Ghost writing - Macleans.ca
 

Ghost writing


 

Rob Silver puts words in Michael Ignatieff’s mouth.

If the Liberal Party does not have the most seats after the next election, under absolutely no circumstance will we form a coalition or enter into any accord with other political parties to make me prime minister. If I was interested in taking power through such a deal, I would have become Prime Minister in January. I didn’t and I won’t enter into any such deals at any time in the future.


 

Ghost writing

  1. Good, but could use a "double-stamped-it, no-erasies" or two.

    • Love it!

    • Hey, why didn't any of Martin's speeches say that?

      • Cute.

  2. The far left elements in the Liberal party would never allow Ignatieff to say anything close to that.

  3. Rob Silver is right. Iggy should give a completely unequivocal statement like that, where he swears on his life that he won't touch the c-word if the Liberal Party does not have the most seats after the next election.

    • It doesn't even have to be true! It just has to be, what's the word du jour, plausible…

    • Now now Michael, clearly no party has a monopoly on breaking promises….

  4. "The speech Ignatieff needs to give – and soon."

    I don't know; I think "consultants" should start thinking about getting real careers…and soon.

  5. Will Stephen Harper similiarly vow not to lose a confidence vote? Because, if he's returned with a minority again, he'll have the folowing choices and only the following choices:

    a) genuinely cooperate with the opposition (NB: this is not the same as empty rhetoric about cooperation);
    b) go to another election in under a year after losing a confidence vote;
    c) hand over power to a Coalition without an election.

    If the Liberals are ruling out c), the Tories should rule out b). Otherwise they're no more than the "Election Party."

  6. Will Stephen Harper similiarly vow not to dissolve Parliament even if he loses a confidence vote? Because, if he's returned with a minority again, he'll have the folowing choices and only the following choices:

    a) genuinely cooperate with the opposition (NB: this is not the same as empty rhetoric about cooperation);
    b) go to an election in under a year after losing a confidence vote;
    c) hand over power to a Coalition without an election.

    If the Liberals are ruling out c), the Tories should rule out b). Otherwise they're no more than the "Election Party."

  7. How is it possible for the Tories to rule out 'b'? The only thing they can really promise is that they won't go to an election without losing a confidence vote.

    • They already promised that and it didn't work out.

      They can rule out b) by promising to hand over power to another party if they lose a confidence vote. Which is really what we're looking at if the Liberals promise not to form a coalition: all it means is that they will form a government alone, with the NDP and Bloc looking on, as Fire! says below.

  8. Silver's scenario does not preclude a Liberal minority government with less seats than a minority Conservatives. If Harper wins another minority, two months later brings in a totally ridiculous fiscal update (hey, it could happen) that the opposition parties all vote against, what's the preferred scenario?

    a) Another election, two months after the last?
    b) The GG turning to the opposition leader to give it a crack.

    In scenario b, there need not be a formal coalition as was proposed last time. They would just have to, like any minority, earn support on a case-by-case basis, and see how long they can last. This scenario is not precluded by Silver's speech.

    The irony, of course, is that a formal coalition would be more stable. The LPC/NDP coalition would have offered 2-3 years of stability, an an end to the constant election drumbeat.

    If we're really going to talk about this, we should put aside the rhetoric and discuss how minorities can really be made to work the way people want.

    • "If we're really going to talk about this, we should put aside the rhetoric and discuss how minorities can really be made to work the way people want."

      Yeah, it's a shame that Stephen Harper has dumbed down the conversation so much in Canada and tried to make the concept of a coalition equivalent to a coup d'etat. A coalition is a valuable check/balance on a minority gov't. It's embarrassing that so many Canadians (even MPs!) continue to stoke this boogeyman rather than have a reasonable conversation about Parliamentary Democracy.

      If Harper is going to refuse to cooperate with the only party supporting them (Liberals) and dismiss the rest of Canadian representatives as 'separatists and socialists', then the minority Conservative party will be 'The Election Party' . It's time to change the tone in Parliament.

