The indictment

by Aaron Wherry

From Michael Ignatieff’s scrum after QP today.

Question: Will you be moving a motion of non-confidence before the summer break and will you also be supporting the Main Estimates, voting for the Main Estimates (off microphone)?

Michael Ignatieff: I don’t want an election. Canadians don’t want an election. But here’s where I am. I’m trying to make Parliament work with a government that every day is displaying more flagrant examples of incompetence. We’ve got a major medical crisis with the isotopes. They’ve got no plan. We’ve got, Toronto Dominion Bank just announced that the deficit over five years will be, wait for this, $168 billion. That’s the biggest number anybody has ever heard of. The public finances of this country are not under control. Right? Third, we’ve got an unemployment crisis with unemployment surging across the country. We’ve got Premier Campbell, we’ve got Brad Wall, we’ve got Premier McGuinty saying let’s do something about a national standard for EI. I’m not fancy about how we do it, but let’s do it. Right? We’ve got stimulus that needs to get out the door and only 6% of the stimulus has actually reached the country in the middle of the construction season.

So look, I want to make Parliament work. Canadians don’t want an election. I don’t want an election, but we have a problem, a serious problem about this government’s confidence, and I’m getting to the answer, next week, next week they have their second report card. Right? And as I said at the beginning of this, we’re holding these guys on probation. We’ll look at the data when we get it and we will make a serene and clear decision probably in the middle of next week. Thank you.

The indictment

  1. Beautiful irony. Iggy forced Harper into a needlessly high stimulus budget, and now he's complaining about the projected deficits.

    Anyway, the good news is that CPC and LPC are virtually tied in the polls and nobody wants an election.

    • Forced? Really? From what I remember you saying not that long ago, there'd be no way that the GG would allow the separatist coalition to take over and we'd go to an election which Harper would no doubt win.

      To me, it looks like Harper had to choose between remaining true to his ideals or his desire for power. He chose his desire for power — to then turn around and blame that on Ignatieff is really quite rich.

      Besides, isn't Harper the master strategist? Surely he would have seen this coming then, and known that if he let things go through he'd either have his majority through election, or the Coalition would be in power and currently taking the heat from the deficit they wanted. Either way, the Conservative party wins in the long run, and he's only in it for the benefit of his party and Canada right? There's nothing else working there after all, in our selfless, blue-sweatered Prime Minister.

      • Good point T Thwim. Harper had a choice – where have i heard that before? – Iggy didn't force him into anything.

    • Iggy didn't force Harper into a $168B deficit, CR.

      • The deficit would be just as high if Iggy was PM.

        • Perhaps given the time frame that Iggy has been leader… but lets look at Harper's record wrt the deficit over the longer term i.e. the term he has been leader of the CPC.
          On the fiscal front, young Harper goes on the offensive about the offensive surpluses racked up year after year by that pesky Liberal finance minister. When the transistion comes, Harper continues to hammer away at such irresponsible fiscal management and actually makes inroads. In fact, Harper forces Martin to reduce the surplus. Taking office, Harper kills the nasty surplus with a carefree give back to Canadians combined with outdoing Martin in spending. Recession looms, Harper's plan, no problem, no deficit no way no how. Recession hits, whee it is a buying opportunity.

          So Harper the economist has systematically argued against paying down the debt using surpluses in good times. He first ignored, then denied, then minimized the impact of this recession.

          So while your statement that the deficit would be just as high if Iggy was made PM 5 months ago may well be true, it would be equally true to say Jack Layton would have had a hard time racking up this much debt if he had won the last election instead of Harper.

          • "So Harper the economist has systematically argued against paying down the debt using surpluses in good times."

            No, he didn't. He argued against bookkeeping that underestimated government revenues to create suprise surpluses. These surprise surpluses could be used to pay down debt or spent with minimal controls on them at the end of the fiscal year (usually a combination of the two with the latter being more of an issue). The government can pay down debt while running a balanced budget by simply putting a line in the budget for debt repayment. To claim being against surpluses is being against debt repayment is wrong.

        • Yesterday, it was reported that government spending for the first quarter of 2009 was LOWER than average. It has also been reported that about 2/3 of the $50B deficit is due to the GST cut, which even Ian Brodie has said was done for political reasons, despite not being the best economic policy.

          The problem seems to be significantly reduced government income which started before the recession started and which Harper appears to have had absolutely no plan to deal with. Can't pin that on Ignatieff.

  2. So my follow up question would be….

    What's your plan for medical isotopes? And how will you prevent the deficit from reaching what TD is forcasting?

    The only thing we do know is what their hopes are for EI.

    So to all journalists out there, we really would like to know…What would Ignatieff do?

    • When will the Conservatives stop acting like they are in opposition. Kat, Harper is the Prime Minister. He has the data, he has the access to the Ministries and internal budgets, we are not in an election and Ignatieff cannot implement any decisions right now. What is Harper's plan to eliminate his deficit? What does the government plan to do right now? His numbers have been totally wrong up to now, but he hasn't adjusted his budget projections.

