A coalition? Don’t we have one already?

PAUL WELLS: While Merkel’s coalition looks off-balance, Harper seems to be doing fine with Ignatieff as junior coalition partner


Sean Kilpatrick/CP

Canada remains a model of stability and progress. Two years ago I wrote that our government was a “Grand Coalition” modelled on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s in Germany. The two main centrist parties, Conservative and Liberal, ensured that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s legislative agenda would pass. Fringe parties didn’t like it but could only grumble. Harper’s junior coalition partners, the Liberals, were steadfast in their support for the major elements of the Harper agenda.

Today, little has changed, at least in Canada. In Germany, an election led Merkel to replace her Grand Coalition with an off-balance one, centre-right and further-right, and its inherent instability is making her life complicated. In Canada, an election had no such effect. Harper and his junior coalition partner, Michael Ignatieff, are too smart to be thrown off balance. So, just before he welcomed the world’s leaders and southern Ontario’s riot police to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Harper permitted himself to revel in the Conservative-Liberal coalition’s latest accomplishments. “I think in the end we actually got some pretty good results,” Harper told reporters from Reuters. “Particularly in the closing days. As you know, we got the budget implementation bill through.”

One bill? That’s all he has to show for a year’s strife? But this was no ordinary bill. “The budget bill was wide-ranging legislation that had a lot, not just of important budgetary measures, but important measures for the Canadian economy. So I think the passage of the budget bill, in and of itself, made the parliamentary sessions productive.”

He listed other measures the opposition had caved on, like refugee-system reform and a measure making it harder for convicts to get pardons. (The opposition never fails to collapse in the face of each new Conservative tough-on-crime measure. Harper should recognize their contribution by hanging photos of Ignatieff and Jack Layton in every new federal prison.)

But the budget was the main ingredient. “I know we’ve been criticized for how much was in that budget bill,” Harper said. “But putting a lot in that budget bill effectively ensured—passing it ensured a productive parliamentary session.” This was a slip-up, I believe, for it marked the first time Harper admitted he used the implementation bill to smuggle a bunch of other stuff into law.

And what an impressive list of achievements it was. Bill C-9 enabled all the usual taxing and spending, but it also removed new energy projects from the purview of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and gave the job for assessing them to the National Energy Board. To make that move even while the world’s attention was transfixed by the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico was quite a feat. Harper couldn’t have done it without the Liberal members of his coalition.

Throw in provisions for the sale of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. and an end to the Canada Post monopoly on overseas mail. The Canada Post plan was introduced as a separate, stand-alone bill in 2008 and 2009, only to die on the Order Paper when Harper called the 2008 election and prorogued Parliament a year later.

When the 900-page Budget Implementation Act, with amendments to five dozen laws, passed the Commons early in June because not enough Liberals showed up to vote against it, Liberal Sen. Pierrette Ringuette swore it wouldn’t be the same story in the Senate. “The Liberal senators are not rubber-stampers of the leadership,” Ringuette said. “We have a mandate to do sober second review of legislation for Canadians, and we will fulfill our responsibility.”

Then the Budget Implementation Act passed the Senate later in June because not enough Liberals showed up to vote against it.

So even though Ottawa is rife with rumours this summer, yet again, that Harper will contrive a reason to trigger an election in the autumn, there’s no reason to doubt something else that he told Reuters, which is that he doesn’t want one. If an election goes really well for him, he’ll be Prime Minister when it’s over. But he’s Prime Minister already. And he’s really the Prime Minister. Another evergreen Ottawa myth asserts that Harper is somehow unfulfilled without a parliamentary majority. But he has had a majority for four years, thanks to a succession of not-ready-for-prime-time Liberals. Every budget he has ever whipped up has passed with Liberal votes.

And in concert with the Liberals, Stephen Harper is changing this country. He was able to gut environmental oversight of energy projects in the middle of a historic energy-sector environmental disaster. He is stuffing the nation’s prisons like Christmas geese. He spent $1 billion turning the country’s biggest city into a demonstration of the necessity (if not, ahem, the effectiveness) of tough policing against thugs, rabble, bicyclists and other miscreants. Inside the riot zone, with the world watching, he stared down Barack Obama in a debate over continued fiscal stimulus vs. relative budgetary restraint. He gets to name Supreme Court justices. He gets to name a new governor general. He’s in charge of nominations to every board and agency.

So when Liberals debate the wisdom of coalition government, it would be well for them to remember they are already in one. And when they debate the worth of Michael Ignatieff to Liberals, they will perhaps be heartened to learn that Conservatives are tremendously fond of him.


A coalition? Don’t we have one already?

  1. What my boy Stevie should do is recognize the Igsters contribution and make him deputy PM! – maybe this way he could actually look like a potential leader and get some opportunity not to like the perennial loser and whiner and grumbler of all things conservative.

    • When the distraction is this obvious, it lessens the effect of the shiny object. Try harder.

    • I generally agree with your suggestion. Look, deep down inside, Iggy is a conservative — or a "classical liberal" — but he's certainly not a "Liberal". He's in the wrong party, which means his heart isn't really in it.

      Iggy is a rightie, not a leftie.

