Notes on a crisis: Where have you gone, John Manley?


The Liberal Party turns its lonely eyes to you. Or might.

By now it is clear — especially after tonight’s catastrophic performance by Stephane Dion — that the coalition is toast. Assuming Harper seeks, and obtains, the Governor General’s assent to prorogue Parliament until next month, there will be no quick assumption of power, the glue that might at least hold the Liberals together, if not the coalition. But without it, and in view of the decidedly cool — in some places, red hot — public response to the proposal, Liberal nerves are starting to crack.

Guelph MP Frank Valeriote has come out publicly against the idea — to the conspicuous applause of Warren Kinsella, Ignatieff supporter and Chretien diehard. Toronto area MPs Judy Sgro and Jim Karygiannis have also publicly expressed misgivings. Ignatieff himself is widely reported to be distancing himself from the proposal, as have Frank McKenna — and Manley. And we’re only two days in.

I am willing to bet much of the party rank and file have no use for the coalition idea, and even less for the destruction it will wreak on the party. They will be casting about desperately, looking for someone to save them from ruin. The logical avenue for this is the leadership race. But having publicly endorsed the deal, all three current candidates are hopelessly compromised. It will be difficult, if not impossible, for them to row back from their position with their credibility intact.

Let a candidate of stature enter the race on an anti-coalition platform, and he or she would instantly attract a wave of support. Until now, the Ignatieff and Rae machines would have precluded any serious challenge. But the party is in such turmoil after the events of recent days that the situation has suddenly become a lot more fluid.

But who? Martin Cauchon? As a federalist from Quebec, he’d help repair the damage to the party’s base in that province. But a Manley candidacy would be particularly compelling, in view of another factor: the sharp decline in Stephen Harper’s fortunes. Such is the damage he has sustained that the centre-right vote is now very much in play — provided the Liberals can arrest the lurch to the left implied by their participation in the coalition, and provided they can put forward a credible centre-right leader. The candidate that most readily fits that description: John Manley.

What’s that rustling sound? Is that a draft?

UPDATE: Threat of defections shifts the sands beneath Dion’s feet:

The Liberals’ chief whip is asking his MPs not to abandon the party as concerns grow about dissatisfaction over Stéphane Dion’s leadership.

At a closed-door caucus meeting yesterday morning, Rodger Cuzner said that if rival parties approach MPs about crossing the floor “we want to hear about them first” – a recognition of how fragile things are for the Liberals under Mr. Dion.

A caucus insider said there is growing unease in the party with the accord reached between the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Tories mount a public-relations war against the coalition, which they are characterizing as an alliance with the separatists.

One Liberal MP said that if Mr. Dion does not prevail and become leader and prime minister of the proposed coalition government, “he can’t stay until May.”


Notes on a crisis: Where have you gone, John Manley?

  1. By not recognizing what you just pointed out…. what many of us have been screaming for two days…. Iggy has proven himself to be not too bright. Or more likely, a coward.

    The only thing that could keep him from winning the leadership would be to come off like a deer in the headlights as Dion, Rae and Layton destroy the Liberal Party of Canada, by cavorting with the separatists.

    And he’s done just that.

    Kinsella appears to have cut bait with Kinsella, complimenting an unknown rookie Liberal backbencher, who has the guts to do what WK wishes Iggy would do. Stevie Wonder could read between the lines there.

    Going forward, anyone whose fingerprints are on this coalition deal… or who fails to denounce it… will be dead meat at the Liberal convention.

    Again, how can Iggy be so blind / stupid / chicken not to grab the brass ring?

    The stage is set for someone like Manley to cut them all off at the knees.

  2. Good thinking Andrew. Manley is certainly one of the only liberals I could think of that could save the Liberals from themselves. I’m a diehard conservative and I would honestly consider voting for John Manley. Which is exactly why the Liberal party of 2008 would never vote him leader. It makes too much sense.

    Instead, after taking a trouncing of historical proportions at the ballot box only weeks ago — they are ready to seize power on a coalition party and platform that doesn’t have a mandate from a single Canadian voter. Its flabbergasting..

    Have you given any thought to the motives of the Bloq in this? With a Quebec election going on, my guess is that something bigger than party financing subsidies is at play. Even bigger than an opportunity to siphen billions to Quebec. They aren’t even making an effort to curb public statements (from Parizeau, Marlois and Duceppe himself) – in fact they seem to flaunt them.

    In my view – Duceppe isn’t committed to a coalition at all – he’s playing the instability card with the notion that the federal state is paralyzed by partisan politics and his trump card is that he’s offered solutions to both sides to “make it work”. So he doesn’t care if the government or the coalition fails, so long as the federal government is weakened in the process. If he can fan the flames of nationalists before a QC election in the meantime, thats a bonus.

  3. correction: should be: “Kinsella appears to have cut bait with Iggy…”
    AC, that edit feature on your old site was handy.
    Thanks for supplying the forum.

  4. That draft ……… put on a sweater …….. I know someone that’s not using a nice blue one.

  5. If Coyne is in error here, will he resign?

  6. This is a brilliant idea from top to bottom. Assuming it all comes together (Manley can extricate the Liberals from this coalition craziness, and return them to Chretien-era fiscal/economic sanity)

  7. I love John Manley. I would vote Liberal if John Manley were to run (unless voting Conservative meant a majority – I hate minority governments), but unfortunately the vote of non confidence is going to happen – that means whatever John Manley’s opinions on the coalition are – he needs caucus support to matter. Unfortunately most of the caucus support is already locked up by Ignatieff.

    That said, Ignatieff can’t be too happy about this. He can’t become Prime Minister for long with the coalition around his neck, but if he opposes it, it forces him to embrace a muscular federalism that will scare off his soft nationalist supporters. On the other hand, I don’t think anybody would question his credentials as a genuine Canadian if he formed a “gang of 14” and brokered a deal.

    Say what you will about Martinites and their tactics – Chretienites (of which Dion is one) really know how to pour salt on the fields of party and country when they die.

  8. Brian:
    “In my view – Duceppe isn’t committed to a coalition at all – he’s playing the instability card with the notion that the federal state is paralyzed by partisan politics and his trump card is that he’s offered solutions to both sides to “make it work”. So he doesn’t care if the government or the coalition fails, so long as the federal government is weakened in the process. If he can fan the flames of nationalists before a QC election in the meantime, thats a bonus.”