  3. "I don't want an election. Canadians don't want an election. But here's where I am."
    "We'll look at the data when we get it and we will make a serene and clear decision probably in the middle of next week."

    Not a fan of Iggy but he is the master at 'on the one hand, but on the other …. ' I wonder what data he's referring to, economic data or polling numbers.

    And does anyone else doubt Iggy's ability to make a 'serene and clear decision' based on his performance as leader so far?

  4. Well I wouldn't say what my ideas were until there was an election call.. because Master Strategist Harper is waiting for someone to tell him whta to do!… anything to stay in power.. why else would he start attack ads.. now putz

  5. Kat, it's not up to Ignatieff to run the economy for Harper. And in any case, how can anyone make plans with the numbers out of Flaherty's office being so completely off track? One cannot work with data that is patently wrong.

    Convince smilin' Jim to release data rooted in reality, and then the other parties can work with it.

    Here's an interesting question though.

    If Harper and Flaherty are so confident that we'll be out of the red on schedule, despite what TD Bank said today, how are they going to do it?

    Raise taxes?

    Cut Programs?

    Both?

    • "It's not up to Ignatieff to run the economy for Harper"

      This line is such nonsense. Ignatieff (and all of the other opposition members) are MPs. Presumably, their consitutents didn't just elect them to go to Ottawa and bitch and moan about how evil the Tories are. Their job isn't just to oppose – it's to offer alternatives. The practical reality might be that offering good suggestions is a good way to get those suggestions lifted by the government, with the credit taken as well, but that doesn't mean that the electorate should accept that it's not the responsibility of the opposition to offer alternatives.

      Notably, ignatieff seems to have no problems telling Harper how to run EI. What makes EI different than running the country? Does the "not his job" aspect only to apply to suggestions that might be unpopular?

      • As I said above, Harper noticeably reduced government income without any plan as to how to deal with it, despite sound advice from all the opposition parties and from almost all leading economists. Harper guessed it would buy him enough votes to stay in power and he doesn't seem to have figured out what to do now with the problems he created on top of the recession. Ignatieff cannot save Harper from himself.

      • Please continue to parse, and not take the argument as a whole. It's much easier to win that way, isn't it?

        Allow me to restate:

        It's not Ignatieff's job to run the economy (i.e. come up with the whole plan) rather, it is his job, and the job of other opposition MP's to make suggestions on key issues, criticize government plans, and propose amendments, etc. Iggy is doing an admirable job of this.

        The figures coming out of Flaherty's office would make it impossible for anyone to come up with a comprehensive plan, because his numbers are completely f**ked.

  6. "I'm not fancy"

    Are too!

  7. The Torys are in a death spiral

  8. Actually, I do see the wordplay in that sentence that technically makes it correct. Neatly done.

  9. Poor Iggy the better his party numbers get the more dangerous a situation he is in …. you can tell by reverting back to all talk no action again next thing you know he will try the ' tight leash ' again. Some probation Harper has been on but then again it's a liberal probation which means you get to phone it in.

  10. "Beautiful irony. Iggy forced Harper into a needlessly high stimulus budget, and now he's complaining about the projected deficits.

    Anyway, the good news is that CPC and LPC are virtually tied in the polls and nobody wants an election." – Crit_Reasoning

    The stimulus support, of course, would have been based off of old financial numbers, not this gigantic deficit and deficit projection that we're seeing lately. But you always neglect thinking about it that way. Oh Kermie!

  11. I think it's coming to be more than about the economy – it is also what Harper is trying to do to Canada – destroy/privatize our instutions, etc.____Some people impressed with Harper's strategy ability, I wish he'd start to govern.____

  12. What's with all those annoying "right's" in Iggy's statement ? If he's looking for affirmation from the audience of reporters, he won't get it. And it sure doesn't make him sound very Prime Ministerial.

  13. so does anyone know when the first possible date for a vote of non-confidence? when is the vote on the estimates? mid next week?

  14. Honestly – it's really just a sign of urban language making from the 80s or something. I know a lot of people, myself included who fall into that all too easily.

  15. I smell a prorogation coming on — I hope Michelle's got an opening on her calendar!

  16. Funny how Iggy never mentions he cannot trigger an election on his own.

  17. Other than the TD bank, which has strong Liberal ties, what are the other banks saying? I read that The Bank of Canada which regularly communicates with the government was quite supportive of the $50 billion deficit. Iggy met with the CEO of several financial institutions and must have been grinding his teeth that they figured the government was handling the deficit quite effectively. Interesting how 4 or 5 days later the TD bank makes their dismal announcement and this is what Iggy pounces on to try to prove his case.
    Also interesting is that it was the Liberals who stalled about implementing the stimulus (wanting to go on a two week break at the end of March). Without Harper's firm "nobody takes a break right now", they were completely unconcerned about E.I. benefits until it was spelled out to them. Now the issue is Iggy's soapbox –a year of E.I. benefits for 45 days of work. Yeah, right!!!

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