      • Facts are the Liberal leader said he wouldnt enter into a coalition and then changed his mind…..fine so far…what kills me is that the blindness to the inclusion of the Bloc. But the reality was the BLOC was required for day to day operation.

        Now if Mr Dion, as an honorable former minister of the crown, was allowed to change his mind so quickly after an election what the heck do you think was going to bind Mr Duceppe? And he is a serperatist, he is not a mere "nationalist" what is wrong with using this word? So the coalition was going to be led by a leader decisively repudiated a few months earlier, supported by a party that has never made it to opposition status and dependent for long term day to day survival on a party that had no interest outside of PQ and more importantly has a goal of helping Quebec leave confederation.

        Gee when you put it that way it sounds like a bad thing.

        The reaction in the rest of Canada was completely and utterly predictable, that Dion and Layton couldnt see it was proof that they shouldnt have been allowed near power.

        • "the reality was the BLOC was required for day to day operation. "

          Certainly not. The Conservatives could have voted with the Government, just like the Liberals have voted with this Government. I love how the premise is that the Conservatives, God bless 'em, would never help create a stable Parliament.

        • Vince says: "So the coalition was going to be led by a leader decisively repudiated a few months earlier, supported by a party that has never made it to opposition status and dependent for long term day to day survival on a party that had no interest outside of PQ and more importantly has a goal of helping Quebec leave confederation."

          This is a pretty accurate description of why the public reaction, particularly in the ROC, in Dec 2008 was so visceral.

          Ignatieff presumably believes that since he hasn't been decisively repudiated yet, that the Canadian public may react differently to a coaltion (formal or informal) after the next election, especially if the Liberals win enough sears so that they do not have to rely on the Bloc veto as they did last time. One thing that he cannot do is to deny the possibility of at least an informal coalition since there are no realistic scenarios that would result in the Liberals winning a majority of seats. Not even my Liberal friends believe that.

          I see this as a roll of the dice on Ignatieff's part. We won't know until after the election if he's right or wrong.

  9. They can rule out b) by promising to hand over power to another party if they lose a confidence vote.

    Wouldn't this just motivate the Liberals to defeat the government on a confidence vote at the earliest opportunity?

    • Yep. And since that or another election in 3 months are the only possible options if Minority Steve neither cooperates with the opposition nor allows them to form a coalition, I don't see why campaigning on the coalition theme — and campaigning so ruthlessly in general — can work. The math just isn't there for a majority, given the Bloc. Yet the CPC apparently feels that if it just ups the stakes a few more knotches they can attain the holy 155. It ain't gonna happen and I wish for all our sakes that the parties would start playing past this. But the ball is in the PM's court: Flaherty's spiel today will let us know which tack they'll take.

      • The minority gridlock won't continue indefinitely, even if the Bloc stays strong. If Canadians keep getting dragged back to the polls, they will eventually elect a Conservative or Liberal majority out of sheer frustration.

        • No, they won't CR. Unless you think Alberta is suddenly going to turn Liberal? Those ridings that hate Harper are just as unlikely to suddenly love him. Give your head a shake. What might happen is that the NDP and Greens dry up and blow away as everyone splits support between the Conservatives and the Liberals, in an attempt to get 'their side' a majority. Or worse, the Conservatives and the Liberals bleed equally to the NDP and the Greens (figuring a new party in power might play the game better). Not everyone will do this, of course, leaving us–could this happen?–with the Bloc winning the whole election!

          • If only the Bloc would run nation-wide. I would certainly vote for them.

            If Quebec wants to move out into its own apartment, let's encourage it. What we'll be left with is a country where a government can actually be formed.

            Of course, when Quebec begins calling us requesting money for rent, we'll be forced to reply, "Pardon, je ne parle pas francais."

        • I wish that were true! But it would have to be an overwhelming victory for either side to make up for the Bloc problem, and how can any party win an overwhelming victory when no government is allowed to govern?

          • I still think that the Conservatives have a (slim) chance at a majority, particularly if they manage to hang on to their existing Quebec seats.

