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What has changed in Ottawa in two months?

Parliament’s first week back will see a war of narratives as Harper fires up his big guns: the budget and the Throne Speech


 

What has changed  in Ottawa in two months?

Parliament returns, to a changed political landscape. As late as mid-December, the Conservatives were still leading the Liberals by eight to 10 points. Two months and one prorogation later, the parties are statistically tied.

Yet the Conservative lead had begun to slip even before the disastrous decision to prorogue Parliament. At their mid-October peak, in the aftermath of the Liberals’ equally disastrous attempt to force an election, the Tories stood as much as 15 points in front. Prorogation, indeed, was supposed to arrest that decline.

And while the Conservatives may hope to put the prorogation debacle behind them, the fundamental reasons for their four-month tailspin have not changed. One of these is an improved showing by the Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, for whom prorogation has proved something of a gift: a chance to shuck off the persona of the scheming politician he had adopted, in favour of the high-minded wonk within.

But most of the Conservative decline can be accounted to another man: Richard Colvin. It was the diplomat’s scalding testimony before the Commons’ special committee on Afghanistan, and his earlier memos on the treatment of prisoners Canadian forces had handed over to the Afghan authorities, that first put the government on the defensive. And it has been the government’s responses that have kept it there.

The early attempts to smear Colvin; the selective release of heavily censored versions of Colvin’s memos; the stonewalling of first the Military Police Complaints Commission, then the Commons committee, then finally the Commons itself—all have contributed to an impression of a government that has something to hide, and is prepared to go to quite undemocratic lengths to hide it.

All that the intervening two months have done is to heighten that impression, leaving the same questions unanswered. That the government has looked panicky, erratic, high-handed and devious is self-evident. But it is what remains hidden from view—the unredacted Colvin memos—that is perhaps doing the most damage. For as long as the government refuses to release them, it will feed suspicions that they contain something truly terrible.

So Parliament’s first week back will see the start of a ferocious battle of narratives. The opposition, sensing its advantage, will try to keep the focus on the government’s autocratic excesses, not only in the matter of prorogation but in its continuing refusal to accede to Parliament’s demands to see the Colvin documents. It will propose restrictions on the former, and it may seek to have the government found in contempt for the latter.

The government, for its part, will attempt to set the debate on terms more to its advantage, firing its two biggest debate-setting guns, the Speech from the Throne and the budget, on successive days. It will presumably begin to draw sharper distinctions between the Conservatives’ approach to the economy and the Liberals’, where before it was willing to let these blur. In particular, it will hold the line on tax increases, hoping to frame the next election—whenever it comes—as a choice between cutting spending or raising taxes.

There is danger in this for the opposition. If the Conservatives are able to present themselves as more concerned for bread-and-butter issues that directly touch the public, while at the same time depicting the opposition as obsessed with arcane points of parliamentary procedure, they may hope to escape from the trap they have caught themselves in. The opposition must be careful not to overplay its hand, even if it seems a strong one at the moment.

So far as the the conversation does turn to the economy, the Liberals have left the Conservatives an opening: not so much on taxes, where the official line is still that tax increases are unnecessary, as on the deficit. In what may turn out to be a serious misreading of the public mood, the Liberals have lately let it be known on two occasions that they would be content to leave the deficit where it is, or even to increase it: in the first case, to support job creation, in the second, to pay for a new national daycare program.

This is perplexing. The key to success for Liberals in the Chrétien years lay in seizing the fiscally conservative centre from the Conservatives—an opening that would seem again to present itself, given the Harper Tories’ record spending and reckless deficits. Yet as the Liberals begin at last to talk in substantive terms about policy, they seem instead to be signalling a sharp move to the left.

Still, at least it’s an agenda. Since its inception, the Conservative Party of Canada’s chief goal has been to convince the public that it has no agenda, hidden or otherwise. In this it has been remarkably successful. What it has not done is win the public’s trust, and its behaviour in the Afghan detainees affair leaves it further from that objective than ever. Four years after taking power, it remains mired near 30 per cent in the polls, roughly where it was in the first days of the Canadian Alliance, under Stockwell Day.

Perhaps there’s a lesson in this: the way to build trust is to be worthy of it—tell people what you intend to do, then do it. Perhaps the Throne Speech will show the Tories have got the message. We’ll see.


 

What has changed in Ottawa in two months?

    • You are presenting another example of the questionable position Mr. Harper has taken on an issue that will soon be extremely important to Canada. Maude Barlow is considered an "international water-warrior" for her crusade against the privatization of water. Last night (March 1st) she appeared on The National. She stated that all the parties, EXCEPT for the reigning CONSERVATIVES have met with her about this exceedingly significant issue. This is another "FAIL" for Mr. Harper and to me indicates yet another area of concern about this Reform/Conservative Party leader.

      http://www.canadians.org/about/Maude_Barlow/

      http://www.blueplanetproject.net/

  1. You are just a tad biased in your article.Much legislation has been held up for months by both the opposition in the commons and senate.The polls are not a great predictor as most in this country want law and order and less taxes.The HST is necessary and the deficit would have been double if the opposition would have got their way.If we were the only country running a huge deficit the Liberals would be a shoo in,but all we have to do is look south and see the trouble our neighbor is in.I am no pollster but if an election was called tomorrow Harper would likely get his majority because Canadians have found out that minority governments are not the answer and Iggy has not caught on after two months of having most of the main media for politics at his call. .

    • Which legislation, exactly? Please be specific.

      • ofcourse there can't be specifics, because those would be facts, and facts don't meet the administrations criteria of supporting their narrative.

      • It seems to me it took seceral months to get a watered down bill to do with time in pre trial counting as double passed because of a bunch of old has been Liberal senators like old George Baker with his young hair passed just to name one.also the Liberals pushed for far more of a deficit that we now have to try and pleae a few friends

        • Gar, you are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts. The bill you refer to was passed and came into force last week. The truth is that the government flushed its legislative agenda away. Twice. With no help from the Liberals at all.

