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Ignatieff v. Harper: The Bout to Knock the Other Guy Out

Is this Michael Ignatieff’s idea of “messing with” Stephen Harper?


 

Ignatieff v. Harper: The Bout to Knock the Other Guy OutI enjoyed yesterday – all that back-and-forth political brinksmanship. It was just like watching a tennis match but without the athleticism, the precision or the me falling asleep bored.

I believe it’s fair to say that Michael Ignatieff got at least some fairly decent reviews for his tactics and for his performance, which surprises me, because he’s completely set himself up for failure.

Stephane Dion may be gone from a leadership role, but his legacy of hysterical threats followed by ignoble climbdowns lives on, affecting our perception of his successor. This government is terrible, it is horrible, it is an abomination unto God himself – and we are totally going to do something about it, eventually, somewhere down the road, maybe spring-ish. But now we dance!

Having issued an ultimatum (#37 in the Liberal series – collect them all!), Ignatieff will look all weak and Diony if he declines to pull the trigger without “getting” something tangible in return. The problem is that he hasn’t really asked for anything.

You’re skeptical, but think about it. He’s asked “to see” the government’s plans to reform Employment Insurance. He’s asked Jim Flaherty to add up some numbers on infrastructure money that’s actually been spent – and how much will be spent over the next 120 days. He’s asked Jim Flaherty to make up some numbers on the deficit (let’s be honest – that’s what projections are). And he’s asked “to see” a plan to obtain a supply of medical isotopes.

Let’s say he gets all that – the government shows him its EI plan, gives him the infrastructure money outlook, provides him a five-year deficit projection and offers the contours of a plan to find or make more isotopes. Then what? What has Ignatieff actually gained for Canadians and for Liberals? Is his plan to climb atop the battlements hoisting a sheaf of documents and declare a victory of paperwork? That ought to get those donations rolling in. Mabel, come see – our leader’s back with the spoils of war and lookee all them decimals!

Ignatieff hasn’t asked for specific changes to any policy. He hasn’t outlined a benchmark for minimum reforms to EI that he would find acceptable. He hasn’t said what the deficit number needs to be at in five years to make him happy, nor how much of the infrastructure money needs to be spent within the next 120 days. Worse still, his focus on process and plans utterly distracts from what should be the Liberal message going into a campaign: that Harper failed to see the recession coming, failed to act quickly enough to mitigate its effects and therefore can’t be trusted on the economy. Are the Liberals really going to rush into a summer election behind the banner: Our Proposed Alterations to Existing EI Regulations Differ in a Relatively Significant Way From Those of the Incumbent Government.

Let’s face it: No Canadian – and I fear this includes Michael Ignatieff – currently has any idea exactly what series of events and nature of responses from Harper would prompt the Liberal leader to vote to bring down the government. This doesn’t exactly make for a catchy call to arms:

What do we want? Further numerical information pursuant to a number of ongoing political files!

When do we want it? By Friday. Or perhaps later. Listen, we’re flexible on that!

If this is Michael Ignatieff’s idea of “messing with” Stephen Harper, I’m looking forward to the point when he’s “done” doing that.


 
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Ignatieff v. Harper: The Bout to Knock the Other Guy Out

  1. a "He hasn't outlined a benchmark for minimum reforms to EI that he would find acceptable.

    Actually, in his original presser, he did mention that he wanted to see changes to EI over the summer. I'd cut him some slack. Let's see how today and tomorrow unfolds.

    He needed to get a meeting with Mr. Harper. He has achieved that.

    He also needed to decouple himself from Layton's demands on EI. He thinks he has achieved that.

    My guess is that on Wednesday he'll put forward some sort of opposition day motion to extend parliamentary sitting days. I think that's what he wants. To be able to sit through the summer, or at least through some weeks of the summer, so that he can spank TheStrategist and thus keep himself in the news cycle.

    Either that, or an election would seriously interfere with his summer plans with Summers in Provence.

    • You're worse than Iggy. What great achievements:
      -a meeting
      -a decoupling
      -a proposal for more sitting
      Seems like he's on a roll.

  2. Is there something about using language above media-level comprehension that makes so many pundits lose the plot?

    EI: now

    Spending Figures: That our open and accountable government needs a gun to its head before it spits them out has somehow managed to escape comment.

    Fiscal Plan: Total Softball that I'm no fan of because such squidgy subject matter is Harper's specialty but then again the CPC should have a copy of it at hand since they're making specific claims about it so it should be no big deal either way the Liberals tossed it onto the list.

    Chalk River: Another softball but this one I am a fan of because it should involve little more than pulling together a half a dozen directives and progress reports that should already be in circulation.

    This big ticket item is EI.

  3. Is there something about using language above media-level comprehension that makes so many pundits lose the plot?

    EI: now

    Spending Figures: That our open and accountable government needs a gun to its head before it spits them out has somehow managed to escape comment.

    Fiscal Plan: Total Softball that I'm no fan of because such squidgy subject matter is Harper's specialty but then again the CPC should have a copy of it at hand since they're making specific claims about it so it should be no big deal either way the Liberals tossed it onto the list.