    Duceppe isn’t that dumb. He’s framed himself as the promoter of Quebec’s interests. Now that the PCC has punted Quebec, the bloc will get stronger in that role. Noticed his speech tonight? He very carefully laid out what Quebecers were getting if the coalition was getting power instead of the PCC FU. Now, whatever comes next, he has a waterline. And he doesn’t mind Parizeau saying the coalition is a good deal for Quebecers, but not because he wants instability in Canada; simply because he honestly believes it’s a good deal for Quebec and Parizeau is silencing the extremists who are accusing him of sleeping with the enemy (Dion).

    The guy is successfull because he is disciplined, his party is disciplined and they never, ever, try to be some beer league machiaveli. They assess the situation, determine what’s in it for Quebec and make the most out of it. Period.

  9. Manley is my preferred choice for LPC leader, too. I’m not convinced he could win the leadership.

    Problem is, Coyne, your commentary seems coloured by the fact that you desperately want this coalition to fail. I’m not convinced it would be good for the Liberals, either. But I am satisfied to see Harper slain. I have not liked the way that man does business for years, and it is time for him to go.

  10. What a load of bs you just wrote! I saw nothing wrong with M. Dion’s performance. It isn’t all about the dressing. Dressing is overrated. You only need to look at our present PM for an example of that.

    I love the idea of coalition. It works well in India doesn’t it?

    Harper is instilling fear in his hard core. Propaganda to the Extreme.

  11. the coalition is toast

    Becaue you and Adam say so Andrew? Amazing, hubris all around.

    I’m sick of Harper, Dion and Coyne.

    And I laugh at the thought of any Liberal that comes in and rescue’s Harper’s skin… again.

  12. “They will be casting about desperately, looking for someone to save them from ruin.”

    Of course they could always join the Tories and start a Draft (Prentice, Mackay, Lord, Moore…take your pick) movement.

    PS. There’s probably a good reason so many people think Manley is something special and “not just another Liberal”. He started out as a Tory.

  13. On bombing runs in the early days of radar the planes used to drop tinfoil shards to confuse the air defence radar systems……

    Manley’s had a couple of chances to run and hasn’t had, by his own estimate, the support.

    Usually if people wanted a Tory government they voted Tory. Manley is a Tory without a home.

    Harper killed the Tories.

  14. The Liberals irrational hatred of Harper has led them to this sorry state of affairs. That plus the straight jacket their Party Consttution puts them in, as they were unable to get Dion to resign, and so must wait for their clunky, costly delegated convention.

    Next campaign, Harper will hold all the cards–incumbency, money, platform, and Chantal’s favorite–a campaign narrative.

    What the hell is the campaign narrative going to be for the Libs ??? Their best hope is that the economy has totally tanked.

  15. Junkie: I don’t think there is anything irrational about Liberals’ hatred for Harper. He has stoked it continuously for years.

  16. The coalition is falling apart in the face of public outrage.

    David Akin is reporting that NDP signs were firebombed in BC today. Can you imagine what the reaction will be if the coalition actually takes power?

    Is this what the Libs and NDP want our country to come to?

  17. I think the only stand-down that could avert the defeat of this government would be for both Harper and Dion to step aside before Parliament resumes. There is no way to gracefully allow Harper to continue to govern.

  18. Of course, Cool Blue. I can’t wait for the country’s fate to be in the hands of people who fire-bomb election signs. We’ll all feel so much better.

  19. All current leader except Duceppe are covered with mud. I say, let’s the coalition fall; Harper will have wasted money and he will have present a budget that will be fiscally irresponsible (deficit) and/or doesn’t reflect reality (numbers that don’t add up). Iggy comes in and basically look good compared to everyone else. Anyway, conservatives like him because of his support for “freedom of speech” (HRC), Quebecers find him okay and after Dion, LPC supporter will probably not complain to have him. Not sure about NDP supporter but you have a candidate that could rally people around the LPC…

  20. “Cool Blue wrote: The coalition is falling apart in the face of public outrage.

    David Akin is reporting that NDP signs were firebombed in BC today. Can you imagine what the reaction will be if the coalition actually takes power?

    Is this what the Libs and NDP want our country to come to?”


    No. That is not what the coalition wants. Is that clear?

    What the coalition wants is Stephen Harper to FOLLOW THE RULES and let parliament to decide DEMOCRATICALLY the fate of his government.

    With respect to the firebombing that is just PATHETIC, but not to surprising, we have seen that type of criminal behavior before, in Toronto they vandalized signs and cars.

    Not too surprising that Stephen Harper, gets the worst out of us and specially of his rabid supporters and the extremists.

    He lies, cheats, and bully and the sheep just follows the leader.

  21. While watching Harper tonight, my husband commented that the whole thing looked like a take on Air Farce or 22 Minutes.

    Exactly–might just as well have been Mark Critch. The whole thing was phoney. The yelling bully from the H of C suddenly becomes the soft-spoken Mr. nice guy. Suddenly the sweater guy has no clothes; he is being seen in full exposure.

    Harper has lost all credibility and has to go. Surely his caucus and ministers must be tired of the put-downs and the constant muzzling of their ideas. As the Globe and Mail editors suggested today, for the sake of the party, Harper must resign.

    I see NO advantage in the GG granting the proroguing of Parliament, as this will simply delay the inevitable and will further divide Canadians. This would simply mean another 7 or 8 weeks of CON attack ads, and heaven knows we’ve had enough of them already. If she were to refuse PMSH’s request to prorogue tomorrow, it would largely stop protests scheduled for Saturday.

    Stephen Harper has been the MOST DIVISIVE PM in our history. We are in an economic crisis and need to be united. It is time for him to go–kicking and screaming, if necessary.

  22. Iggy has spoken out on legalizing hate speech? Really?

  23. Yes, cool blue, this is all the NDP and Liberal’s fault. Amazing. Some people were always suspect of Harper’s “autocratic tendencies”. If he prorogues Parliment, he will help cement that image. Coyne will give him a pass though, us Lefties scare him.