          As for the bigger deficit, could you please provide some factual basis for your statement? Repeating talking points is nice and all, but please have the decency to attempt to offer some support for the things you claim to be true.

    • Your claims to speak for most Canadians are invalid and even if Harper ever gets his theoretical majority it is still likely that his party would receive less than 50% of the popular vote with people voting for Liberals, NDP, Green, etc. What has turned me off Harper is that he was elected on promises to change Ottawa and the way things are done there. In fact his opportunism and hypocrisy have meant that far from changing anything he is doing exactly the same things that he criticized in the Liberals. Appointing senators to stack the senate, blaming the opposition for failure to pass bills when he prorogues Parliament, claiming that the coalition deal with the Bloc was undemocratic and unholy when he had considered the same thing in 2004. I believe that there are well motivated and dedicated politicians doing the best for their constituents but they’ll never rise to the top; it’s business as usual in Ottawa no matter which self-serving con-artist gets themselves elected Prime Minister. No wonder people are cynical.

      • The present Conservatives are the result of a long painful process to merge three parties. I would agree that PM Harper has used many avenues and techniques to maintain staying in power despite all manner of actions by the other four political parties to replace him. Despite the minority status PM Harper has successfully brought in his five main objectives, modest as they may be in the big picture.

        Otherwise his efforts to remain in power despite only having a minority, has resulted in much of his promised agenda, not coming to fruition as you mention. You are being dishonest to suggest that Senate reform is such a slam dunk. In a minority, and NOT appointing Senators to vacancies, Harper would have become the absolute height of sorry ineptitude if his government were suddenly defeated. Can you find even one person in this entire country who would agree that a Liberal gov´t assuming power, would not immediately re-stack the Liberal majority in the Senate…as they have always done through history?

        And the mantra of considering the 2004 coalition talks, the same, is just you using phony discredited points.

        • Liberals are idiots to have let the Bloc Torontois force Iggy down their collective throats.

          You deserve exactly what you have gotten.

          Ignatieff is even worse than the hapless Dion, ya gotta love it……..ha ha

        • Five main objectives:
          1. Make the government more accountable and Transparent; FAILED
          Evidence: He prorogued parliament to avoid providing documents demonstrating what parliamentary officers knew and when. He's canceled a major database that the press used to be able to use to get information on what the government is doing. The ex-information commissioner has pointed out that this government has become far less forthcoming with FOIPP requests.
          2. Create programes that would provide parents more choice and ability to get childcare: FAILED
          Evidence; while he gave parents an extra $100/mth/child, he also cut major transfer funding to the provinces which was used to subsidize daycare. This cut meant that there were actually fewer childcare spaces available for kids, and the laws of supply and demand thus boosted he cost of the remaining spaces generally beyond what parents would see out of that $100/month after it got taxed back.
          3. Establish a Health Care Wait Times Guarantee with the Provinces: FAILED
          Evidence; pretty black and white. There's no health care wait times guarantee with the provinces.

          • Since winning power in 2006 what party supported the CPC Agenda with the most votes?

            You cite many Provincial Files to judge the Federal Gov't. Are you comparing the Liberal record with their majority, stacked senate,surpluses?

            Why do Liberals keep voting for and suporting the CPC?

          • I'm comparing the Conservatives stated five priorities with what they've accomplished on those priorities.

            Simple enough I figured even you'd be able to understand it.

            And in case you don't remember, last time the Liberals didn't support Harpers party. That was the NDP. I know, I know.. you prefer to avoid facts whenever you can. Sorry.

          • Simple enough?

            Is math a problem for you, the government has ALWAYS depended on at least one party to survive. Since 2006 how many times have the NDP, Bloc, and Liberals taken turns in propping up the CPC agenda when it suits their own political interests?

            Why should the any political party put their self-interest on the back burner for your agenda?

            The NDP joined the CPC, Bloc in removing the Liberals from government. The voters did the rest. Apparently the NDP, Liberals and Bloc don't trust the voters to do the same this time?

          • Yeah, I know.. I really did think it was simple enough. My bad. I overestimated the complexity you could handle.

            As for why voters won't back them up? I'd suggest it's probably because Harper blatantly lies to them and — since most Canadians are decent people, they have trouble believing that he would lie in that manner — and they're too damned busy trying to make ends meet to really look into the matter.

          • I enjoy always reading a person who blames the voters for outcomes they don't like.

            Democracy works wonders, we threw out the PC, Liberals and will the CPC when we are ready.

            Thanks for confirming your opinion of the unwashed masses. The lack of financial resources or popular support has nothing to do with it right?

            [youtube Me6AR-I_Jbw http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Me6AR-I_Jbw youtube]

          • Ah. I'm sorry. So I take it then that you don't think Canadians are decent people?

          • That`s not how I read it. CS appears to be questioning your mistrust and fear of the electorate. The reference to decent Canadians being naive and stupid is all yours.

          • Kindly stop putting words in my mouth, liar.

            The only person who's suggested Canadians are either of those things is yourself.

            That you have absolutely no decency and would stoop to such levels just serves to underscore my point. You don't even see anything wrong with it, do you?

          • So Thwim misrepresents the five main objectives, but that`s his opinion and nobody calls him a liar. Then Thwim takes a back-handed swipe at the electorate by suggesting that they are just such decent people that they could not possibly understand when they are being lied to. But nobody accuses Thwim of having no decency. Maybe Thwim needs a lesson in civility.

  2. I agree with the poster "You are a tad biased" in entirety.

    • No way. I even re-read the article. The "biased" attack is not justified. Mr. Coyne has presented a fair representation of the current situation.