    Chalk River: Another softball but this one I am a fan of because it should involve little more than pulling together a half a dozen directives and progress reports that should already be in circulation.

    The big ticket item is EI.

  4. :0)

    you owe me a dig

    "He's going to force an election over EI, is he?"

    That's what it looks like.

    It may not be popular (sexy?), but it IS good policy. Of the latter its actually possible to get something of a consensus amongst all but the most libertarian of economic and public policy commentators. I'm not saying its without risk, but as a matter of public interest, it's a VERY good hill to pick.

    • i seem to recall having all those economic and public policy commentators on board with assailing the GST cut…

        • Actually, he needs the EI reforms in order to get the election. With a 360 hour threshold, the folks on the campaign plane can qualify for EI at the end of the writ period.

    • consensus on what….national standard or the low amount of hours needed to qualify or opening it up to the self employed.

      I think you will find there is significant objection to the lower number of hours required. We used to have that in the 70's and then spent 15 years trying to get out of it. Why would we go back.

      On the other two points there is broad agreement on at least one hand of most economists.

      That being said, Scott's point remains in play….so what if a bunch experts agree, it doesnt always help.

      • "consensus on what….national standard or the low amount of hours needed to qualify or opening it up to the self employed."

        sssh! It's bad luck to whisper when the Prime Minister is getting ready for a heavy lift.

    • Most economists have said it is not a good hill to pick. If you think it resonates with the public, perhaps, but I doubt it.

  5. "…and then spent 15 years trying to get out of it…"

    oh really?

    It wasn't all that long ago the narrative was pinning the turnaround on a stroke of Martin's pen.

    A week IS a long time in politics.

    • Go and read some of the stuff on the Forget Commission. The background was that EI was very easy to get, about 45 days througout the 70's and early 80's. Huge issues regarding productivity, burden on businesses, labour mobility etc.

      Forget was the most comprehensive but very controversial. It was fought tooth and nail.

      Iggy's call that it is temporary is a conceit, well he wasnt here for the battle over Forget so how can he be expected to know. Reality is the standard will embed itslef again, with all of the bad consequences. EI may have gotten too tough under Martin, maybe. But the Lib proposal is like tellign AA members that one celebratory beer for the Penguins wont hurt.

      This is one case where Iggy's lack of participation in Canadian Public Policy actually shows up. Why do you think the Liberals didnt do anything about it before? Maybe Iggy is only up to early 80's chapter in his reading on recent Canadian History.

  6. Well, as the opposition, it appears that he is trying to hold the government reponsible to their promises.

    It's a shocking thought, but hey, it's our parliament. Besides, isn't this a pleasant change from the non-stop attack ads and non-stop talk about the non-stop attack ads?

  7. I'm guessing here, but is it possible that the Libs are trying to launch a campaign before they announce any substantive policy? (i.e., the plug may be ostesibly pulled for EI, with the plan being to start trotting out platform closer to voting day.) That strategy seemed to work during the last campaign for the Cons, and there must be some thinking that if the Libs hold their cards close to their chest, there's less chance for the Cons to slaughter their positions like the green shift thingy. Of course, this assumes they have some sort of plan for the country, which may or may not be a leap of faith on this observer's part.

    Scott, I also assume you still have contacts throughout the party – just how cohesive and focussed are they, or aren't they?

    • Sean, I actually don't have many contacts in the party. i have pride in, and liver damage from, my time in government, and many of the people i served with remain friends (in fact, one of them remains my business partner — see our banner ad on nationalnewswatch.com! <cough> shamelessplug <cough>) – but i was never much of a partisan and have written only a few things for liberals, and none recently, since i left.

    • Remember his time with Liberals was hardly a cohesive and focussed time for them, so I dont know what frame of reference he would use.

  8. I cannot see the value of Iggy forcing an election over EI. Keep in mind that 92% of the people are still working and probably 80% of the workforce will never use EI except to pay premiums every pay cheque.

    And if you go to the EI website you will see that you are permitted to work part time while on EI and combined with the max EI benefit the total income on a yearly basis is over $33,000.00.—-not bad.

    • Used wisely and speaking coldly, reforming EI makes its recipients the fortunate beneficiaries of circumstance. At the macro-economic level it's about shoring up demand in areas a GST reduction can't reach.

      • Have you been writing Iggy`s speeches ? You use words and expressions that don`t have a clear and relevant thought about the subject—-much like Iggy.

        My point above was that if you force an election on expanding EI benefits where do you expect to gain seats in the upcoming election.

    • Iggy doesn't want an election.
      The Prime Minister really, really doesn't want an election.

      Advantage, at least marginally, to Iggy.

  9. So the 92% of the voters in Quebec and Ontario who are still working would be willing to pay higher EI premiums or increase the deficit so that the 8% who receive benefits would receive more.

    I`m sure PM Harper is hoping that you are Iggy`s campaign strategist.

    • If 8 percent of the population is unemployed and the average person maintains a social circle of about 30 people it is safe to say the average voter will know on 2-3 people who are struggling to find a job.

      I would also point out that the voter rich Quebec-Windsor corridor is massively shedding manufacturing jobs; they are facing much higher unemployment.