  24. Agree with you that this act of folly is toast – it may not last to the weekend.

    And if it does, the protests that are planned will finish it – it is possible that they will be the largest in Canadian history. Iggy had better jump within the next 48 hrs…

    Disagree that Harper has been harmed in the mid- to long-term. First, the aggressive play last week may have been designed to flush out the oppo parties and their plot. In the short-term it hurt him, but in less than a week the coalition has done more damage to the LP than maybe anything well … ever – even adscam couldn’t annihilate them west of the MB/ ON border. This coalition sure did.

    What will restore Stephen to good graces will be the January budget. Look for some very good things that will deliver a boost to the CDN economy right away rather than take months to years to implement – like the kind of additional government programs the oppo parties were planning.

    Finally, Andrew when you look back on your career years from now you will be able to point to at least three great things that you played a critical part in:

    1. The Meech Lake accord/disaster – I was just going through my archives the other week and came across your column detailing the sordid way that went down – I referenced it when I appeared before the Charest Commission. Very, very important work. It arguably saved the country.

    2. “Adscam” natch.

    3. Your present support of the vote grants and disgust with the coalition. The lastest polling I have seen shows that terminating the grant program is also very popular with CDNs BTW. You were one of very few reporters in the Hill who went against it. Many of your colleagues are still in denial – much as they were during Meech/Charlottetown.

    Someday, maybe I will have the honour of buying you a drink as a thank-you for your efforts. And if I do get the opportunity I promise I won’t bring up the fact that you thought that Stephane Dion would make a good leader.

  25. Marg from NB:

    Perhaps if the GG refused to prorogue, you would favour an election. That way this coalition can get the thunderous approval it deserves from the CDN public. Surely if this coalition is such a great thing you would be fully in support of that?

  26. Oh, I almost forgot… Forget Manley for leader – he’s smart, not stupid.

  27. Gord Tulk
    Dec 4, 2008 1:09

    And if it does, the protests that are planned will finish it – it is possible that they will be the largest in Canadian history.

    * * *
    This made me laugh out loud!

  28. “Mike T. wrote: Gord Tulk
    Dec 4, 2008 1:09

    And if it does, the protests that are planned will finish it – it is possible that they will be the largest in Canadian history.

    * * *
    This made me laugh out loud!”

    Yeah, hilarious stuff. What comes to my mind when I read about their protesting plans is that conservatives way too often criticize.. wait for it.. protesters!

    I have read many of their posts saying: They should get a job, welfare bums etc.. but now all of the sudden protesting is the “right” thing to do. LOL

  29. @Mike T: No, he defended freedom of speech in an honorable way.

    Quote:”I want to make it very clear my campaign would never attempt to suppress freedom of speech and freedom of opinion. So we’re not trying to shut this thing down.”
    Ignatieff’s comment in 2006 about an attack website against him. It showed a respect for freedom of speech, even when it’s offensive speech targeted at him.

    That’ why (very vocal) conservatives have at least a lukewarm feeling toward him. If Iggy put an end to frivolous lawsuits under the HRC (not to be confused with real hate speech), some people will have to ask themselves why a Liberal is giving them what Harper would not.

  30. A Conservative spokesperson already said that if the GG refuses Harper’s advice to prorogue, then he will resign on the spot.

    Dion writing her to suggest she refuse proroguing pretty well insures that she will let Harper prorogue.

  31. I am surprised that everyone has written off Captain Canada – Brian Tobin. The Tobester was quite dapper and arrogant in his new cufflinks on election night.

    Well, Andrew?

  32. And so we see the NDP’s master plan. Word is that they were supportive of Dion for Liberal leader.

    Could it be, could it be that while Harper was playing chess and Dion playing tiddlywinks (no matter how honest and earnest he was in the play of that) Layton was playing a masterful game of Go.

    The pieces have all been placed now. Harper’s stranglehold on his own party is starting to crack, many of the ordinary citizens are as sick of him as they are of the Liberals. He has essentially doomed his party in Quebec — the place where he desparately needed to gain more seats.

    The Liberals are caught between a lack of financing and a need for renewal. They will go nowhere, how quickly remains to be seen.

    Could it be that this “leaked” caucus meeting number was just another piece being placed? Note how careful Layton is in his speaking in that call. Why, it almost reads like he knew someone was listening, and carefully broke off before saying anything truly risable to Canadians.

    And in the speeches tonight, Layton’s performance dwarfed all three.

    Perhaps we’ve all been duped ladies and gentlemen. Perhaps the real player is the man with the mustache. He was saying last time that he would be Prime Minister.. was it an untimely boast, or an early warning?

  33. Rhaine
    Dec 4, 2008 1:29
    Report Abuse

    @Mike T: No, he defended freedom of speech in an honorable way.

    Quote:”I want to make it very clear my campaign would never attempt to suppress freedom of speech and freedom of opinion. So we’re not trying to shut this thing down.”
    Ignatieff’s comment in 2006 about an attack website against him. It showed a respect for freedom of speech, even when it’s offensive speech targeted at him.

    * * *

    The statement above has nothing to do with hate speech. I repeat my question.

  34. I’d vote for Manley.

  35. In a perfect world the GG would ask Dion and Harper to both perform seppuku on the steps of Parliament.

    Notwithstanding all this talk of mid- to long-term political advantage, the immediate national imperative is stable government, and the sure-fire away to achieve that is to do away with both ‘leaders’ immediately.

  36. I’m late to this party, but I will say this: the blogging tories and whoever is behind them have already pegged John Manley as a downs child, retarded, and have termed him a traitor for coming back from his Harper-motivated and approved junta with talking points they do not agree with. Granted, they could come on back with the Palinator defense, but I find that highly suspect and prone to abandonment, as is done in the wilds.

    In my experience, it will take some sort of wolf pack leader to stop those wolves from tearing him apart even if Manley looks like he might be one of them.

    I think this is a red herring issue. John Manley is a good guy, but his run is done. He’s happy in business, like most of the other politicos who’ve already done Canada and are off to greener pastures. Canada may benefit from some of his advice and ideas. Stephen Harper should make a point of not leaving him out when he collects his kudos. And make sure he’s on the Harper Xmas list, at least.

  37. Try this one on for size: Iggy, Manley, Prentice, and like use the unprecedented political upheaval to unite the sensible middle. Leave the hyper-partisan bickering to the ideological crazies and get on with the business of providing peace, order, and good gov’.

    Not sure about a name for this new entity. “Centre Party” might imply something not intended.