  2. Ah, but Inkless, how do you explain Iggy's "on-probation" and "your time's up" ultimatums to Harper? Are you suggesting that they have a certain Dwight Schrute quality to them?

    Would a coalition partner ever make those threats, you know, without expecting or getting something back in return? The Liberals are still the opposition party. That's got to count for something.

  3. A key plank of the Conservative-Liberal coalition has been the war in Afghanistan – not just the duration and conduct of Canada's military engagement but also their recent decision to withold documents about Afghan detainees from Parliament. I don't think it's fair to overlook the LIberals' contribution on this crucial issue.

    • That's true to a point. It's a bit like blaming the cops who didn't find the videos before Karla Homolka made her plea bargain – both acted badly, but one was much much worse.

      • I think this whole detainee document thing has made them look equally bad. The opposition parties aren't even giving an explanation as to why Canadians aren't getting an explanation.

        • The Liberal and Conservative parties would prefer not to share legal and Cabinet documents with the other parties or the public. In a dispute concerning whether Cabinet decisions under both governments conformed to international law, what further explanation do you need?

        • REally? Have you been following it?

  4. This is a great column! Now I wonder when it is going to dawn on Ignatieff and a few other Liberals that they are being way too cheap a date for Harper. They are supporting virtually the entire Harper agenda and not even getting a share of the glory and the patronage. Ignatieff must look with envy at his opposite number in the UK Nick Clegg. Clegg not only props up David Cameron, but he also gets to be Deputy PM and get a higher salary and several LibDem MPs also get fancy titles and a share of patronage to throw around…I wonder whether after the next election Ignatieff will demand to be Deputy PM and Foreign Minister under Harper?

    • I'm sure he will, if his party comes in third, like his UK counterpart's…

      • Exactly. As long as the Liberals finish in second place their political incentive to look as though they're Harper primary opponent will outweigh their personal and policy incentives to demand concessions.

    • The envy factor must indeed be great, particularly as Clegg is a distant relative of our Iggy.

  5. Which is why none of our 'leaders' are going anywhere in the polls, and why fewer and fewer Canadians bother to vote anymore.

  6. Wells has been writing this same column for years now.

    • Any time you Libs want to heed the message in it…

      • And any new proposals for this country get ripped apart by the same media.

        The status quo is very useful you know. It allows for no end of 'gotcha' stories without any effort.

    • That'll happen when the news stays the same. At least he's had a variety of Liberal leaders to write it about.

    • Yeah, the "Harper likes being Prime Minister" thing I've never quite understood. Of course he does; he's Prime Minister. It's not exactly stunning insight, but Wells apparently thinks he's onto something.

  7. "He really is the Prime Minister".

    Wells has made this point a few times, and I like it because what he is essentially telling the Liberals is while they laugh and joke and huff and puff, Harper remains in 24 Sussex – four and a half years later. For me, the quote highlights that the Liberals have never woken up to that chilly Tuesday morning, January 24th to see a Conservative Minority government splash across the headlines of national newspapers.

    I really believe that if the Liberal Party were to wake up and comprehend the reality of Jan 24, 2006 (meaning that they lost and lost for a reason) they would right their course and subsequently develop a process for how to regain government. That is a party I would actually like to see, and could gain my vote. There's a great line from Batman Begins that Liberals should learn. "Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up." Plus, Batman's pretty cool.

    • You're right — there's still a huge element of denial in the standard LPC mindset these days. Many of them see this status quo as just some bad dream, from which they will wake up and be inhabiting their rightful place 24 Sussex, same as it ever was.

      • But how could they ever build their party without being in power?

    • The only way that the LPC to regain power is to do a massive reversal of everything they have created in the last 50 years – their policies have created a country where their governments thinks they know better about everything than ordinary Canadians – from how our health should be delivered, from how business should be run, from how Canadians should think (through the infamous HRC) etc. etc. etc Unfortunately far too many Canadians have now ceded any responsibility for anything in their lives – somehow the government should save you from every poor decision that you have made in your life. Invest with some guy off the street without any due diligence on your part and the government should reimburse you! Live your life so that you eat poor unhealthy food and no exercise, but demand that the government provide you with any and all health care services! Don't bother to even think about your retirement income, but insist that the government somehow solve the problem. On and on and on.

  8. They should have taken a stand on Afghanistan withdrawal, or more recently providing abortion funding for Africa. Harper could have been put on the wrong side on both of those, giving the Libs their best shot possible.

    • The coalition took a clear stand on both those issues – delaying the withdrawal of our troops and excluding abortion funding from Canada's G8 commitment. If the Liberals want to break the coalition and side with the New Democratic Party, they are free to do so.

    • "providing abortion funding for Africa."

      If I'm not mistaken, the Liberals defeated their own motion for including abortion in the government's maternal health initiative.

      Sometimes, controversial issues don't divide neatly between party lines, but manage to divide the parties themselves.

  9. Again…….here we go, a summer of anti-Iggy columns.

    Just what do the journalists expect under the circumstances anyway.

    Oh, well – the pro-Harper folks will love it and stop claiming Macleans' Liberal bias for a while.

