau/Chrétien/Dion majority in the party.) A cleverly designed proposal to transform the armed forces - and spend money on the CF – or to re-engage in the Middle East, with a distinctly anti-Hamas/Hezbollah bias will infuriate the BQ and NDP and might provoke a revolt in the Liberal caucus if/when, as I expect would be the case, Iggy decided not to oppose such moves. Now, admittedly, it would take a combination of a large (50+) revolt and the strategic absence of several Tories to allow a BQ (49 votes), NDP (37) and disaffected Liberals to defeat the government, but …



 
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