  38. Manley would get my nod too. I’ve suspected that the lpc has joined the boy scouts ever since they chose Dion .The triumph of hope over common sense. Whatever were we thinking. Harper must go and Iggies a coward.

  39. i like the ideea of Harper and Dion duelling it out at dawn. How would it end? Dion would shoot is self not realising that the guns had real bullets in them. And Harper would start firing one the count of one, later claiming he didn’t realize the rules applied to him too.

  40. If the GG agrees to progrogue parliament, it will only delay the inevitable loss to a confidence motion of Harper’s shaken government. And it may benefit the Liberals by giving them enough time to think about how best to take full advantage of the situation by choosing a new leader more quickly: Bob Rae if decisive action is wanted, or Michael Ignatieff if no action is wanted other than to wait and prevaricate way back into contention as the natural governing party.

    In the balance, I support the move to put a lump of coalition in Harper’s stocking and oust him.

  41. duels were for gentlemen of yore.

    highway robbers is the new duel-ity.

    say one thing to France, another to English, then run to the USA.

    still works for some.

    Un-Canadian fer sure.

  42. Me: …Anyway, conservatives like him because of his support for “freedom of speech”…
    Mike T.: Iggy has spoken out on legalizing hate speech? Really?
    Me: No, he defended freedom of speech in an honorable way: (example)
    Mike T.: The statement above has nothing to do with hate speech. I repeat my question.

    As far as I know, Ignatieff does not support repealing the criminal code’s hate-speech provisions, if this is what you ask. At any rate, this is beside the point. My point is that a leader can’t just stand there with an easily recognizable name and/or spend like a drunken sailor to get elected PM. S/he need to have something to motivate people. Modifying section 13 of the CHRC is probably in the top 10 favorite bashing subject amongst conservatives, this is a political candy that cost next to nothing and that why I used it as an example.

  43. Kind of a bummer for February for the Harper-approved public inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber affair… particularly when it looks awfully like someone has been lying to Canada’s face.

    Oh I know how to sideline that! Let’s get taxpayers struggling to pay their own bills to have an election!

    Come on, Canadians, you MUST do your part for democracy,right? An election soon will save millions in lawsuits later.

    After all, isn’t it best that Canada has a stable government even if it means that some innocent Canadians get thrown under the bus and washed away down the gutter?

    Really! At a time like this many Canadians must bear the burden of governmental monumental incompetence, all for peace, order and good governance, right?

    Get with the program Canadians eh!

  44. Yesterday I figured the coalition was pretty much a done deal, and blogged about it. Today, with Parizueau’s praise in Quebec, with Marois gloating over the extra money Quebec will get, and with the predictable flubbing from Dion (just when we need you to screw up most, old boy, you come through for us), and with three of the four wisemen backing away, or outright denying, anything to do with the coalition, it appears increasingly likely that, whatever Jean says tomorrow, Harper is in the clear. If the coalition does go through, it will be even weaker, more unstable, and even more laughable.

  45. But what leads you, Rhiane, to believe that Iggy would repeal the anti-hate speech provisions in the Federal human rights code? Saying he won’t attack a blogger because of comments on a website has nothing to do with it? Were the comments even directed at Iggy’s race or religion or sexual orientation? If they were, did he say that others should not be free to pursue the matter regardless of his choice on how to deal with it?

  46. The Surprise Finnish – Closing the Trap

    In fewer than three days of moderate pressure the coalition of the Three Amigos is folding faster than a two dollar suitcase. Harper dangled the bait in the economic update and this school of political carp gobbled it whole; hook, line, and sinker. There is zero possibility now of the GG turning over the keys of government to Mr.Bean and his dwindling band of village idiots. Steve is beating Dion like a circus monkey / rented mule: pick your favorite. His statement tonight was nothing short of a verbal one finger salute without the actual hand gesture

    Now what? To ask the GG to pirogue the house now will only delay this chaos until the new year. We may see Harper finish it in the morning by resigning the government citing the loss of confidence of the house claimed by the Three Amigo’s own statements, letters, and agreements. The PM would probably win a confidence vote on Monday, but it would solve little in the long term. By resigning he would force the GG to appoint “Lee Harvey Dion” as prime minister and watch her new Government spin apart with weeks, if not days, or call an election.

    The public would turn on the Three Amigos for creating this phony crisis. The Libranos can then fight an election with Dion as their leader and no money. Harper would lose seats in Quebec but the Dippers and Libranos would lose all of their seats in the west.

    What was that famous saying of Liberal Senator and campaign manager David Smith? ………. Now it comes back to me: “Screw the west, we’ll take the rest!”

    Sleep Well
    Looney in Lotusland

  47. Sounds like Harper had to put his sweater vest away cuz too many kitties were having too much fun gamboling about in the softness.

    Time’s up! Put another loonie in to keep the sweet coming.

    Harper is done with his sucking up to Quebec, will leave his 9 MPs to twist in the wind.

    Canadians have been put, courtesy of its Prime Minister, to change course and revile Quebec.

    Hadn’t most Canadians already decided that Quebec and its people were a nation within a united Canada? Weren’t those Stephen Harper’s words?

    Now, the Van Doos are persona non grata. Come to think of it, Mr. Confidence Vote Canada hasn’t said a word lately about our disparate youth fighting in Afghanistan. This I find deeply disturbing, and a sign of a pathological mindset.

    Stephen Harper will break up Canada more than any separatists would. At least the provinces and nations within nations still keep in mind that they and we have youth abroad in combat. Suddenly, for Harper, it’s all about Quebec. Not a peep did he have to say in his speech tonight about Canadians in Afghanistan.


  48. This would be good for Canada? For the Liberals to be nearly shut out of the West, and the Conservatives nearly shut out of Quebec?

    That would return us to the unity crises and regional bickering on the ’90s!!! It’s as if Dion and Harper realize they’re of a different era, and are turning the clock back to when they were most comfortable!!!

    Someone needs to be an end to this madness. Political gamesmanship is all anyone in Ottawa can think anymore. Having to actually govern the country is an unfortunate distraction.

  49. Ah but Stephen Harper and the rest of them have booked their holidays. If the GG makes them work, Santa is going to give every Canadian a lump of coal. Then again, if Harper gets his way it will be gingerbread houses, sweets and treats, and happy days for the Ottawa crowd.