  3. Just saw Iggy answering questions about prorogation and the PM; he refers to Harper as " that guy ". Real Classy.

    A lot of people are feeling good about the past 2 weeks in Vancouver and the fact that our PM is a genuine sports fan just like them. It doesn`t matter that he personally has limited
    athletic ability; he appreciates and enjoys the show of excellence and the 14 gold won`t hurt either.

    And it says something about how we are still a relatively open and safe country when you see Harper and his kids sitting in the stands watching curling, and women`s hockey, and skiing and speed skating. I don`t think you`ll see Brown or Putin out with the public like that in 2012 and 2014.

    Recess is over. Time to look to the future. Prorogation is the past.

    • Harper is a sports fan and he can sit in the stands with his kids.

      So that's the platform?

      Where do I vote?

    • Happy that the PM and family took full advantage of the Games to see what Canadian athletes managed to brilliantly accomplish with almost "$0" financial assistance from the Harper government. Mr. Harper was at the Games doing what he does best: riding other people's coat tails, in this case, those of our excellent athletes which is a huge step up from his disgusting fawning over former U.S. president George Bush. Our PM is to sports like he is to politics: a fan, not a player. As for safety and security, this IS Canada where serious crime is actually on the decline, something that contradicts the Con's American-style law and order platform. Add fear-mongering to Mr. Harper's very short list of qualifications for leadership. Time his party picked someone with vision to lead it. Mr. Harper is an idealogue, not a politician and he's interested only in power, not in the best interests of Canadians. Given a majority, he'd sell us off to the U.S. in a matter of months. For our own good, of course.

      • “fawning over former U.S. president George Bush”

        When/where was this exactly? Please provide an example of Harper treating or referring to Bush in any way other than what is polite and appropriate for the head of state of our largest trading partner.

        If anything, Harper has been fawning over Obama, trying to bask in the glow of Canadians’ Obama-love.

        • Softwood Lumber. "You don't negotiate when you've won", he said. Along with stating that if he was Prime Minister, the first thing he would do would be to demand that the Americans live up to their NAFTA obligations as had been confirmed by various levels of dispute resolution.

          Once he got elected, he quickly bent the Canadian softwood industry over and let it take a billion dollars worth of screwing to please his American buddies. Not fawning? Please.

    • For an elitist, his manners are terrible The least he could do is say his name! the iggster needs to go back home

    • This coming from the fellow calling the leader of the opposition "Iggy". Irony becomes you.

      • I would have thought you would be able to understand the difference between a citizen like myself referring to the Liberal leader with a sweet name like Iggy and that same Liberal leader, the man who wants to be our Prime Minister, constantly referring to our Prime Minister Harper as " that guy " , not " that honourable guy ", but just as " that guy " .

        • Irony is irony. Whether you think that Ignatieff exists in a different realm of worthiness is not my concern.

        • Well.. that honourable guy would have been lying.

          We call him the Right Honourable as a title, not a descriptor.

          • OK Thwim, Right Honourable That Guy has a nice ring to it.

    • @common man.
      First of all, Michael Ignatieff needs no lessons in "class" from the likes of you, or the likes of your rotund leader, Harper.

      Secondly, Harper not only has no athletic ability, he waddles when he walks. He can't even do that properly. He is not so much a "sports fan" as he is desperately hiding behind the clean-cut image of athletes in order to pretend that he actually has nothing to do with torturing people in Afghanistan. If he hangs around Wayne Gretzky often enough, he hopes that perhaps he won't go down as the most hated Prime Minister in Canadian history.

      And thirdly, Harper brought his own "official photographer" to the Olympics, at taxpayer's expense, so as to ensure he has all the shots he wants. He also has bodyguards wherever he goes. How many – we don't know, but they're able to shove reporters over and knock their cameras to the ground, as we have seen overseas. You can be sure that he had his thugs and goons with him at the Olympics.
      As for Putin, he has been photographed riding a horse bare-chested through the mountains in Russia. Harper, the waddler, can't even sit a horse, or show his chest, godforbid. Ignatieff can ride – did so during summers in Alberta when he was a kid, and probably still can.

      Most hated Prime Minister in Canada. Get used to it, because it's coming.

  4. continue with this govt and we will have to declare backruptcy

    we need ALL new leaders in every party

    • Ignatieff is NOT a true Canadian leader… in fact he's NOT even a true Canadian… and certainly NOT worthy to be PM of Canada even in Liberal drag ….

        • Observant…ironic indeed!

  5. The Liberals will no doubt run on a campaign of wonderful social spending (everyone get's a government present!), knowing full well that if they get elected they can suddenly 'discover' a huge financial problem and then more or less implement the Tories fiscal plan.

    I don't think you are completely fair to the Tories, they have been in the upper 30s for most of their time in office and whenever an election looked imminent they surged up to 40+ and the opposition backed off. This tells me that there are plenty of Canadians okay with how things are going, but not willing to call themselves Conservatives. The other parties have not moved much either and although the liberals have recovered somewhat I think we'll be dealing with minority governments (currently more likely to be Tory) for a while, at least until the emergence of the New Liberal Democrats party…

    I do think Prorogation hurt the Tories; anecdotally it seems that many friends of mine (and my parents) who were warming to Harper suddenly got a bucket of cold water tossed in their faces – nope, still the same partisan. That said, I think the folks calling this a war against democracy, the end of democracy, etc have largely already overplayed their hand. We won't be talking about prorogation in a month.

    Harper will need to be on his best behaviour though and if he's smart he'll find some way to compromise, perhaps with some kind of 'war council/committee' that would examine the documents the Conservatives say can't be released for security reasons, as well as planning out the post-2011 Afghan mission.

    • My hope is that everyone get's a remedial reading and writing lesson.

      • Try and ignore them man. By the way what's with the apostrophe in gets. Tch tch tch.

      • It must be very upsetting so many voters who fail your elitist standards. Get over yourself. When are the Liberals going to stop propping up the CPC and offer an alternative in the house of commons?

