Thursday, December 04, 2008

Road kill of the coalition

With Her Excellency, the Governor General imposing a seven week cooling off period, the various collectives of the coalition can now assess the mess that they find themselves in, having failed in their bid to immediately grab the reins of power, without the benefit of an electoral mandate.

For a number of the participants in the grand alliance the prospect of becoming political road kill truly beckons...

First off the road we find the Mr. Magoo of Liberal politics Stephane Dion, who seemed to give credence to those annoying Conservative ads of the last election that maybe he was not a leader after all. Dion stumbled and fumbled badly on the coalition launch and it was downhill for him from the get go.

First off, by being only a guardian of the Liberals until their convention scheduled for May of 2009 in Vancouver(though we suspect it will be quickly moved up) he had the millstone of being first off rejected by the electorate in the last election and now not particularly well thought of within his own party.

His poor command of the coalition, highlighted by the bungled delivery of the coalition’s speech of Wednesday night, seals his fate as a reputable leader of the would be group of two and their observer consorts of the Bloc, whether they can repackage him in seven weeks to lead the charge again is something that even the most opportunistic of Liberal backroom handlers must shudder about.

Bob Rae, likewise may find himself on the side of the road by the time this has all died down, according to some political accounts the original plan last weekend was for Michael Ignatieff to become the leader of the coalition, taking over from Mr. Dion in order to show a new face to the Canadian population.

Mr. Rae who judging by today’s frequent appearances on camera, still clearly feels he is destined to be the Liberal leader, had put a halt on any of the talk of that Ignatieff appointment by filing his nomination papers on Monday morning.
He then promptly went on the offensive as one of the point men for the coalition, Mr. Ignatieff on the other hand seemed to step back from the tempest, sending out signals that he wanted no cabinet position in the prospective coalition, preferring instead to work on rebuilding the Liberal brand, perhaps the wisest move the man has ever made in his political wanderings.

Rae on the other hand seemed to be one of the brokers of the NDP/Liberal alliance, which would be natural owing to his past affiliation with the NDP, however that will only go to reinforce the impression of the long term Liberals that he is but a Liberal by convenience, not fully converted to the Liberal beliefs and now no doubt viewed with suspicion.

Liberals made much in the last election campaign of wanting nothing to do with NDP fiscal beliefs, suggesting that they would have a hard time working with the wild eyed spending plans of Jack Layton, now with the coalition stuck in a holding pattern for seven weeks, Liberals will look over their notes and many may wonder whatever were they thinking in their idea of joining forces with the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois.

That won’t do much to increase the potential movement for Rae in his bid to best Mr. Ignatieff, more than ever now, it would seem that barring any form of major gaffe (and in these times never discount anything) Mr. Ignatieff is the most likely choice to lead the Liberals whenever Stephane Dion fades to black.

For Elizabeth May, it was a case of oh damn, so close to being a Senator and maybe even a participant in the great adventure, now still unelected to the House of Commons, she most likely won’t be hearing of any appointments to the Upper Chamber in the near future.

With Jack Layton it's a case of watching that shiny toy in the window get taken away, for decades it has been the dream of the NDP to be a major force in Canadian politics, while clearly they will never form a government at least if you factor in every federal election since the CCF merged with the NDP, they did it seems finally get oh so tantalizingly close to at least touching the golden ring from time to time.

However, as Bill Tieleman (no friend of the right wing he) points out, they may find that their machinations in the last few weeks blow back on them as well.

Besides the visual image of Layton seeming to want to be the leader of the coalition (and judging by Dion’s performance he couldn’t have done any worse) the NDP may find that by holding hands with Gilles Duceppe, their electoral prospects in Ontario will now be diminished.
They are most likely safe in most of the BC ridings they hold (though it would seem that Nathan Cullen needs to buy flame retardant highway signs) but in the other parts of the nation it may very well be that the failed bid so far for a coalition will sideswipe potential growth.

It was somewhat bemusing to watch Mr. Layton in full anger decrying the Harper forces use of a procedural method to hold on to power, while he and his fellow coalition builders were planning their own procedural moves to take that same governmental power.

More than ever it gives us cause to believe that in any instance, the only true measure of confidence in any government might be by electoral vote.

Jack will probably survive all the drama, providing more opportunity for these frequent scrums of indignation, but as the weeks tick by and perhaps the coalition crumbles, so too will any dreams of power sharing for Jack and his would be cabinet members for the foreseeable future.

Not part of the coalition but equally winged by this convoy of runaway transport trucks of events that has run down the political highway is Jean Charest in Quebec.
The Premier it is said was heading towards a possible majority government, providing a measure of stability for the province and the nation for that matter. Now, with new life given to the national unity debate by all the foolishness in Ottawa, the PQ’s Pauline Marois may make some serious inroads into Liberal Quebec.

We imagine Mr. Charest was throwing many things at his television set this past week, wondering aloud what the hell the idiots in Ottawa were doing to his carefully planned campaign.

For Stephen Harper, while given a temporary stay of execution by the Governor General, he by no means can feel secure in his position. His handling of affairs in the last week or so, points to a destiny in the future that he may not enjoy.
But before the universe will unfold as it will, a few events will take place.
If the Liberals head into the January 26th session with Stephane Dion as the leader of a potential coalition, then they will probably find a revolution in their own ranks.

If they change leaders in the interim by way of a backroom move , they will look like a panic driven organization, either opportunistic for power or out of touch with their own membership.

The Liberals, have a dire need for a new leader chosen quickly in convention, but done in a methodical nature, any other process will make the Tory days of Joe Clark look like a solid business plan for political succession.

Canadians have twice not felt comfortable enough to give Mr. Harper a majority and his actions of last week certainly won’t do much to reassure them of his ability to put aside partisanship in troubled times.

Perhaps an act of contrition over the holidays will work in his favour, as too will the back biting that will now come from the coalition, who having come so close to their goal now finds that things have gone off the rails quite a bit.

The Liberals are the most likely to replace the Conservatives as a national government, but not until they get their act together, they need to show Canadians that they are truly ready to form a government. They didn’t manage to pull that off this week; in fact events have shown they are more than a bit disorganized and not all in sync with where they want to go.

That works temporarily in Harper’s favour. He can come back on January 26th with a budget that addresses the real concerns of the Canadian public, faces up to the economic storm that is coming ashore now, combined with the angry nature of the population which has been shaken by the political theatre of the last few weeks.

If he provides enough of the needed action on the economic future and more importantly the right tone in its delivery, then he may actually survive his colossal political fumble of this month.

It may however, be a temporary victory, the Liberals if they step back from the abyss of taking power without the blessing of the electorate, could find that within a few months and with a new leader that they could be in a good position to form a government.

One which may again depend on a coalition, but one that is more on their terms and a coalition that the Canadian public endorses by vote.

Finally before we park the truck, the final bit of road kill on the political highway, the confidence of the Canadian public.

After watching the follies on the Ottawa River for the last two weeks, a good number of us may be wondering if perhaps we shouldn’t ask the Governor General one more favour, fire them all and ask for a new slate of candidates to take their place.

They surely couldn’t do any worse…

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