      This isn't about giving more to the people who are already on EI, it is about providing assistance to those who unfortunately lost their jobs but do not qualify. These people have families to take care of and bills to pay. They have paid into EI their entire working career, the least the government can do is help them through this hard time.

    • William, you're assuming that the campaign would be about EI. That's not the jugular to slice at. Isotopes, deficit (no grasp of where it's headed, no plan to end it), poor economic management and anticipation, zero transparancy, and Stephen Harper himself are all more likely to gush blood. But then, I'm assuming the Liberals are prepared to pull out all the stops and run a fierce campaign, and that Iggy will immediately stop behaving like he did yesterday. But I just don't see the campaign being about EI, in the same way the last one wasn't about a dysfunctional parliament (which was the ostensible reason Harper pulled the plug).

    • Well, here's the thing. The last budget passed because of an agreement between the two big players. To try to focus on the EI issue as the only issue at play is inaccurate.

      The agreement included more funding for EI and infrastructure, and the progree report thing. One side has to prove they lived up to the agreement. The other has to prove they didn't.

      As to paying more? After $50 billion, the numbers kind of stop having an impact.

      Also, the unemployment rate in Ontario is actually 9.4%, while national average is 8.4%. Look at all those car plants in Ontario. Most are in Conservative ridings. Think that won't have any impact?

  10. Is there something about using language above news media level comprehension that makes so many pundits lose the plot?

    EI: now

    Spending Figures: That our open and accountable government needs a gun to its head before it spits them out has somehow managed to escape comment.

    Fiscal Plan: Total Softball that I'm no fan of because such squidgy subject matter is Harper's specialty but then again the CPC should have a copy of it at hand since they're making specific claims about it so it should be no big deal either way the Liberals tossed it onto the list.

    Chalk River: Another softball but this one I am a fan of because it should involve little more than pulling together a half a dozen directives and progress reports that should already be in circulation.

    The big ticket item is EI.

    • uuuuuuuuuuuuh, why you have make use so many syllablllles, Geiseric? me plot lose.

      So the big ticket item is EI, eh? He's going to force an election over EI, is he? Riiiight. And if he now does not force the election, what specifically will he have gained – a process to spend the summer debating the parameters of the content of a potential change that might theoretically be made at some point?

      That will look like a climbdown.

      I respect your view but your post proves my point. Ignatieff is threatening an election over a copy of a fiscal plan and the "pulling together of half a dozen directives and progress reports." Even if he wins, he looks like he loses.

  11. Poor Iggy – tis plain for all to see. Starts the week off by barking loudly at Stevie – who in turn is deciding as to whether or not he will throw him a bone. Iggy has done himself some real damage here and twas not a smart move Dionesque at best no matter how you try to gloss over .. what a way to start the summer but to watch the Lib's fall all over themselves. Rex Murphy said it best – no doubt about it .. Sorry Scott!

    • He is toast! The Libs really need to sit down and regroup, and your Stevie is here to stay for as long as he wants to be PM…

  12. Iggy is in a tight spot, but all the "toast" talk is mightily overblown. You think the Liberals are going to dump him and go through another leadership convention so they can rush Bob Rae to the helm? "Martin, Dion and Ignatieff couldn't take Harper down, but this new squinty-eyed warrior has his number!"

    If anything, this current nerf-war reveals that it ain't really about the Liberal leader; Harper's strategic position is stronger than we thought. The options are for Iggy to fall on his sword and trigger an election in hopes that Harper can't bear to face another Minority and quits (or that the Liberals get lucky and win), or else that some external event creates an actual ISSUE for them. (Sorry Scott, but the economy ain't it. No one thinks a change of government is going to have any impact on the recession.) Alas for them, there are no longer any American Neo-cons capable of starting dumb wars, so maybe an election isn't a bad idea—if only to hasten the day when Harper and Canada feel like they've worn out each other's welcome.

  13. This comments board is just the latest example of how the Liberals, no matter how badly they stumble and stagger through political life, will never be abandoned by the armies of zealots that keep them afloat in the polls. Is it a centrist tendency to be unable to criticize oneself? Face it, this party is still in shambles, and Ignatieff is not the saviour he was cracked up to be. He's playing move by move and Harper is playing 2 moves ahead.

    The sooner the Liberals accept that the only difference between Dion and Ignatieff is an improved lexicon, the better-off the party will be…not that that's necessarily a good thing.

  14. I'm sorry to break this to you, but the ardent defense of one's political party of choice is not exclusive to the Liberals. What an odd thing to suggest. Conservative supporters are just as bad. In fact, arguments can be made that they are even worse (if you realize that right wing parties are more often associated with evangelical religious groups than are centrist/left-wing parties).

    I would disagree that the party is "still in shambles." Ignatieff has done very well at rebuilding the party, especially the fundraising wing. The progress Iggy has made is not being disputed by anyone as far as I know.

    It is strange that after you criticize the centrist "armies of zealots" you then go on to explain how cunning you think Harper is in comparison to Iggy. Harper has merely accepted the idea of a meeting and made some rather dry quips at Iggy's expense. How is he "playing 2 moves ahead?"

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