    I heard them today, talking about how this socialist plot is threatening their Christmas cheer. Not one word did I hear from any Conservative who dared to step up to the microphone about how Christmas is going to be for the Canadians who aren’t on Stephen Harper’s list.

    Conservative holidays are full of cheer. Nothing for the workers they jeer.

    If any of you get a personally-addressed Christmas card from Stephen Harper, post here.


  50. It shouldnt have come to this, even a political neophyte like me could have told the coalition not to overplay their hand. They had h down and out a couple of days ago. he’d partially recantedand the price for the oppositions confidence in a duly elected gov shout have been H ‘s head. It might have worked and had popular support. But no team genious decides to seize the throne and in effect throw H the only thng that could possibly pass for a fig leaf – oddly enough the flag. These guys don’t deserve to win.

  51. What’s the indication the coalition won’t work again?

  52. Agree the coalition are over-playing their hand. If they’d extracted a promise never to touch public party financing they would have done well. Considering how they’ve stuck together so far if they’d called for Harper’s head they probably would have had it. But if they actually try to govern it will back-fire on them horribly.

  53. kc, it matters not what any body or coalition says to Harper. Anything he says back simply cannot be trusted.

    The flag? The same flag he couldn’t recognize? Or the flags he chose to ignore and accuse in the HoC and on the air, and likely disseminated through his church groups and to those Canadians who really do now have an opportunity to know better, the flags that Stephen Harper decided to ignore and mislead Canadians in the House and outside the House, all for his own survival?

    Oh. Those flags.

  54. Stephen Harper’s Canada is only viable if Stephen Harper is running it. Praise the Lord, eh.

  55. the the the stupidity to date of all concerned is astonishing. The opposition decides to seize the throne thinking that the backing of the GG alone is enough, them’s the rules and the cons and the country will just have to like it or lump it. And we’re going to sel it with the man took his party into uncharted lows – yea that’l work. As for Harper, that strategic genious decided to antagonise, not 1, not 2 but all 3 opp parties at once without a plan b or any idea other than it seemed like it was a good idea at the time. Who’ll win here? I haven’ the foggiest, but i know who the loser is, don’t you!

  56. Liz
    my point is Canadians patience is rapidly running out on H . But that doesn’t mean they’l except a bunch of bumblers in exchange.

  57. Where is Clyde Wells when we need him?

  58. John Manley is unfailingly described as a “devout Christian” in bios. Let’s get real here: there is no longer a place in the LPC or any of the coalition parties for devout Christians, at least for a white male. There is no way the Liberal party would put up with that.

    Same deal with Frank McKenna and abortion; he has the most hardline anti-abortion record out there, you can forget about him being associated with the Liberals ever again.

    In both cases, you see how the Liberal big tent grew greater than necessary for minimum winning conditions, hence the collapse. All the accomplished Old White Males of good character are gone, the same guys who made sure tapes got to the CBC on time and who could have told you the Green Shift wasn’t going to fly. When diversity replaces merit as a guiding management principle, it all falls apart, and that is what is happening to the LPC right now.

  59. Holy crap, Belfort, I thought racists like you were ashamed to show their faces these days, Belfort.

    Too bad.

  60. Interesting post. I have no idea what’s going on among the Liberals, but if Harper is going to win the confidence vote he is going to have to turn some of them.

    I thought Harper’s TV performance was utterly dishonest. I was disgusted. Dion’s was disturbingly amateurish and may well have damaged the coalition’s chances. I agree with those who say both the Conservatives and Liberals need new, credible leaders ASAP.

  61. We need an Iggy, Rae, LeBlanc coalition. The three of them need to put a stop to this mess before we end up with a worse result than the conservatives had after Mulroney. Seriously folks, we need to back off, replace Dion, and prepare for a February election. Dion is going to ruin us.

  62. OKAY. Here’s what we need.

    We need Peter Lougheed and Bill Davis to come forward and negotiate with Rae & Iggy on how to settle this thing down. Agree to let the government stay. Let both the Libs and Cons have a chance to change leaders and then hold a proper election to settle this thing in a calm and rational way.

  63. Manley is wishful thinking. The Liberal Party’s problems run much deeper than Dion. There are heading to where the Progressive Conservatives were prior to their unification with the Alliance; power, like that one ring to rule them all, staved off aging but replaced youth with obsession. That they made Dion leader was but a sign of their decline, their losses in seats came next and now their complete dissolution in the hands of minor players like the NDP or Bloc.
    A new leader cannot save them; where the conservative had a merger tested by elections and injecting new blood, there is no one to meld with now except by coalition. As Rex Murphy has pointed out, the party is now mainly Toronto and metropolitan environs.

  64. Let’s stick to the fundamentals and not get sidetracked by talk of Liberal leadership contenders.

    These are the facts:
    Harper and the Conservatives are trying to delay a LEGITIMATE and CONSTITUTIONAL non confidence vote. And they are even willing to shut down government to do it. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. Harper should let the system work the way it was designed to work and let the politicians fall where they may.

    I realize that the coalition is little more than an attempt at a power grab by the opposition. But that is politics. Is what Harper doing any different?

    Well yes, actually.

    The difference is, the coalition has the RIGHT to vote down the government if they so choose. Should Harper have the right to suspend parliament and shut down our government just because he doesn’t like what the opposition is trying to do? Even though it is perfectly legal and constitutional? Like a bullying child, he is trying to change the rules of the playground for his benefit.

    Harper is just playing for time, and he is trying to play the Canadian people.

    He desperately hopes the Conservatives can keep on spinning this debacle as an attack on Canada, until the public gets so outraged that the coalition bends to the pressure and folds.

    The coalition represents about 66% of the vote in the last election; the Conservatives about 36% (if I remember correctly). Put aside the propaganda about separatist this and coup d’etat that. The coalition represents a larger portion of the Canadian electorate than the Conservatives.

    Now, I don’t like it either. As far as I’m concerned, they are all devious power mongers and if the tables were turned the Liberals would be saying the same thing about the Conservatives. However, it is what it is.

    Harper should let parliament function as it’s supposed to. The people of Canada will eventually have the last say.