        Are they saving those wonderful ideas for the campaign? (That excuse is past it's due date)

        • Adult literacy is an important issue, not an elitist occupation. If anything, I apologize for my weak effort to make light of it.

          • Is it safe to assume by your response, less adult conversation is your standard from your leader?

            Will he demand more Report Cards 2.0, Prohabaition 2.0 in March? Are they prepared to vote non-confidence to remove this government based on the allegations, outrage of the last few months or did they just blow smoke again? Should you be working on another Facebook "grassroots" movement with NDP organizers?

    • The Liberals can run on any kind of election platform, but their problem is they don't have a credible leader to deliver the message!!! Ignatieff has little to no credibility amongst Canadians, very much like Dion. The 30% Liberals still have a 15% leader.. and a 15% leader cannot possibly boost a 30% Liberal party. In any next election, 15% Iggy will drag down the Liberals to 25% or less .. as did 15% Dion.

      No amount of fearmongering, hatemongering and smearmongering by the Liberals and their media minions will shake Canadian's confidence in PM Harper .. because he is an All-Canadian man … unlike cosmopolitan "we Americans" Ignatieff..!!!

      • I am just surprised that the Liberals don't get it, they need a new leader ASAP if they want to be on top…

        • Joan Bryden, who has good connections to Liberal insiders, said a few months ago that Liberals have "invested too much in Ignatieff" and so pretty well have to stick with him.

        • Leadership churn is even more devestating than having a weak leader. From a purely strategic perspective, the party should have rallied around Dion when he was elected, put away the knives, and focused on the same mindless endorsement of "the leader" that has kept Harper where he is. When the election unfolded and Harper was left with a minority, albeit a stronger one, the Lilberals had an opportunity to buck the recent trends and stick with their leader, which is how things used to be done. Instead, they go impatient and jettisoned Dion, rather than try and build on the respectability that he finally started to generate in the dying weeks of the campaign. Everyone forgets that pundits were predicting a Campbell-style decimation of the Liberal party, which didn't happen at all. The more fickle the Liberals are with their leaders, the less inclined Canadians will be to endorse them either.

  6. Rex Murphy has said 'artfullest dodger' and 'deceit prorogue'. Transparency was promised and teh Conservatives are saying if the Liberals can do it ie prorogue/ adscam and break promises (gst) then they will do it – they are competing with the Liberals (outdo them) – they said they will do better .(than the Liberals).

    • Rex Murphy is a despicable, over-rated Tory shill. Not worth the hairspray he puts into his hair.

  7. Nothing has changed in Ottawa over the last 2 months.
    But outside of the Ottawa media bubble, things have changed.

    Canadians realized that they like themselves,
    they like wearing silly moose hats and drinking beer from the pitcher.
    And Canadians sang the Canadian anthem over and over and over again.
    Like we were making up for lost years from sitting quietly on a fence, not making waves.

    And none of this would have happened if PMSH had not prorogued.

    Incase no one noticed, seems Coyne missed it,
    Libs are backing down on the Afghan documents thing.
    Their internal polls must be telling them something the media chooses to ignore.

    • wilson, how does proroguing parliament allow "regular folk" from enjoying the olympics? that's a stretch.

    • 'And none of this would have happened if PMSH had not prorogued'

      Mad as march hare!

    • Proroguing Parliament had absolutely nothing to do with national pride. It made me want to puke to see Wayne Gretzky allow PMSH to try to reflect some of his glow. Aside from him the rest was a delight. If Parliament had been in session it would have been as much a delight, or even more so, with our people's representatives able to salute their riding's athletes in the House as the days went by. But did this happen? No.

  8. ps
    Canadians expressing national pride was grassroots,
    the prorogation thing was not, it was media generated.

    One of the above will live on,
    one of the above was real , the other was political fake outrage.

    • Another great post. The Polls have shown those in the angry left hate Harper and nothing will ever satisfy them until he leaves office.
      The latest Ispos Reid Poll has resulted in many of them crying into latte last night. Those angy leftists will need to climb down from the hill and get back to work.
      Let's hope instead of another round of photo-ops with door knobs, and media driven witchhunts they choose to work with the government and focus on the Economy and Job in 2010.

  9. I think some petty heckling of Helena Guergis is in order. "Behaviour unbecoming of a Cabinet minister, let a lone a former beauty pagent and husband of an alleged cocaine possessing drunk driver."

    • At least she hasn't advocated "torture, targeted assassination, preemptive war" …. e.i. "war crimes" ….!!!!

    • Her appointment speaks volumes of the attitude the Reformatories have towards women. So does the absolute silence of Harper's wife. She appears to do nothing but come out occasionally to look good and make him look like a "family man".

  10. Liberals would Increase the deficit for a national daycar program…..that would be an even bigger sink hole than the long gun registry…

  11. ha there, I like Liberal sink holes, ya get free flags, free day care, red Canadian scarfs and big
    companies get free money too. Whats wrong with that?

  12. Very biased article.

    • Reality isn't always unbiased.

  13. Did Iggy cheer for the U.S. when our flag was raised for hockey gold.remember he described it as likened to a beer label in the English press?As for the idiot who hopes we all get a remedial lesson in writing .this is a typical elitist remark.I know many immigrants who are not great in these skills but employ many arrogant twits who worry about how one expresses himself..

  14. I am really disappointed in our host. I used to think he was one who could see the reality in the media-generated fluff, but something has happened to him. Could it be just the impatience at waiting for the report of the Oliphant Inquiry?

    There was no "prorogation debacle." The prorogation decision was not "disasterous," it seemed quite routine and procedural at the time. It was a media-generated non-event that tried to make something out of nothing. It is still nothing.

    The polls are back to where they were more or less all year long in 2009. Once Ignatieff retreated from his "disasterous" threats to force an election, the anti-coalition bump in favour of the Conservatives dissipated and the polls returned to normal.