            I don't think the Liberals have any mathematical chance at a majority, thanks to the Bloc, but if they win a minority government it could be a chance for a few years of stability if they govern with the support of the NDP.

        • Agreed it wont continue…..the lIberals and the NDP will be exhausted after this one. The Bloc wont be nor will the Tories.

          Layton is gone, unless he is in cabinet, and either Iggy or Harper will be gone, whoever isnt PM.

          Minority or not, there wont be an election for at least 2 years after this….assuming this one even happens.

          There is no cost for Iggy to back down, with the elctorate, there might be within his own party….but they cant get him till after an election, although they can make his life hell.

          One more set of polls will tell us if this is a suicide misison on Iggy's part or if he has a fighting chance of actually being PM.

  10. Iggy's problem is a poliical one. Silvers identifies, correctly I beleive, the problem the Liberal Party has with the electorate if there is an assumption that the coalition will happen.

    Coalitions arent undemocratic, but there was a question of legitimacy about the last proposed one. Now that the discussion is on the table, it is fair to ask and exepct a reasonable answer from all parties.

    People want to know what they are voting for….whats so strange about that? Silvers just thinks Iggy has to say no because another answer polarizes the electorate toward a Tory majority….dont discount what would change in PQ under that scenario….either the Liberals get squuezed further by voters protecting themselves with the BQ OR the Liberals get squeezed by voters wanting to be part of a majority….

    Iggy is btter to rule out coalition, and set his terms of victory as being the traditional ones, the most seats on election night. He will seem reasonable, and less scarey.

    • "his terms of victory as being the traditional ones, the most seats on election night"

      The traditional terms of victory are the most seats + a vote of confidence + a passed budget.

      • jack….I know you deperately want a different government, thats fine, but really most parties recognize that whoever gets the most seats gets a reasonable pass at forming the government.

        If the NDP and Liberals have a working majority then they will form the government, and Iggy should make the statement that says that. But needing the Bloc for day to day survival is just not on.

        Iggy's only other option is to say that he can foresee there would be issues that he would workwith the conservatives on, Harper's current position day by day issue by issue cooperation.

        Technically you are correct, but just like the coalition thing in the fall this is not about what is technically possible it is about legitimacy. And although you may not like thme or agree with them 35 to 37% of the pop and a a significant number of seats are going to be conservative. So demonizing them isnt going to serve the purposes you profess.

        The other advantage of Iggy making that statement is makes his win clean, and makes and NDP Liberal functionaing minority clean and leitimate in the eyes of the elctorate, as it was on the table before hand.

        Its about legitimacy.

        • I do not "desperately want a different government," I desperately want our Parliamentary system to work. That matters far more to me than who happens to be in power.

          "really most parties recognize that whoever gets the most seats gets a reasonable pass at forming the government. "

          Of course, and I didn't deny that. I just think that the notion that election-night victory = Victory is absurd.

          "But needing the Bloc for day to day survival is just not on."

          We'll see about that, won't we? The Government had better pray that the Bloc doesn't support them this Fall or they'll find themselves a fine ethical pickle.

          "Its about legitimacy."

          So it is, Vince. And in our system legitimacy flows from the people via their MP's — it's not a mystical concept subject to partisan rhetoric, it's not about what makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, it's a clean-cut constitutional question.

        • I do not "desperately want a different government," I desperately want our Parliamentary system to work. That matters far more to me than who happens to be in power. Mind not making assumptions about my motives?

          "really most parties recognize that whoever gets the most seats gets a reasonable pass at forming the government. "

          Of course, and I didn't deny that. I just think that the notion that election-night victory = Victory is absurd.

          "But needing the Bloc for day to day survival is just not on."

          We'll see about that, won't we? The Government had better pray that the Bloc doesn't support them this Fall or they'll find themselves a fine ethical pickle.

          "Its about legitimacy."