  65. For any nit pickers out there, my percentages add up to 102%, but like I said, I don’t remember the exact numbers.

  66. Andrew Coyne: very interesting post.

    No doubt, this is an opportunity, although I am skeptical that Manley wishes to jump back into the fray.

    It makes me think that Iggy is also thinking the same things. He has several options, to join with Rae and become a cheerleader, to sit back and not become involved (the option he has chosen), or to jump forward as the anti-coalition leadership candidate. It is an intriguing choice, since it involves either choosing between unity or choosing to stand out as an alternative.

    Not only that, Dion’s actions may result in a leadership race that begins sooner than expected.

  67. Andrew, you have once again “knocked it out of the park” with your insightful commentary!!

    As someone who has leaned both left and right depending on the issues and personalities in play, I would get behind any Manley’s bid to rescue the Liberals and the country from this crisis of confidence in a heartbeat. Being someone who is cut from the centre-left of the political cloth, Manley would have my vote in the next election for sure.

    I think it will take an ‘outsider’ such as Mr. Manley to restore shattered trust both within the House and across that nation. One thing is clear – after Mr. Dion’s disastrous performance these past few days and his inexcusably botched appeal to Canadians last night, he and his ill-conceived coalition are indeed toast.

    Who knows, maybe Harper take a walk in the snow, step down someday soon, and allow the Conservatives will steal Manley away from the Iggy-only Liberals.

    “Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon.
    Going to the candidate’s debate.
    Laugh about it, shout about it
    When you’ve got to choose
    Every way you look at this you lose”

    “What’s that you say, Mr. Dion sir,
    Your support has left and gone away,
    Hey hey hey.”

  68. Perhaps a valid point Mr, Harper and others fail to understand, The BLOC is a political party that exists in Canada under our constitution. Both it’s members and those who voted for them have had family members that fought and died for Democracy in WW I , WW II and are now serving in Afghanistan… The BLOC has chosen to use the political root to voice their concerns albeit with the strong words of separation…. hello, we have and continue to get threats from Western Separatists … but heck they have not organized yet or have they? Why has the MSM not mentioned these truthful facts to Canadians?

    Too many cooks spoil the soup… perhaps during these time when things change by the minute it is best to have less voices, there will be time for all others to speak for the Progressive Canadian Coalition. Interesting or what?

  69. I have contacted many MP’s that I admire, havingf watched their behaviour in the past. I am a conservative but I cannot believe that there are not many honourable people sitting in parliament who are just as sickened as I am, I have asked them to stand up and be counted. Some are now doing just that.
    I also believe any politician involved in this, will wear it for whatever remains of their careers.That includes Rae Iggy and Layton …big time.

  70. Yes – where have you gone, John Manley? What this country really needs rightnow is somebody out publicly questioning the legitimacy of the Governor General and the Crown. That would make the situation all the more calm. Great idea.

  71. In reaching for the rose the Liberals and NDP have grasped the thorn of the Bloc. The fact they are feeling pain and seeing blood was entirely predictable. Children do this when they don’t know any better.

    They hoped to create a left wing government, not centre left since they wouldnt have to talk to the cons. Hey thats politics, but they broke a taboo, a formal deal with the Bloc and effectively created Sovereignty Association. Nicely done Mr Layton, Mr Dion and Mr Rae (cheerleader on the side). Unintended by predictable.

  72. Harper has bought himself two months. Let’s see if he rebuilds parliament or only digs himself deeper.

    Any bets?

  73. “a credible centre-right leader. The candidate that most readily fits that description: John Manley.”

    If that’s true then we’re in a lot more trouble than you think.

    Whenever I’ve heard a soundbite from this guy I noted a remarkable lack of coherence. He sounds like a hockey player stumbling through an interview trying to remember the correct cliches. Surprising considering the guy is a lawyer, but then again people who are competent, sought-after and successful in non-political fields never enter politics anyways.

    As for “right of centre” … well I suppose, if the centre is somewhere between Marx and Engels. But that’s Canada for you.

  74. No bet. THe opposition has lost the chance to compare their budget proposals to a straw man. The delay ensures they will be measured against a concrete Conservative budget proposal if they decide to pull the plug.

  75. If the Conservatives produce a much better budget, well, good. The coalition will have accomplished something positive. Far, far less exciting and creative than what they offered, but better than Harper had offered before. Our coalition had the optimism and energy of the Obama victory. Too bad that, in Canada, we like to take things so achingly slowly.

  76. Just a question? Where is Peter McKay in all this? He used to have a high profile in the Conservative party but he’s been nowhere to be seen during all this kerfuffle.

  77. “Our coalition had the optimism and energy of the Obama victory. Too bad that, in Canada, we like to take things so achingly slowly.”

    Obama didn’t become president in a week.

  78. The more I think about this issue the more see, not Harper, but Dion as the root of the crisis. This is the same conclusion I believe that Layton and Duceppe have reached. Here are my reasons. Dion’s comments during the latter part of the election campaign, his bitter concession speech in which he denied any responsibility for the loss to the Conservatives, his almost apopleptic behaviour during Question Period and his angry response this afternoon suggest he is now unbalanced. He lost because the Tories lied. So, Layton and Duceppe strike and Dion jumps becasue his focus is pay back for Harper. Hw else to explain a coalition with the Bloc, something that Trudeau would never countenance, and something Dion’s reputation, until now, was based on? Complaints by Liberal Party members is that Dion doesn’t listen. I think the same is true now. Think about it. It does not seem to me that a coalition is in the Liberal Party’s longer term interest but it is in Dion’s immediate interest. How would the Liberals react to Tory charges that the Liberals are in bed with socialists and sovereignists? Those charges will be made whether there is a coalition or not. Where would right wing Liberals go – stay home or vote Tory (particularly if Harper goes)? The Liberals’ interest is to get a new leader, develop new policies and wait out the Government for a while and not to have this diluted by a short term, badly thought-through coalition.

  79. I’m a Conservative supporter (on policy grounds), but this is crisis is 100% of Harper’s making.

  80. So, how do you like Parliamentary Democracy now?

    Everyone needs a way out of this, the government can fall in January if the opposition still wants it to. If the PM has tried to incorporate opposition ideas to obtain support and it still falls then an election is a reasonable thing to grant, if he doesnt try hard enough in the GG’s opinion then she can withold….although not terribly wise to that but within her pwers.