    • Meanwhile important things take place, and we're the last to hear about it. For example…how many knew about this?

      There is some good news. Canada has made progress over sovereignty issues by resolving the dispute over Hans Island and the Lincoln Sea. But Canadians are still outraged that the government gave the U. S sovereignty over 60 per cent of the contested area in the Beaufort. As it turns out, this area is four times as productive in producing oil and gas as the area that Canada was left with.

      Canada, however, does get one concession from the United States for sacrificing so much: The U.S. gives up its claim that the Northwest Passage is an international waterway.

      The bad news is that China and Russia have indicated that they will challenge this.

      • Read closer, Emily. That stuff is from a "futuristic essay" — a bit of fiction about the possibility of what might happen in the Arctic. The article uses such a huge piece from that essay it's hard to tell, but if you go down a paragraph or two from the part you quote, you'll see they end the quote there, and follow it with "Far-fetched as this all might seem today, the authors remind critics that no one anticipated the voyages of the Manhattan or the Polar Sea. Nor did they imagine that a Russian cargo plane would land in Churchill in 1998 and take off with a newly built helicopter to territory controlled by black-market lords. Or that the Russians would resume Cold War trans-polar flights in 2008."

        • None of it is 'far-fetched' or imaginary.

          • None of it is imaginary? Seriously? You really want to argue that? Here:

            "After Canada's withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2011 and a decade-long economic slump that followed the recession in 2008-10, security requirements in the Arctic have been shortchanged."

            We've actually gone through a decade long economic clump following the recession of 2010? Wow. I was unaware of that.

            "The long-awaited icebreaker and patrol boats for the Canadian Coast Guard and the military have been finally delivered after many delays. "

            A new icebreaker as well? Wow.. that slipped in quietly. Amazing that the government didn't promote that.

            "Worse still is the deep port at Nanisivik, which has burned down. "

            Holy hannah! Not only did they complete the deep port 5 years early, it burned down since they completed it.. I guess that's what happens when you short the contstruction time by nearly 80%..

            You still want to argue that none of it is imaginary? Come on, Emily. You can do better than that. Stick to the truth, it's bad enough as it is.

          • Focus here please.

            Are you aware of what is going on in the Arctic? I doubt it. None of us have been kept informed.

            Which is what leads to future scenarios like this.

          • Focus yourself on telling the truth, and it becomes harder for people to divert the focus.

            When you skew off into hyperbole, as you did in your original post about the arctic, you make it easier for people to dismiss everything you say as falsehood. You essentially become hollinm, just shrieking for a different philosophical side, and, like hollinm, you make it harder for us who hold some of the same ideas to demonstrate that they're reasonable.

            Or in otherwords, stop giving them ammunition to declare us liars. You do that, we've got no issue.

            So.. sorry, your example *is* imaginary, and I suppose that's fine, but if you're more interested in spreading fiction to bolster your points, kindly take it to Feschuk's column. At least there you don't tar those of us who are interested in truth.

          • Emily's friends will be very annoyed at your insinsuation that imaginary events and people are somehow untruthful. Mr. Bun-Buns is particularly irate.

          • LOL!

          • Amazing how Cons get excited over imaginary problems isn't it?

            You can't post anything lengthy here…in fact I'm always getting the notice that my post is too long…..so I cut it to fit…and then Cons claim I haven't read the whole article!

            The url should have clued them in there was more to it…in fact it clearly says 'In this futuristic essay, a strategic analyst is writing about a security crisis unfolding along the Northwest Passage in 2040.'

            However, some posters are unaware of what's going on up there, and that such alarming scenarios are being written….it's easier to blame me.

          • "Meanwhile important things take place, and we're the last to hear about it. For example…how many knew about this?" The obvious answer, by the very next poster, is nobody because it hasn't happened.

            By all means, talk about the Arctic – the Conservatives will be happy, maybe thrilled, to quote the Government's Arctic strategy back to you. And their wild imaginings about the Arctic will easily compete with the Edmonton Journal's.

          • Lying again?

            Please explain how the url: "uneasy passage northwest passage central canadian identity future remains uncertain/3133386/story.html#ixzz0sXEtaEa2" should have somehow clued people in that you were just citing the fictional part of the article which is less than a quarter of it?

            And yes, it does clearly say that it's a futuristic essay that they're quoting from. Something that you "conveniently" left out from your initial posting, and which is buried 2/3rds down in the article. Stop the BS, Emily. You're just another hollinm, except on the other side.

          • Sorry, if you're too stupid to have understood the article in the first place, don't try fobbing it off on me.

            Old Con trick I've long been familiar with.

          • Actually, the one pulling old con tricks here is you, I'm afraid. Quoting out of context, leaving out vital pieces of information in order to give an impression quite different from the point of a piece. That's all the crap that I give them hell for usually.. now here you are justifying them using those type of tactics.

          • Thwim…..the truth does not matter to Emily. She is an old Liberal partisan hack who will say anything just like her party to lie, cheat and steal their way back to power. Thanks for holding her accountable.

        • Thwim…..are you suggesting that Emily tried to mislead those of us who post and read the comments on this blog. Say it ain't so!

