Well, this could get interesting. Okay, like anything and everything to do with Canadian politics hasn’t been interesting lately.
Bob Rae is preparing a coast-to-coast campaign to sell Canadians on the concept of a coalition government, taking over as chief salesman and manoeuvring around Stéphane Dion, whose leadership is becoming increasingly irrelevant.
Mr. Rae, the Toronto Centre MP and Liberal leadership candidate, began staking out his territory Thursday as the champion of a coalition government aimed at taking down Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“He’s going to carry the can,” said one of his chief strategists. “He’s going to stand up and let his voice be heard and encourage Liberals to hang in and we can take down Harper and put in a good government that will do the right thing.” […]
Mr. Rae left no doubt where he stood on the coalition concept. In a remarkable intervention during a raucous closed-door caucus meeting Thursday, Mr. Rae interrupted Mr. Dion, taking him on for being too conciliatory toward Mr. Harper.
Meanwhile, the following, from the same story, would seem to contradict Colleague Coyne’s assessment of the Liberals’ body language, which he characterizes as showing that they “no longer have the stomach for this fight). (Of course, it could also be completely made up, which is always a danger when trying to discern what went on at caucus meetings not surreptitiously taped by the government):
Mr. Dion appeared to be open to changing his mind about defeating Mr. Harper’s government, saying that a “monumental change” on Mr. Harper’s part would alter that.
That phrase angered some Liberals, who began shouting at Mr. Dion, accusing him of not going far enough, according to a caucus insider. That is when Mr. Rae approached the microphone, telling Mr. Dion that even “monumental change” was not acceptable.
Mr. Dion appeared shocked, the insider said.
According to the Toronto Star, the Liberals are still planning to hold caucus next week, even though the House has been prorogued:
Liberals said they will hold a caucus meeting on Wednesday, with the first order of business being to draw up recommended proposals to submit to Harper for possible inclusion in the Jan. 27 budget.
This stance leaves open the possibility that, if the Tories prove to be serious about working co-operatively on an acceptable budget package to boost the economy, the Liberal-NDP coalition might drop its commitment to defeat the Harper government over the budget.
"Canadians sent us here to work together … if we can work (with the other parties), we’ll see what happens," said Bryon Wilfert (Richmond Hill).
But Ignatieff said the Liberals need to keep the coalition with the NDP intact to ensure Harper knows his government faces defeat unless it produces an acceptable budget package with major economic stimulus measures.
So what happens next? Heck if ITQ knows. But I don’t think it’s over just yet – if the coalition – or, for that matter, the governing party, which has had a few tense caucus meetings of its own this week – blows up, it will likely be with a bang, not a whimper, with actual, on-the-record denunciations and defections, by MPs with names and faces. (One Conservative MP was suggesting that by the time the government puts its confidence to a vote in the House, the recent (and, presumably, ongoing) exercise in political flirty fishing may have “changed the numbers” sufficiently to keep the Tories in power.)
That could happen by next Wednesday if the anti-coalition lobby is able to jam opposition phone lines, faxes and emails with sufficiently daunting expressions of local outrage – ostensible or otherwise – or, for that matter, if it suddenly turns into a leadership war game between Rae and Ignatieff supporters within caucus and without, which would infuriate the NDP.
(It’s also worth noting, that, with the exception of the Karygiannis Explosion, which was roundly repudiated by, actually pretty much everyone, there has been remarkably little evidence of rifting between the NDP and the Liberals, particularly after that whole right of webcam reply fiasco.)
Meanwhile, outside Rideau Hall yesterday the Prime Minister made grudging sounds about “trust building” as his footsoldiers hit the panel circuit to warn the other parties that the battle for the hearts and minds of the voters has only just begun. The Conservatives are far better at playing offence than defence, and the party war chest is sufficiently well-stuffed to allow them to mount a massive publicity campaign over the next few weeks, which means it will fall to the PM to decide whether he really meant it when he said he was willing to work with the opposition during the parliamentary break. (Well, two-thirds of the opposition, at least.)
In two words? Stay tuned. Even with the capital about to shut down for the holidays, things will almost certainly get more interesting before they get less.