    I was reading on other posts that she was meeting the Oppsoition Leaders this afternoon? Did this happen because that makes no sense to me. She doesnt do that, or isnt supposed to do that in my understanding. One counsellor at a time. Prevents the crown from being drawn into politics. I would be very surpised if she did….but wouldnt be surprised if the CBC reported it incorrectly.

    But please correct me if I have this one wrong.

  81. >Too bad that, in Canada, we like to take things so achingly slowly.

    Why? If the coalition can’t hold itself together until the budget vote in January, then it does not deserve to govern. If it can, the members will have time to draft a solid budget proposal and we won’t have to put up with “council of 4”, woops, “3”, woops, “2” (when they get around to formally asking Romanow), “advisors” amateur hour policy statements.

  82. Given the Cons have just destroyed themselves in QC & made the Liberals far & away the number federalist party in the province, I hardly think this has done any damage to our base here in QC. Quite the opposite. And following the Coyne Two Step doctrine, this means that whenever there’s another election, Ontarians will find only the NDP & Liberals as viable national unity parties, and of the two, most will choose the Liberals. That’s assuming this Harper-created post-Meech moment doesn’t end up in a successful referendum sooner than most suspect or realise.

  83. >I’m a Conservative supporter (on policy grounds), but this is crisis is 100% of Harper’s making.

    I blame Layton. Layton cut the deal with the Bloc; Layton talked Dion onside.

    Would Harper be blameless if all he had done is present an update with insufficient fiscal stimulus to suit the coalition, and the coalition pulled the trigger? If yes, then Harper is not to blame, period. You’ll have to decide for yourself from available evidence how eager Jack (and Stephane) were.

  84. There is still much mystery surrounding the extra provisions in the FU, it was never a budget.

    Why those items

    1) The elimination of the subsidy
    2) The Pay Equity challenge
    3) The rigth to strike
    4) The limit on Civil Service Pay raises.

    All are hot button red meat issues for cons…no doubt….but the Libs could have lived with 3 and 4, the Dippers could likely have lived with 1) maybe….but all four were like specific pokes in the eye to rile them all up.

    It was intentional, so was it to force them together because the cons knew there was something brewing, the mole the mole! I have my doubts because I dont think they intended the coalition to coalesce, such as it was, so soon. Was it to push to see how far they had got? Was it to force them to reveal the Bloc’s support?

    One way or another it was intentional, I dont think the Cons expected the coalition to stay together and push it this far. It is odd because the coalition built its strategy entirely around the idea that the GG HAD to hand over the keys. The cons didnt count on the coalition being so invested and not having a back down point.

    The cons correctly saw that an election would have been suicidal for Libs in particular. The NDP would maybe have grabbed the mantle from the Libs, the Bloc wouldnt care. Dion’s unfathomable lemming like rush to the cliff along with his equally unfathomable link to the Bloc was the miscalculation. Also along with it being clear that there is nobody in control of the Liberal party right now.

    The cons now know that nukes are effectively unguarded in Liberalland. This has implications for the budget negotiations, you cannot count on Dion to deliver. The cons will either cut a deal with Layton (possible since Jack has proven he would sell the family heoirlooms to move to the next rung) or the cons have to negotiate the factions within the Liberal party……right now that is Iggy’s caucus.

    This is not easy since the Lberal party has now effectively gone rogue, nobody knows who is in control. This is not a good thing. Only Dion being gone over Christmas will make any difference.

    Cons miscalculated, Oppsoition over-escalated….finding a new equillibrium will not be easy.

    All Gone Wrong Michael Chong (cockney slang)……signals are important, said a wise man once, as are back channels. Like Kruschev’s politboro in October 62, knowing which letter to respond to will tell you who is in charge. Harper said he wants to talk…..Dion has said massive changes (unspecific) I wonder if Iggy or Rae will start to mention specifics, maybe even Jack?

    Watch the skies.

  85. Liberal Leader and possibly Prime Minister Beaker?? Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!

  86. This all did start with the attempt by the Harper Government to cut funding to the other political parties.

    I know, officially, the Conservatives proposed to cut funding to all political parties

    However, before they did this, they appointed 16 new ministers to cabinet.

    Each of those 16 newly minted cabinet ministers has an office and staff. These new staffers are government employees paid for with taxpayer dollars. Each of these new staffers work for and report to the cabinet minister and therefore, by extension, to the Conservative Party of Canada. This represents several million dollars of research and preparation work that would otherwise have to be paid for by the Conservative Party.

    Having done this, the Conservatives then proposed to cut off funding to the other political parties.

    So, these aren’t two different and seemingly contradictory policies. They are components of a common policy that is intended to ensure that only the governing party has access to government funding and that only the governing party has the resources necessary to ensure its voice is heard.

  87. “Having done this, the Conservatives then proposed to cut off funding to the other political parties.”

    So what you’re saying is, politics and the extreme concentration of power and money in the State tend to attract rats, no matter what the supposed ideology of their respective parties? And that rats will stop at virtually nothing to secure and maintain a grip on the power and money, even when their supposed partisan branding says that they stand for limited, open and accountable government?

    Hmmm, something in that I think.

  88. How about Paul Martin?

  89. >This all did start with the attempt by the Harper Government to cut funding to the other political parties.

    This all started with Layton and Duceppe, before the Harper government said anything about funding. Let’s not lose sight of the chain of events. And the coalition has insisted its reason to defeat the government is lack of fiscal stimulus, not party funding cuts.

  90. Stephen
    Your thesis that H knew about the plot [ nothing illegal here ] is plausible until you consider the fact then his explanation for being privy to the NDP/ Bloc conference call is not logical. Unless you want to argue that he only found out by chance – posible but unlikely. If he knew then someones going to jail – our water gate in otherwords. Either way H is either a duplicitous bumbler or a crook [ i can here it now, ‘ i am not a crook’ ] I agree with you that
    dion must go . It would be even better if he took Harper with him.

  91. Layton and Deceppe could muse about a coalition all they want, but it wouldn’t have gone anywhere had Harper not put the fear of death into the Liberals.

  92. Brad
    If i follow your logic Layton and Duceppe provoked Harper. That is beyond absurd. You are for getting the 3 years of bullying. I don’t think the coalition has been very smart but H has to carry the can here.