    • OntarioTown……Yep every negative column, opinion piece on Ignatieff is music to my ears. You can crap over Harper all the time so fair is fair.

      If Ignatieff could simply think in terms of "the Canadians" he could pull himself up in the polls. However, he has no ability to do this because he does not understand the country and its people after having been away for 34 years.

      It would have been interesting being a fly on the wall when he met Clegg. Ask Ignatieff how the deficit was covered he would have had to say I have no idea I wasn't living in Canada at the time. Hence the problem with the Russian Count.

      • LOL, doesn't take much to get you going does it…LOL

        Hey, did it ever occur to anyone that perhaps, just maybe, Ignatieff found out Clegg was a cousin and he wanted to talk about that? Na, coalition conspiracies all over the place.

        He probably understands Canada better than you do. Again, jumping to conclusions is the only exercise some people get. You don't know if he paid attention to what was going on, which he probably did.

        Don't know if Wells is playing a game here with a smirk on his face or not, but it sure got the righties going.

        Heaven forbid anyone should criticize Harper.

        Too funny

  10. Why do the Liberals support the Conservative agenda?

    The same reason they've been doing it since the January 23, 2006 election. They fear an election.

    Why do they fear an election? Because they're always behind in the polls.

    Why are they always behind in the polls? Because the Conservatives are by and large providing good government. Until the Conservatives slip up, the Liberals have basically no choice but to bide their time.

    Wells failed to predict that the Conservatives would force an election in October 2008. It's not out of the realm of possiblity that they'll force an election in the fall, although the circumstances this go around are less clear than in October 2008. Wells may be right this time.

    • After 4 years the Cons aren't ahead in the polls either.

      • And yes Harper remains Prime Minister…. maybe a second read of the above column could job your memory?

        • Look at the typos in that retort. My bad. I can't even joust properly on comment boards! What do I know hah.

        • Well no one is aware of that, including Harper. The Liberals always remain the main topic….for Cons and everyone else.

          • Emily……"The Liberals always remain the main topic…..for Cons and everyone else,"

            That's because nobody can believe how the mighty have fallen. Three dud leaders in a row, no policies that anybody cares about and an appointed leader who keeps putting both feet in his mouth at the same time and who the Liberal caucus wish would just go away.

          • It's true. The mighty do fall. Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly.

            Why, just imagine if you could hold your morning policy breifing in the backseat of a taxi.
            Coming up next,year the "Liberal Reform" party is born, gains seats and in 10 years merges to become the Canadian Liberal Alliance Party.

            CLAP, for short.

            I know, it's far-fetched, but this IS Canada, after all.

    • "Why are they always behind in the polls? Because the Conservatives are by and large providing good government."

      BWA-HA! HA! HA! HA!

  11. If an election goes really well for him, he'll be Prime Minister when it's over. But he's Prime Minister already.

    That's true enough. But the opposition still has to be in greater fear of an election in the near future, for they don't yet have the same $-capital to blow on an election that would lead pretty close to the result we have already. NEITHER leading party likely wants to bother with an election right now, each having the same reason: not much would change except the expense and energy wasted on a campaign.

    • I'll tell you who is scared of the next election: Harper.

      I have to say that very few pundits have picked up on this. The only one that I've seen writing on this very point is Jeff Simpson. There is a reason why this guy stands head/shoulders above the others.

      See for yourself:

      • I don't think the Conservatives will necessarily win the next election. Under the right circumstances, I could see the Liberals even winning a plurality of seats. But having said that, while Simpson makes some valid points in his article, I don't go looking to Jeffrey Simpson for objective, unbiased reporting on Harper and his party. It's quite clear, from reading Simpson's columns over the last couple of years, that he deeply loathes Harper, and it affects Simpson's judgment. You'd practially have to take a pair of rusty pliers and start pulling Simpson's teeth out sans anaesthetic to get him to say anything positive about Harper or his government.

        If Harper won another minority next time out, I don't think there'd be any huge groundswell of support within the CPC to remove him as leader. I think most people in the CPC realize that under the current circumstances (especially witht he BQ having a lock on a huge number of Quebec seats), being in power with a minority ain't all that bad.

        • Orson Bean……don't forget Simpson's son or daughter works for the Liberal party in its headquarters. So much for independent analysis.

          The fact is even if the next election results in a Conservative minority Harper will remain as leader and PM until such time as he decides to resign and move on.

          Trouble with the Liberals they simply can't find a way to out politic him. So they have to invent ways like a coalition or merger with the NDP.

        • Don't exaggerate, Orson. The pliers won't have to be rusty.

      • There is a reason why this guy [Jeffrey Simpson] stands head/shoulders above the others.

        That's pretty funny.

      • I've never sound you so desperate and histrionic before PJ. Get a grip.

        It's common knowledge that Jeffrey Simpson's best days are behind him. He used to have decent government inside sources years ago which gave his columns a certain relevance despite their sometimes fawning quality but those sources dried up a few administrations ago.

        He'll be put out to pasture soon I assume.

        • "I've never sound you so desperate and histrionic before PJ. Get a grip. "

          Coming from you, that is a serious compliment.

          "He'll be put out to pasture soon I assume."