    The Colvin memos? Our host is back again with his ridiculous "Parliament Will Fight!" nonsense. Please. The memos were released. The parts that the law requires not to be released were not released. If Parliament wants to be above the law of the land, then it can either pass legislation to do so, or argue in the courts that prerogative trumps the law, and lose.

    The parliamentary committee will be re-constituted and Colvin and his opposition friends can return to smearing Mr Mulroney and Ms Swords of DFAIT and Generals Hillier and Gauthier, and the troops of the Canadian Forces. This ought to be a winner for the opposition, especially if Ujjal Dosanjh has one of his patented melt-downs (hard to believe "this guy," to use an Ignatieffism, was ever a provincial attorney-general).

    I would really like it if our host would go back into the video archives and recall his own prediction on the At Issues panel: there will be no federal election until 2012. This is the fact on which all federal politicking in 2010 is based. Prorogation and Colvin memos and the other faux-scandals are just evidence that the Opposition has nothing to go after the Government on. And Ignatieff knows that nobody is going to be outraged about prorogation 2.5 years from now.

    Please, sir, calm down. We need your views on the Budget and the future direction of our country and its economy.

    • When that arguement was used in Australia the govt lost and the mp [ it may have been senator, i haven't the inclination to look it up again] was tossed from the house. When the relevant laws were brought in the justice minister arged they would have no effect on parliamentary preogative…clearly he was either wrong or lying. Parliament should fight, and if it does it'll win, and so will Canadians.

      • "If Parliament wants to be above the law of the land, then it can either pass legislation to do so, or argue in the courts that prerogative trumps the law, and lose."

        See Vaid v. Canada (House of Commons)…parliamentary privilege is part of the general law of Canada. Parliament is not above the law, but the role of the legislative institution is to hold the government to account. Laws that apply to the executive cannot limit the business of the legislative institution.

    • Excellent Post. The number in 2009 had the Liberals ahead and tied for several months, the gap went outside the MOE with his Sudbury threat and quickly returned to to five points when the Liberals backed down.

      6 wks F/Tmedia driven circus on a delay of 22 sitting days used 105x in 150 years is framed by our tainted left as a democratic threat. In the end less than 20k show up. The NDP organizers were unable to grow their protest outside their regulars.

      Timing is everything and the Olympics has washed away Circus sides shows from the left. Will the left use this time to focus on Jobs , Economy through introducing their alternatives in the budget and force an election?

      • Silly boy, the "left" already made great use of the time provided by talking about policy, jobs, and government accountability. Harper's prorogation was a gift.

        • If you mean putting tape on chains on the cultural centre, staging photo-ops we both agree.

          Outside the media cheerleaders like Jimbo Travers, Don Martin, Taber cheering for the left what have they done?

          Iffy's leadership is behind Layton, so he should lead ANY future coalition. That should be fun working out.

          Did you not get the memo, the honeymoon is over?

          I expect the NDP to outsmart the Liberals again and NOT follow the "Time is Up" Liberals in more photo-ops and stunts.

          I prefer the left unite again and VOTE down the Throne Speech so we can clear this matter up in six weeks.

          If they don't pull the plug after months of the allegations of war crimes, torture, cover up were just another example of mudslinging and stunts.

          Taking bets?

          • Quite the quandry, no? If the Liberals pull the trigger for an election they are being electronic hungry opportunistic arrogant natural governing party swine who aren't subjecting Canadians to an unwanted election. If they don't they are cowards who won't let the government get on with its minority business. Those talking points are tired. Simply put, Canadians don't want an election, so the Liberals won't force it. That being said, "making Parliament work" does not mean turning a blind eye to what the government does, and rubber-stamping whatever bills don't die on a progued order table. You're thinking in black and white, while the rest of us are printing in greyscale.

          • No quandry at all.

            A) Colvin is correct
            B) Colvin is NOT and was used as a prop by the opposition to damage this government.

            I would say the opposition are complicit in refusing their responsibility in holding the government accountable to their allegations of Colvin. You can't support his testimony one week and refuse to remove the government from power the next. We call that being inconsistent.

            The opposition are in the majority and can remove their confidence in at Throne and Budget this week.

            That is being responsible and accountable in our democracy.

            Regardless of the outcome, the MP's should act on their beliefs regarding Colvin.

          • A) Colvin is correct.

            You are incorrectly framing the consequences by assuming that this is a confidence matter. The responsible thing is for the Conservatives to release the information, stop smearing Colvin's name, and then fire the Minister's associated with any wrong-doing.

            This "up or down" confidence game on every little matter is fine political brinkmanship, but poor governing.

            Minority governments are not cudgels, they are delicate instruments that should wielded with equal care by all parties. Either side threatening to go election or confidence votes over every single matter is not what the voters want.

          • A) Colvin

            I find it difficult to believe you can support Colvin's testimony and vote to keep this government in power under ANY circumstances. It is without principal or logic unless you factor in the VOTERS will NOT support the action by the opposition.

            So if you don't support going to the voters over Colvin's testimony you are worried about the judgement of the voters instead of the principal and allegations raised by the opposition MP's.

            Again we are NOT suggesting going to the polls over a small issue are we?

          • It shouldn't be difficult – I don't believe in political hyperbole and throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Get the supporting details out in the open, fire the offending ministers and move one with governing until Canadians want an election.

            Voters want government to be accountable without having to go to an election every time. Government is supposed to be accountable to parliament, who the people have voted in. A confidence motion is not the only tool available to opposition members, nor should it be treated as such. This whole practice of "if you don't like what we're doing then declare no-confidence, otherwise, shut up" is irresponsible, and is endorsed only by the lowest common denominator.

          • No one has asked the opposition NOT to act responsible and NOT to offer alternatives. It is their duty to so. They simply choose not to avail themselves with that and prefer photo ops and stunts.