          So it is, Vince. And in our system legitimacy flows from the people via their MP's — it's not a mystical concept subject to partisan rhetoric, it's not about what makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, it's a clean-cut constitutional question and the answer to all this hopey-dreamy stuff is that we live in a representative democracy. I'm not saying the voters wouldn't have rejected a Coalition ferociously, but in the meantime it was perfectly legitimate.

      • Jack,

        Your definition of a victory is precisely what Prime Minister Harper was able to show to the GG when he asked her for prorogation. That's why she granted it.

        Moreoever the Tories had received only a few seats short of a majority while the Liberals had only about half the number of seats that the Tories had and were utterly dependent on the NDP and Bloc for support. Any other solution would have been seen as illegitimate by most Canadians.

        • "Your definition of a victory (most seats, a vote of confidence a passed budget) is precisely what Prime Minister Harper was able to show to the GG when he asked her for adjournment. That's why she granted it."

          If you're referring to the prorogation, that's debatable, which is why it took the GG some thought to decide what to do. The Government had not passed a budget, but the SFT had passed; now they were introducing a money motion (the FU) and the Opposition was going to vote them out. They'd achieved a half-victory; in my opinion, it certainly wasn't enough for a dissolution in the event of a vote of non-confidence, but apparently it was enough to prorogue.

          "the Liberals had only about half the number of seats that the Tories had and were utterly dependent on the NDP and Bloc for support."

          But, you see, TwoYen, being utterly dependent on the opposition is what minority Parliaments are all about. The Conservatives, now, are utterly dependent on support from the Opposition parties. Constitutionally, it simply does not matter who supports you or why. Is the Conservative government illegitimate because the support of the Liberals has been insincere — because in their heart of hearts the Liberals don't really like the Conservatives? Obviously not.

          "Any other solution would have been seen as illegitimate by most Canadians."

          Yeah, well, the opinion of most Canadians is totally irrelevant to what our constitution prescribes. I'm not a bleeding heart "Voice of the People" type, TwoYen, and I didn't think you were. The law is the law, even if unwritten. The Coalition was perfectly legitimate. That Canadians might have punted it for 120 yards given the opportunity is a political and, if you will, moral question, but it is no cause to start questioning what the constitution says.

          • Jack,

            I actually do not disagree with you that, under our constitution, the three parties to the coalition had the "technical" right to form a coalition government provided that they could receive the support of enough Members of Parliament in a parliamentary vote of confidence.

            So, from a technical perspective, the proposed coalition was indeed constitutionally legitimate. I think we are on the same wave length on that point.

            Where I differ, perhaps, is that I believe that the general public did not see this as "legitimate" in a moral or political sense.

            Stephane Dion and the Liberal Party received only half of the number of seats that the Tories had received in the election only a few weeks earlier. Moreover, the government had received a vote of confidence in Parliament only days before. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with parties making compromises to work together after the election of a minority government, the nature of the coalition last December did not pass the smell test for many Canadians. That's what I meant by the coalition being "seen as illegitmate".

          • Stephane Dion and the Liberal Party received only half of the number of seats that the Tories had received in the election only a few weeks earlier. Moreover, the government had received a vote of confidence in Parliament only days before.

            You're right. So what changed between the vote of confidence and the coalition? To put it another way, let us say that right after the vote of confidence Harper introduced a bill to demolish the Constitution, install himself as dictator, and make all opposition parties illegal. Would you still feel that the opposition members were grabbing power "illegitimately" by banding together to oppose him? Is there any point between my example and the reality of his attacking women, political parties, and the civil service that you would draw the line?

          • Also, there's a question as to whether the House's endorsement of the SFT was not invalidated by the FU. A Speech from the Throne is supposed to spell out the government's priorities; but Harper's government spelt out its priorities, then changed them radically with the FU not two weeks later, and then essentially told the GG, "Look, the Opposition has endorsed our priorities." To my mind that means the post-FU Government could no longer claim the confidence vote of the SFT, which was an endorsement of the pre-FU Government, as confidence in the post-FU Government.