  12. I don't believe its correct to say that, "Every budget he has ever whipped up has passed with Liberal votes."

    The Bloc helped pass the first two budgets as the Conservatives attacked the "fiscal imbalance." Although according to circa 2005 Stephen Harper something that passes only because of help from the Bloc "lacks in legitimacy" so I'm not sure that those two budget actually count.

    I believe the Liberals for their part have only helped pass the three more recent budgets that have resulted in deficits.

    • And don't forget that Harper had to rewrite the last budget to suit the Liberals for fear of losing power.

  13. Wells is basically correct on this: we have a de facto Grand Coaltion.

    That said, and as I pointed out in my earlier comment above, the Liberals would turn on a dime as soon as they think they could eke out a minority win in the polls.

    Would the Liberals govern much differently than how the Conservatives are governing presently? No. But they have to convince those on the left – the soft NDP voters – that they would.

    The present situation really is a Catch-22 for the Liberals. They need the Conservatives to give them a break – and so far, Harper is giving them any.

    If anything, and Wells agrees with this, Harper, by staying in power as long as he has, is getting stronger and less prone to make critical mistakes.

    You can say what you want about Stephen Harper, but one thing is clear – he's no Joe Clark. He's a competent and formidable politician. He's a political strategist of the first order: the political equivalent of a chess grandmaster.

    • More like a poor poker player in the dark.

      • Jarrid's right about Clark, though. Tactically and strategically, Joe Clark was possibly the stupidest federal party leader in the history of Canadian politics.

        • No, you've just swallowed talking points.

          • I worked for the old PC party when Clark was around. He's obtuse, stubborn and given over to massive denial in the face of reality. Exhibit A: "We will govern as though we have a majority". Six months later, he was booted out of power.

            He did a decent and commendable job as a senior cabinet minister in the subsequent Mulroney governments. It's like the Peter Principle — that's as far as he should have ascended. He did not have the political smarts to be an effective and successful party leader — you need a certain Macchiavellian streak to be able to thrive in that role, and all successful federal party leaders have had that streak in them.

  14. Mr. Wells is being a very naughty little boy. I like it.

    • It seems strange to say this because of the two of us I am the pro-gay rights one here, but this might not be the best place to discuss your proclivities. :)

      • You're right. It is strange. Next.

  15. We do not have a grand coalition – we have something better: a flexible parliament. Harper has gotten budgets passed with the Bloc as well as the Liberals more recently; refugee reform took place with the NDP and Bloc; most parties support the criminal justice reforms; EI reform and the accountability act took place with NDP support and so on. In a coalition those kinds of flexible issue-specific alliances would be unlikely to occur because coalition members would have little incentive to cooperate with those outside of the coalition.

  16. I also wanted to comment on the continuing passage of Harper's crime agenda. This is one issue where the so-called "centre" happens to be on the right. Basically, the Canadian public agrees with social conservatives on how criminals should be dealt with. The left-of-centre parties' yielding on crime bills is clear evidence of this, isn't it?

    • No, have you seen Toronto lately?

      • No, I've seen what the opposition parties let Harper pass on a routine basis.

        • No, you've seen polls that show both parties are in the dog house…so nobody is interested in an election.

          • So, the opposition parties haven't let Harper pass his crime agenda? Am I watching the wrong country, or reading the wrong Paul Wells article? Or are you just trying to change the channel, for some bizarre reason?

          • No, you are confusing a lack of interest….from all 3 parties….for an election… with enthusiastic support.

            But it doesn't exist. In the Opposition, or in the country.

            What Harper has done can be undone.

          • But they've ceded to his crime agenda throughout for four years now, Nola.

          • I'd say Dennis is, unfortunately, right. The general population has absolutely no understanding of the law or the penal system and the CPC is using this to promote their agenda.
            The CPC has said it before: they thrive on the fact that a lot of people look down on both groups of people who can make informed decisions about these law changes: the educated and the people enforcing them. Ignorance is bliss and this situation is a great reminder that information is a powerful tool, but that it goes both way: misinformation is equally powerful.
            My main beef with the way the CPC handles this is that they can simply label anyone who opposes them as being soft crime, and people buy it.

          • I'm sorry, but Canadians are appalled by this, and know that since it's a multi-year deal….to cost a fortune we don't have….that it will all get cancelled.

          • "Canadians are appalled by this"

            Have you got polling data or other evidence to back that up?

          • Like I said….have you seen Toronto lately?

          • Maybe you need to take a course in fundamental logic, but "Torontonians" is not a synonym for "Canadians".

            And in any event, it's not clear whether the "this" to which you refer is the specific behaviour of the police and other authorities during the G8/20 meetings, or the Harper govt's so-called tough on crime agenda.

          • She sounds an awful lot like Nola the troll from the old Bourque Newswatch boards, who constantly agitated on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada. Try not to take her too seriously. Of course what happened in Toronto has nothing to do with Harper's crime agenda, which is precisely why she's bringing it up. Better that than discuss the actual state of Liberals, isn't it.

          • Ah, modern liberalism in a nutshell. People are too "ignorant" to know what's good for them, so they need "educated" leftists to make their decisions for them, whether they like it or not.