            If you believe Colvin and the opposition have declared they do as you have, correct me if I am wrong, when did torture, cover up and war crimes become acceptable to condone? Are those the allegations by the opposition or not?

            I have NOT suggest voting no-confidence for a simple matter, if not now when?

            Were you just kidding when you said you believe Colvin too?

          • The Liberals are giving the Reformers enough rope to hang themselves with, and they're also waiting to see what comes of the latest news on the Afghan documents – it looks as if the government had people deliberately sent to torture, in order to get information. And they used an elite group of soldiers to do it.

            So – the budget is going to be small potatoes after that. I vote for removing the Tories' pensions, there's no way they should get a $160,000 a year pension for themselves if they're guilty of war crimes, and if they're guilty of treason, or are quislings. They're a huge, enormous embarrassment to Canada. How we ever allowed those rank amateurs, and self-absorbed Christian zealots into Parliament is a lesson to ponder for the next decade; while we lock up all future possibilities of anything like this ever happening again.

    • Of course there was a "prorogation debacle" – whether you or Mr. Coyne agree on the validity of the progration itself, the results from a public polling perspective are hard to dispute. The Conservatives took a bath in the polls and gave the opposition an opportunity to change the channel. Harper's own former chief strategist laughed at the excuses provided for the prorogation, which only added to the spectacle.

      Parliament is also hardly "above the law of the land", it is an integral part of the "law of the land". You might find the oppposition calls for accountability to be based in a partisan fog, but the majority of Canadians are just as interested in seeing Parliament empowered to find out the truth as they are about the details of the truth itself.

      Were this four years ago, the Conservatives could easily refuse to play by the rules and scream "adscam" whenever someone questioned their motives – but we are now in the present, and they have expended that political capital.

    • There is not much point explaining anything to the Reformatory unwashed. Telling them why Harper is a disaster, and showing them why Ignatieff is a superlatively better choice as leader is "casting pearls before swine". And how's that muddy pen doing for you otherwise, Reformatories?

  15. Andrew:

    Perhaps the Throne Speech will show the Tories have got the message. We'll see.

    Is this not the man who said in 2006 " Just give me a chance" and " With a Liberal dominated Senate I will be kept in check" couple this with those larger than life signs " ACCOUNTABILTIY & TRANSPANCENCY" or as voters did we miss that show?

    Andrew with all due respect we are talking about a man who stood in our H of C and read line for line another leader speech! The 100 billion or so he has spent has bought votes and funds make no mistake about Mr. Coyne including buy the podium. You may or may not be aware all monies that left Ottawa were earmarked " majority sensitive monies" Big Blue Check with that bid "C" were not printed by mistake. Canadians are kind good hard working people and support their troops but so much is coming to light in light deficit spending perhaps it is time to dig deeper into the those cold grey walls that surround the Reform/Conservative Party. Do you think our younger Internet savoy Canadians have not?

  16. very biased article. On another note, I couldn't help but notice the absence of IGGY during the games. The Liberals missed a great oppurtunity to wrap him in the maple leaf and make him look like he cares for Canada and is not just an import. They struggle with that image of him being seen as a US 'plant'. What a missed oppurtunity!

    PMSH on the other hand was visable and yet silently supporting the event. The optics were powerful. I even saw Layton on national TV in Gretzy's bar supporting our country. I am thankful that politics were kept out of the games… it was refreshing:)

    • non sequitur…you figure out where?

      • I saw it too. His wife's (Olivia Chow (NDP MP for Trinity-Spadina)) arm was over his face which he grabbed and pulled away so we could see Jack's smiling mug! Wow it was great to see Jack supporting Canada in the Olympics, from downtown Toronto!

        • And he looks sick, lost some weight and looks very tired, kudos to him for been there!

    • This is a biased article? If that is so, what is Coyne's bias? Does he have declared philosophies or political leanings? Is he part of an organization that has a vested interest in Harper failing? I would hardly call you biased – I don't know anything about you – so what do you know about Coyne that we don't, hmmmm?

      Oh, and I love that you're basing your political choises on who was visibly watching a hockey game. What a poor set of criteria – though I don't watch hockey, so I am clearly "biased", I guess. Oh, and un-Canadian.

  17. Who cares what went on 3 or 4 years to Afgahn detainees?? Dont we have something more current and important to deal with like our economy…jobs…. Chalk River etc If the opposition is so upset with the government…. have a confidence vote and we'll go to the polls again for 30-40 million dollars of our money…. only to find out we are back where we started. Get over it and govern!!

  18. Reading these comments, I'm surprised that Canadians actually vote. They seem to complain and whine about "bias", in a Macleans article. Then they proceed to be even more biased in their comments, which are often outright ridiculous. I know, this is the Internet, made for trolling.. but after reading this article's comments I don't feel so bad about being an American anymore. Kudos.

  19. Reading these comments, I'm surprised that Canadians actually vote. They seem to complain and whine about "bias", in a Macleans article. Then they proceed to be even more biased in their comments, which are often outright ridiculous. I know, this is the Internet, made for trolling.. but after reading this article's comments I don't feel so bad about being an American anymore. Kudos.

    • You're right…unfortunately the regular macleans commenters seem to have missed AC's piece. Still, everybody's entitled to their opinion, biased or not.

      • You should feel as bad about being American as we are about being Canadian. Your governments is more broken than ours & your county is so far in debt that there aren't enough 000's left to append to the total! Start reading other newspapers from outside the US to get a more honest & better perspective on your country. Happy hunting<>

  20. What's changed? Canadian athletes busted their butts at the Olympics to win 26 medals for Canada while politicians in Ottawa took a holiday at tax payers expense! As far as federal politics is concerned, same problems, same players, & same BS politics. Is their anyone in this country who could run a party with the Canadian ideals of decency, respectfulness, confidence, determination & perhaps some ability? Just give us one leader who understands basic democratic principles – of the people, by the people, for the people. Because the current understanding of this bunch of lemmings seems to be – of the party, by the party, & for the party. If we want to be really jaded, politicial leaders seem only to care about the 3 P's of politics – power, pensions & paycheques! Harper, you no longer get my vote. Michael, I wouldn't even consider you. Jack, you lost me when you were in Toronto. What the hell! I'll just vote for myself … it's my tax dollars!