  93. Why do people insist on taking quotes completely out of context?

    The reality is as it has always been. In order to be heard, you must spend money. If you have no money to spend, you cannot make your voice heard. Mclean’s and all the other media outlets don’t take you seriously unless you have the resources to make yourself heard.

    When you cut off a party’s access to financial resources, you cut off its voice. The only reason the Green Party got anywhere close to 10% of the popular vote is because it had access to the financial resources that it needs to make itself heard.

    Stephen Harper knows this. He knows that, if he can use the financial resources that the levers of power give him, while denying these resources to others, he can silence his opposition.

    There are four parties lined up against him. Yes, they are fighting for their own survival; but, in doing so, they are also fighting for the survival of multi-party democracy in Canada.

    If you really want, there’s lots of stuff in here that you can take out of context. Just remember, When you rip something out of context, you are deliberately choosing not to be fully honest about what was said.

  94. >If i follow your logic Layton and Duceppe provoked Harper.

    No, Layton and Duceppe layed a trap for Dion. In their own words, including and especially Dion’s, the trigger for the coalition was lack of sufficient fiscal stimulus. That means with respect to the gambit to replace the government, Harper can be blamed only for failing to spend enough money – hardly a shameful provocation. The other issues – political funding cut, strike ban, pay equity – are all tangential. Any triggering event/excuse would do; then, the bait was set – PM’s chair, most of cabinet, resurrection of reputation, etc. A man might be expected to seize such an opportunity without thinking it through very far, especially folllowing a humiliating election defeat and a firm push toward the door.

    It’s quite likely we will come to learn more about the chain and that in some respects my estimate is wrong, but these things stand out:
    – Layton and Duceppe prepare the ground
    – wait for an assured upcoming opportunity to vote non-confidence
    – make the offer to Dion

    Miscalculation: that the opportunity to vote non-confidence could not or would not be blocked.

  95. Just to refresh, here’s part of what Layton said on the celebrated conference call:

    “…it turned out that we were the glue, and spotted and prepared for the opportunity, and had taken the steps that were required so that when that opportunity arose, which was when Mr. Harper made his disastrous strategic error, by not providing stimulus to the economy, and instead playing political games, we were able to move…”

    You’re not ready “when the opportunity arises” unless you’ve prepared in advance.


    “…let’s just say we have strategies, this whole thing would not have happened if the moves hadn’t have been made with the Bloc to lock them in early, because you couldn’t put three people together in one, in three hours.”

    If the NDP want to lay down the timeline at which they started to take steps, and when exactly “lock them in early” took place, I’m sure many people would be fascinated to know.

    Here’s the motion:

    “In light of the government’s failure to recognize the seriousness of Canada’s economic situation and its failure in particular to present any credible plan to stimulate the Canadian economy and to help workers and businesses in hard-pressed sectors such as manufacturing, the automotive industry and forestry, this House has lost confidence in this government and is of the opinion that a viable alternative government can be formed within the present House of Commons.”

  96. “The coalition represents about 66% of the vote in the last election; the Conservatives about 36% (if I remember correctly). Put aside the propaganda about separatist this and coup d’etat that. The coalition represents a larger portion of the Canadian electorate than the Conservatives.”

    An incoherent argument. On the one side you are arguing that your side has democratic legitimacy. On the other side, you are arguing that Harper is “playing the Canadian people” by using the democratic legitimacy argument.

    Secondly, it is you that does not understand our political system. The governor general makes decisions based on a lot of things – input legitimacy and output legitimacy matters. The governor general is not some automaton bureaucrat as she would be in the US. Sometimes conventions like (constitutional changes don’t require referenda) become obsolete because almost nobody supports them. Because our parliamentary rules are unwritten and draw from a wide body of evidence and considerations there is a lot more flexibility than you suggest.

    Moreover, Harper is arguing that the coalition is illegitimate. Maybe that is a flawed legal argument, but it is a powerful outcome argument. The governor general may ignore that argument, but if people have genuine concerns about the coalition and, by cracky they do, they surely have a right to call on their MP’s to get the heck out of the coalition. That is what they are doing, and that is what we are seeing take place.

  97. It is quite amazing how perogi Harper is with his double standards. No coalitions, agreements and so on with separatists when in fact it is now revealed that he has done so twice – with the Bloc and with the nationalists outside of Quebec.

    He wanted to remove the rights of civil servants to strike, but now in effect has done that very thing himself by proroguing parliament to keep his own job. In fact proroguing is exactly that “striking”.

    It seems now now that right wing ideology wants to replace our current democratic system, and there is a danger that this is about to happen.

    Where are the past parliamentarians? They are not showing up to protect our parliamentary system. Have they ceded to this right wing ideology too?

    Where are the Joe Clarks, Jean Chretiens, Paul Matins, Brian Mulroneys, former statesmen and women? What are there views on what has transpired as of late? We want to hear form you.

    An interesting article in the New York Times about the current political situation.
    Rational and fair assessment of what really has happened as opposed to divisive, useless rhetoric by some of our own journalists.

  98. Since every proposal out there is being brick walled, try this one out:

    A Coalition, yes, but one we could live with.


    I would accept Ignatieff, Harper or Manley as Prime Minister. Then perhaps we could get on with the job of getting on with the job.

  99. I would accept anything now other than right wing ideologues. That would mean the removal of the PM, Baird, Kenny, Van Loan, Moore, Findlay, and Flaherty from their cabinet posts. Inject a mixture of New Democrats and Liberals to cabinet posts. Let the parliament chose a member as PM. I could live with that.

  100. After reading Manley’s article this morning and knowing him to be a Blue-ish Liberal, I have to say he might even get my vote if he were Liberal leader and the party followed him away from the raging nutters on display at Liblogs.ca. Were he to tone down the Liberal rhetoric on gun control, ie leave THAT sleeping dog as well as the Quebec one, I could very easily abandon Harper. Yes, I think parties should fundraise their own frickin’ money but Harper went too far trying to cripple the Libs under the guise of fiscal prudence. If cripple them he must (and without a “blue” leader I say go for it) do it in the open.

  101. It would be interesting to know just how accurate the recent poll (Ipsos) really is. I have been reading most newspapers from across Canada, and following most blogs. It just does not appear to me that the disparity between the Conservatives and Liberals are right. In fact all of the stats put before us do not seem credible.

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