          • Really? Well that's interesting since it has nothing to do with your partisan nonsense.

          • Why comment at all if you're not going to address the topic at hand?

            This isn't the old Bourque boards. One-line responses to everyone threatening your agenda is not supposed to happen here, Nola.

          • Gosh…and what has happened in that time, Fred?

            The perfect storm for the Liberal party.

  17. Like I said, the Harper supporters are oh so happy and we have another summer of the same old, same old, same old.


  18. "Every budget he has ever whipped up has passed with Liberal votes."

    Of course they were. None of these budgets were "conservative" ones. Why would Liberals have a problem with them?

    There's one aspect of this so-called ToryLib coalition that Wells didn't talk about and it is the fact that Harper also had to put Liberal water in his wine.

    Is this the same Harper we knew from his days in Opposition, I ask you?

    The Tories aren't still in power because the Libs propped them up.

    The Tories are still in power because they have refrained from putting forth true Reform policies and have embraced the center in a wannabe Liberal fashion.

    • That's because Reform was a non-starter.

      We'll be fully back to the PCs shortly.

      • Nonsense. The PCs are dead and buried. The CPC is very much controlled by the Reformers. They're just keeping a low profile, hoping for a majority so that they can remove their sheep skin.

        • You said so yourself without actually calling them by name.

          I agree that there are many Reformers still in there, but they can't run on their policies, and if they tried to implement them with a majority all hell would break loose. They would have no mandate for that.

          • Jeez, I'm confused — some left-leaning posters on here claim that the Harper government is turning us into a Bush-clone theocracy. Others claim we're just getting Liberal Partty wine in Tory bottles. Which is it?

          • hit the proverbail nail on the head! … both points are ludicrous and basically are only lame excuses to rationalize losing to us Tories.

  19. Iggnatieff recently 'consulted' with deputy PM Clegg … presumably on how to consummate a coalition between the Liberals and Conservatives in Canada … because he can't posit a coalition with the socialists and separatists. The only 'coalition' that will be valid in Canada is between the Liberals and Conservatives … so obvious.

    • Which would mean Canadians would promptly vote for the only 'opposition' left….which IS left.

      Soooo obvious, Observant.

    • Presumably you say. Hmmm….perhaps they just want to chat now that they've found out they are distant cousins.

  20. For myself, the clock did not begin ticking on Ignatieff until after the Liberals were actually in a position to fight an election. The original cause for the Liberals fearing an election post Dion was two-fold. One they were deep in debt and two the Conservatives were rolling in money. Many say that looking at polls before an election is meaningless… most people simply are not paying attention and as a result, public opinion can shift dramatically during an election. However, the same can not be said for financial issues.

    A sidebar to this is that the Conservatives had become quite effective in importing Karl Rove type tatics to use their financial advantage to its fullest. They completely devastated Dion and had some immediate success with the "just visiting" campaign.

    Someone can correct me, but I believe it has been about 1 year that the Liberals have had their financial house in order, although they still lag the Conservative money machine. The "just visiting" campaign has gone stale, and even the "out of touch with regular Canadians" has been passed down to the second rate conservative commentators. Indeed, while the Conservatives were completely effective in defining Stephan Dion for the Canadian public, they have been much less successful with Ignatieff. It isn't that they like Ignatieff, they simply haven't really made any decision. I hope an election comes soon… it is time to roll the dice.

    • had some immediate success with the "just visiting" campaign

      Actually (and correct me if I'm wrong), Ignatieff's polling numbers started to tumble when he decided that Harper's "time is up." It was only after Ignatieff made that comment that the Conservatives rolled out the "Just visiting" ads.

      The Conservatives immediately rolled out anti-Dion ads when Dion was chosen leader. However, with Ignatieff, they waited a few months before issuing attack ads. It was during that time, concluding with Ignatieff's "Your time is up" comment, that Canadians made up their mind about Ignatieff.

      Of course, I could be wrong.

    • I agree with Stewart to the extent that, with a good election campaign (consisting, IMO, of one or more catchy policy planks in a sort of Red Book Redux), the Liberals could win the next election with Iggy at the helm (much more likely a plurality than a majority though). I don't hear ordinary people on the street express visceral dislike for Iggy or anything like that.

      It seems that Donolo and the LPC brain trust are thinking along these lines — they're said on more than one occasion that they're more or less keeping their policy & platform cards close to their vest until the next election campaign.

      But even if they won back power, that wouldn't necessarily do much to remedy some other long-term problems that they have, such as their chronic weakness west of Ontario sans Vancouver. And the new electoral seat re-distribution will onloy make that problem worse.

    • Indeed, while the Conservatives were completely effective in defining Stephan Dion for the Canadian public, they have been much less successful with Ignatieff.

      When the guy keeps redefining himself on just about every issue of substance every couple of weeks, it gets kind of hard to define him at all…

  21. The big surprise of election night 2006 was not the Conservative minority victory but the immediate resignation of Paul Martin. At that moment, Martin had total control of a Liberal party that was in good shape in terms of organization and financing. He had no challengers (Tobin and Manley were long gone, McKenna was Ambassador to USA). There was no reason for him to leave.