    • Jack is sick probably getting chemo…

      • More likely radiation treatments

  21. "In what may turn out to be a serious misreading of the public mood, the Liberals have lately let it be known on two occasions that they would be content to leave the deficit where it is, or even to increase it: in the first case, to support job creation, in the second, to pay for a new national daycare program"

    Did they really say that? I'm a little surprised that Donolo [ a chretien man] doesn't insist on a strong cut the deficit and increase the gst tack. It's hard to see this being a winning strategy for the libs…i don't think Canadians are clamouring for a NDC programme…early childhood programmes yes…but surely that's something to negotiate with the provinces.

    • "I'm a little surprised that Donolo [ a chretien man] doesn't insist on a strong cut the deficit and increase the gst tack."

      I suspect that it is because the Libs usually campaign on the Left but govern on the Right.

  22. If the Libs are seriously looking at letting the high deficit continue and are calling for a National day care program, then I would think they may also be looking at some kind of joining-of forces with the NDP. Look for some frantic back room discussions at that Conference they are having in March.

    The Libs have a lot to fear about a coalition with the NDP but I have just one warning for Iggy: Do not get between Jack and a camera; he`ll break your arm if you spoil his shot.

    • Didn't Ignatieff eschew any form of 'coalition' with the NDP??? .. Perhaps Iggy will temper his neocon political principles and Jacko will compromise his champagne socialism .. and they will join forces … as "strategic voting" Buzz Hargrove advocates openly.

      Iggy's leadership popularity polling is dismal and even below that of Jack's … and politics makes for strange bedfellows … particularly if both are desperate to survive.

      • Which will overcome the big problem for the Conservatives in the past three campaigns, that is, that they hit a ceiling when they are comfortably out in front, during campaigns. The collective thought is "well, we want a Conservative-led government, but we want it to be a minority", etc. Well, in the next election, that won't be the choice. It will be between a Conservative government, or a Lib-NDP coalition government. So when the Conservatives are at 37-38%, they can remain on the front foot and say that they need any and every vote out there, to stop a Lib-NDP coalition government from winning. And there's nothing the Libs or NDP can do to counter it … well, check that, there is. If they came out and said "yeah, we are open to a coalition together", then it at least makes the process legitimate. Then they live or die with full disclosure. What I suspect they (the Libs I mean) will do instead is to deny, deny, deny, and then your avg voter will smell a rat, smell the back-room deals, and respond accordingly.

    • Layton was front and centre (with Olivia) in the "Gretzky's, Toronto" shot during the Gold Medal game yesterday. I wonder whose arm he had to break to get to the front of that shot?

    • You think Harper's going to reduce the deficit in this budget AND continue the stimulous spending? The guy's a wizard.

  23. Let me put it this way – I'm far more likely to support Conservative *rhetoric* on the budget (even though their actual performance on spending and accountability has been disgraceful so far). I think raising taxes without significant spending cuts to cut the deficit would be a mistake. I think the deficit could probably be tamed with efficiencies alone. I think Harper's suggestion that this budget was tough because he had to say 'no' is laughable, since if he had the slightest interest in his supposed principles, he'd have been saying "no" years ago.

    That said, if the price of getting Mr. Harper's version of the Conservatives out of office is, say, 2% more worth of GST in every transaction sent to the Federal treasury, it's a price I'm more than willing to pay.

    • GST should have never been cut, as few of us saw any real financial benefit, while bottom line of government was slaughtered.

      Can you outline the efficiencies and waste reduction of which you speak? Everyone always talks about it, but few can ever quantify it. I'm sure it exists, but I suspect that it is only a small percentage of the overall answer.

  24. It will be interesting to see what was behind the Conservative strategy wrt Colvin. It is hard to imagine what could have been so damaging to them, given that the Liberals set up the operation that caused the problem.

    The one person who may end up looking very bad at the end of this is General Hillier. (http://www.generalhillier.com) I wonder if the Conservatives still have ideas of using him as a star candidate or perhaps they are just worried what would happen if they got in the way of a very loose cannon.

  25. Andrew says in his editorial that…."One of these is an improved showing by the Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, for whom prorogation has proved something of a gift: a chance to shuck off the persona of the scheming politician he had adopted, in favour of the high-minded wonk within."
    Could Andrew please show me where the poll is that says that Mr Ignatieff has improved his showing since parliament proroged. We have continued to see the scheming politian with every roundtable he held. All they were in the end were bi**h fests held by Liberals for Liberals. If anyone gets any credit for a change in Michael it is Donolo not Michael. Once the Liberals start talking to Canadians, in only the way the Liberals and their media lap dogs do, the poll numbers will change again.

  26. Another cut and paste editorial by Coyne. It is getting tiresome Andrew.

    The fact is the current polling by Ipsos shows the Cons back in the lead 37/29. So much for the outrage in the land over prorogation and detainees. You and the rest of the media elite where responsible for the prorogation issue. Both Layton and Iffy were on holidays and other than their usual feigned outrage said little. So it was pure media driven and most Canadians who have now reflected on the issue could care less. An extra 5 weeks from Question Period is no big deal.

    The detainee issue is going to turn out problematic for the opposition parties. Unless there is a smoking gun and if you think a parliamentary committee is going to find it then all I can say is you are naive in the extreme. Sure the opposition will huff and puff but their will be no contempt of parliament etc etc. The Liberals changed the detainee agreement from the Americans to the Afghan government and they knew about torture allegations. What if this kind of documentation comes forward? What will you say then?