    On election night, he should have said: "I accept the verdict of the voters. Adscam should never have happened, and I accept full responsibility for it. I will make the necessary corrections in the Liberal Party of Canada, and then be ready to once again go to the people with my vision of Canada's great future. In the meantime, I will work with other parties in Parliament, in particular the NDP, to ensure that our achievements, such as the Kelowna Accord and our improvements to EI, medicare and Canada Pension Plan are enacted. I will work with the Prime Minister to ensure our troops overseas, whom I sent to Kandahar, have the full and unwavering support they need from the Government of Canada to accomplish their mission. I thank Canadians for having this opportunity to serve you, and I pledge that I will earn your trust so that I may continue serve you and this magnificent country as Prime Minister. Thank you, merci beaucoup, et a la prochaine."

    The Liberal Party is still suffering from being abandoned by Paul Martin. This was Harper's great stroke of unexpected good luck.

  22. As an aging left-center pragmatist, I loathe everything that Harper stands for. But I won't vote for the Liberals, either, as long as Ignatieff is their "leader". He is unprincipled in his constant concessions to the Harper agenda and his waffling makes Paul Martin look rash and impulsive in decision-making. Harper and Ignatieff, together, are the reason a growing number of voters are treating the ballot box like the blue box – a place were waste paper is deposited.

  23. Has Maclean's reported on the CEAA/NEB issue prior to today? I looked through Lexis Nexis and found nothing, but I might have missed something.

  24. Well said Paul. We Conservatives do love our Ignatieff don't we. He is such a klutz.. Now he says the Queen has an magnificient sense of the "absurd". Can this guy saying nothing without looking like a fool.
    The Libs continue to be afraid of their own shadows because they know that an election will see them continue on the opposition benches with Ignatieff heading back to Harvard. Bring on the next saviour of the Liberal party.

    • Who's the fool? Sense of the absurd is a type of humour.

      Hollimn, relax a little. You're over doing it.

      • Not when you're a BRIT, (American, Russian, wanna be Canadian??Yikes!) speaking to YOUR QUEEN. The guy looked like a mannequin today and he has no business PRETENDING any longer that he could run my country.

        • Hey, she invited Ignatieff for a meeting. Ignatieff looked very comfortable. He's met her before and is used to meeting with people of that level.

          He is Canadian – born in Canada and has a Canadian citizenship – so cut out the crappy Tory talking points.

          Harper's the one that looks awkward. Besides, there a protocol when meeting the Queen that they all have to meet which makes meetings with the Queen extremely formal.

          And, it's not only your country.

          Personally, I don't look at the Queen like a possession.

          • OntarioTown……..yes…you jump right to the defense of the Russian Count. We know he is a Canadian by birth. However, it is one thing to be born in a country it is quite another thing when you leave that country for 34 years. While away you criticize your birth country i.e. the French, the flag etc etc, call yourself an American and even a Brit depending on where you are living missing the opportunity to help your birth country solve the difficult issues that have arisen over that 34 years..

            Suddenly you show up and think you should be the Prime Minister of the country after the back room boys of the Liberal party appoint you leader without the input of the grass roots. He isn't fooling anyone. You can defend him but most Canadians know him for what he is…..a carpetbagger and keep polling him even below Jack Layton.

            You can put lipstick on a pig but it is still a pig.

            I guess Ignatieff has a sense of the absurd as well.

          • I don't know how muchmore Canadian you can be on his mother's side.

            Please, name me one Canadian that doesn't have an ancestry outside of Canada other than our natives.

            hollinm….you are far too excited here. Watch your bloodpressure there guy. Go out and enjoy the nice weekend and perhaps you and Observant shoulldn't spend all your time of every article, political blog with your rants – nothing else to do?

            And, who the hell do you think you are deciding who's Canadian or not? You don't get to decide that.

            Oh, and remember Harper put down his own country speaking at an American Institute conference, a right wing think tank who's members include Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.

            Now – calm down

          • OntarioTown……I am quite calm and I am enjoying myself. Any day I see Ignatieff in the paper is a good day. Any day I see you trying desperately to defend him is also a good day.

            Not to quick today eh. I don't care where he was born and who is mother is. The man had virtually nothing to do with his birth country for 34 years and in fact declared himself an American. We saw it with our own eyes. You should open yours. Yet he arrives back and not having participated in the key events of the country for 34 years wants to be PM. Talk about arrogance.

            Harper may have pointed out the realities of Canada but I certainly don't ever recall him calling himself an American or anything else. Your analogy wreeks of desperation.

            Thank you for your concern about my health. However, I will continue to blog and remind you partisan Liberal hacks that the Liberal party is dying on the vine and its leader is a dud.

          • Oh ya, nothing partisan about you. Bye – this going back and forth with nonsense is BORING

  25. "Bicyclists and other miscreants"?! What, did some careless courier nearly run you over before you penned this column?

  26. Dear Paul,

    I hate to point this out, since I normally have a great deal of respect for the quality of your journalism, but your claim that "Every budget he [Harper] has ever whipped up has passed with Liberal votes" is simply inaccurate. Harper's first 2 budgets, Budgets 2006 and 2007, were passed with the support of the Bloc Quebecois; the Liberals voted against both of them.

    Check the parliamentary record: Motion to Adopt Budget 2006 (http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HouseChamberBusiness/ChamberVoteDetail.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=40&Ses=3&Vote=6&GroupBy=party&FltrParl=39&FltrSes=1) and Motion to Adopt Budget 2007 (http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HouseChamberBusiness/ChamberVoteDetail.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=40&Ses=3&Vote=139&GroupBy=party&FltrParl=39&FltrSes=1).

    • Properly functioning links:

      – Budget 2006: www2.parl.gc.ca/HouseChamberBusiness/ChamberVoteDetail.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=40&Ses=3&Vote=6&GroupBy=party&FltrParl=39&FltrSes=1

      – Budget 2007: www2.parl.gc.ca/HouseChamberBusiness/ChamberVoteDetail.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=40&Ses=3&Vote=139&GroupBy=party&FltrParl=39&FltrSes=1

      • The Liberals were incredibly principled when they figured out that either the Bloc or the NDP would support the government on a particular vote.

        Paul's analysis is basically correct – on a vote by vote basis the Liberals have folded like a dirty shirt.

        We all remember June of last year when Iggy called Harper to the OK Corral and then when Harper showed up, Iggy went scampering for cover like a scared rabbit.

  27. For those who aren't aware the Liberal party itself is a coalition of conservatives and socialists. Some call it a big tent while others call it a big dunce hat. Ignatieff is part of the conservative/blue liberal segment of the Liberal party while Bob former NDP Rae heads up the socialist/red Liberals. The fact that they are weak in the polls, however is probably their main reason for supporting the Conservatives. They do not want another election right now knowing that they will lose. They prefer to wait until they are stronger in the polls. So now we can remove the dunce hat and just call it a big tent!

  28. Yeah, but if you mess with Iggy, he will mess with you until he is done. I think he is done.

  29. And then of course there are all those Liberal supporters who come on sites like this and fuss, fume, flail and curse the conservatives while at the same time failing to comprehend that the conservatives could have been toast at any time if only the Liberal MPs, who support them at every turn, would vote them down in the house. Hey Liberals here is an idea. If you hate the current government so much get on the horn to your Liberal MPs ant tell them they are out of office if they don't vote out the conservatives at the earliest possible opportunity. But of of course you won't, and they won't. Why, because you lack the dedication to see something like that through. You would rather just bitch on this site. They won't because they know you won't support them in an election financially. And there in lies the difference between conservative voters like me and Liberal voters like you. I am willing to organize, give of my money and go door to door to keep Liberals out of government. So either put your money where your mouths are or for God's sake STHU!

  30. Both Ignatieff and Harper have the same problem: according to the polls, an election would result in another Conservative minority – which means that an election would be a waste of time and money. Any party leader who forces an election will lose ground with the voters.

    Given that Canadian political parties have essentially turned into regional fiefdoms, I don't see how this is going to change in the short term.

    • Except Paul's obvious point is that the Conservatives keep governing and advancing their agenda – and the Libeals continue to bleed.

      So somebody seems to have a bit of a bigger problem contrary to what you say.

    • Your analysis is correct. However, let's say there's an election within a year from now (not unreasonable, since minorities only last 2 or 3 years anyway), and it leads to the status quo. Excluding a coalition/merger on the left, that means Harper's PM for another 3 or 4 years. This would send a sense of panic and hopelessness within the Liberals, worse than the one we're currently seeing.

  31. Mr. Wells,

    Are you enjoying the trashed economy and democracy that you are getting from Mr. Harper? Are you enjoying blaming Liberals for what Mr. Harper is doing?

    Cheers, Eugene Parks

    • I think he's enjoying us sniping back and forth – silly aren't we?

    • "trashed economy and democracy"

      This is the classic example of Liberal rhetoric being too over-the-top, and thus losing credibility. Plus, there is the incosistency of the Liberals wimpy actions contradicting their doom-and-gloom rhetoric–i.e., if Harper is so bad, why are you guys keeping him in power ?

      So Libs shouldn't be surprised when a guy like Wells mocks them with this kind of article. Their incosistence and incoherence is just too tempting of a target.

      I will concede, however, that this tough talk probably plays well to the Liberal base, keeping their spirits up. So it serves some useful purpose.

  32. "He spent $1 billion turning the country's biggest city into a demonstration of the necessity (if not, ahem, the effectiveness) of tough policing against thugs, rabble, bicyclists and other miscreants."

    Oh yes, the bicyclists must be crushed. I am looking forward to the day when the new mayor of Toronto stages an event where he takes a steamroller and crushes a mountain of bikes into flat scrap metal. And all the major streets in Toronto have their bike lanes painted over and cars restored to their rightful place in the universe. Goody.

  33. The sooner the left can pull their heads out of the sand, stand tough and actually vote on key issues – criminal justice reform, Afghansitan, maternal health – the way their constituents put them into power for, the sooner Harper's bluster can be shown for what it is: a lot of wind.

    He's only running this government like a majority because nobody has the balls to stand up and make him take it on the chin for his stupid neo-con, anti-socialist agenda.