    If the opposition pushes too hard they could find themselves in an election before they know it. Why would Harper tolerate attempts to reduce the perrogatives of the PM nor allow the opposition to shout war crimes. Those are all causes to to go to the people in order to clear the air and allow the Canadian people to decide.

    Prorogation is a perogative of the Crown through the GG on the advice of the PM. The only way to change the rules of prorogation is to change the constitution. Good luck with that.

    • 37/29 really? I haven't seen those numbers. In any case a bump for the govt is to be expected.

      The libs have called for a full inquiry, including their role in the affair.

      Opinion polls at the time showed a significant plurality of Canadians wanted to hear from Colvin, and tended to believe him rather than the govt. The onus is clearly on the govt to produce the documents that disprove Colvin…Harper knows this, it's why he shut parliament down. He ma get away wih bullying weak opposition parties, he will not succeed in doing that to the public…he likely knows that too…cue the footdragging, or possibly a drawn out narrow reference inquiry.

      The onlly way to change the rules of prorogation is to change the constitution…a number of Constitutional experts have already said this is not the case. They can't alter the royal perogative, they can however alter the PMs terms of reference to the house.

      • As soon as the Liberals regain control of the government they can decide to weaken the PM. ( I won't bother holding my breath)

        Those experts are the same one's who regularly support the LPOC talking points and trotted out by the media?

    • Factor in the margin for error and you will find that the Conservatives have trouble getting beyond 35%, even when they are at their best. As long as the current leadership is in charge, they will be forever mired in minority territory, and reliant on voter apathy.

      • A majority is very difficult until the new seats are added. Ontario 23, AB 7, BC 8.

        Can you imagine in this new scenario the Liberals expanding their vote or realization the NDP, CPC will be both be gaining at the Liberal's expense?

        38 new seats, my prediction 28 CPC, 10 NDP, Liberals 0

        • inyour dreams bud.

  27. Mr Coyne, here you go again. Have you not considered that you run the serious risk of becoming known as "Hyperbole Coyne" if you don't stop using words like, 'debacle' to describe political non-events? Stop, Please, being such a partizan screamer. It is undignified for the editor of Maclean's Magazine.

  28. "Yet as the Liberals begin at last to talk in substantive terms about policy, they seem instead to be signalling a sharp move to the left."

    If that is indeed the case, that is the smart thing to do. The Libs will need to take votes away from the Dippers and the Greens to muster a lead on the Tories. Especially if a joint NDP-Lib front will not come about at the next election. To swing right would open up their left flank to the NDP in Quebec and Ontario.

    They not only need to go Center – Left to beat Harper at the polls, they also need to make a deal with the Dippers and the Greens so as to avoid seeing the anti-Harper vote splinter three ways again.

    • Here`s an idea about where to go with that policy thing : How about you develop policies from things you actually believe in rather then just begging for votes ?

  29. all i know is if canadians give this government a majority we wil all be in trouble and canada as we know it will never be the same

    theres too much influence from other countries in our country being applied by this so called conservative govt

    and im sure you all know what I mean

    this is canada lets keep it that way!!

  30. After 104 previous prorogations, the 105th isn't the most pressing issues facing Canadians coming out of our worst recession in a generation?

    Only the far left and the left leaning media elite obsessed with a "gotcha" moment to vaunt the liberals to power,

    would be asking such a rediculous question.

    The rest of us have enjoyed Canadian pride over the past two weeks(rather than casting ourselves in international shame and guilt as attempted by the left ) and are now onto bread a butter issues, and hoping the steady hand at the helm continues amidst these turbulent waters.

    While the rest of us worry about affording our kids lessons and the food on our table,

    the Ottawa "elite" will continue to scour for such important stories as whether Harper ate a wafer.

    Look to the NYT's junk bond status as the eventual result of the out-of-touchness of our media minders.

  31. Enjoyed your editorial and agree with your sentiments entirely. I am amazed that this forum finds such strong support for Stephen Harper, truly rflabbergasting. I try and keep up with political events in Canada, consider myself well informed and yet I see nothing in this government actions or proposed policy that inspires confidence. I really think they have no idea what they are doing and I fear for my country's future in every possible way.

  32. Those who wrote that Coyne's piece "What has changed in Ottawa in two months?" is biased don't appear to understand that it's a column not a news story. Coyne is writing what he thinks.
    If they don't grasp that I have trouble with the rest of their criticism. I suspect they're partisans that would defend the Conservative government no matter what. That's OK, but doesn't make for very interesting of thought provoking reading.
    I think Coyne makes an important point about the government's attempt to discredit Richard Colvin. Mistakes were probably made, and it appears by the former Liberal government too. But the unjustified attempt to smear Colvin makes the government look worse than it probably is. It could have admitted its mistake — blamed the fog of war and promised to do better, but instead attempted a character assassination on the wrong guy.
    I think that should concern all of us, including Conservative partisans. It certainly reinforces my belief based on other government actions — firing the chair of the nuclear safety commission, CEO of the Canadian Wheat Board and others — that it believes the ends justify the means, even if it's undemocratic.
    Or even break the law, which it did by trying to change the CWB's marketing mandate through an order-in-council instead of through Parliament. A judge overruled the attempt, which was upheld by the Federal Court of Appeal.
    Governments, even minorities, have a democratic mandate to govern, but to do so under the rule of law.
    We citizens too often take democracy for granted. Cynical governments use that to their advantage, bending and sometimes breaking the rules, smearing honest civil servants and proroguing Parliament to avoid being accountable.
    Several people have written that the outrage over prorogation and detainees has dissipated. True, but just because people don't care doesn't make the government's actions right. That's like Tiger Woods justifying his infidelity by explaining he did it because he could.

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