          • Also, there's a question as to whether the House's endorsement of the SFT was not invalidated by the FU. A Speech from the Throne is supposed to spell out the government's priorities; but Harper's government spelt out its priorities, then changed them radically with the FU not two weeks later, and then essentially told the GG, "Look, the Opposition has endorsed our priorities." To my mind that means the post-FU Government could no longer claim that the confidence vote of the SFT, which was an endorsement of the pre-FU Government, served to prove confidence in the post-FU Government.

          • Sorry, you're quite right. I think the cognitive dissonance came not so much from seat-counts but from the general feeling that Dion had been rejected by the country; and suddenly we were about to have the rejectee in 24 Sussex.

            As you say, that was viscerally hard to digest; few people, after all, had voted Liberal because they rejoiced at the prospect of PM Dion, and many had voted Conservative because they couldn't handle him. For the average non-junkie, it's an easy step from that to "Coalitions are perverse"; and even with a change of leader I suppose that perversity would have affected PM Ignatieff — especially if the Coalition Government had been forced by the Bloc to pass something unpleasant. On the other hand, there's the amnesia factor, and once people had got used to a PM Ignatieff on TV they might have quite forgotten how he got there.

            I'm struck by how distanced we avid follows of politics are from the mindset of ordinary voters, on this issue more than most. Pro-coalition and anti-coalition, we attribute subtleties to their reasoning that don't exist; and overlook the ones that do; and trumpet whatever of theirs we find that fits with our own, altogether different ways of reasoning.

      • Jack,

        Your definition of a victory (most seats + a vote of confidence + a passed budget) is precisely what Prime Minister Harper was able to show to the GG when he asked her for prorogation. That's why she granted it.

        Moreoever the Tories had received only a few seats short of a majority while the Liberals had only about half the number of seats that the Tories had and were utterly dependent on the NDP and Bloc for support. Any other solution would have been seen as illegitimate by most Canadians.

      • Jack,

        Your definition of a victory (most seats, a vote of confidence a passed budget) is precisely what Prime Minister Harper was able to show to the GG when he asked her for prorogation. That's why she granted it.

        Moreoever the Tories had received only a few seats short of a majority while the Liberals had only about half the number of seats that the Tories had and were utterly dependent on the NDP and Bloc for support. Any other solution would have been seen as illegitimate by most Canadians.

      • Jack,

        Your definition of a victory (most seats, a vote of confidence a passed budget) is precisely what Prime Minister Harper was able to show to the GG when he asked her for adjournment. That's why she granted it.

        Moreoever the Tories had received only a few seats short of a majority while the Liberals had only about half the number of seats that the Tories had and were utterly dependent on the NDP and Bloc for support. Any other solution would have been seen as illegitimate by most Canadians.

  11. You mean like what we have been living through since Harper first became PM?

    • Quite the opposite. Dion wasn't exactly "motivated to defeat the government on a confidence vote at the earliest opportunity". Neither was Iggy, until now.

  12. There will be no deficit…
    There will be fixed election dates…
    There will be no Income Trust Tax…
    There will be no appointed Senators …
    There will be no recession…

    Life is nuanced in shades of gray and not black and white…
    Iggy would be dumb to be so unequivocal.
    If Harper "wins" another minority and then continues his my-way-or-the-highway act, all options should be on the table.
    Having formal support of the Bloc w/o including them in the gov't is preferable to the Mulrooney habit of putting separatists in the cabinet where they can really Bouchard things up.

  13. No Dion merely mused about it constantly

    • Yes, and the constant musing without action didn't exactly help Dion's political career. That's probably why we're in this situation today. Iggy doesn't want to become the next Dion.

      • Dion lost ofr other reasons….nobody actually cared that he backed off election threats. They never appeared in any of the ads calling him "not aleader"

        It doesnt matter with Iggy either. Canadainas have a sad expectation that politicians will go back on positions that really dont matter, likely because most of them werent paying attention in the first place, they were….you know…living their lives, raising children, paying mortgages, getting jobs, going to school yada yada

        Silvers is right, assuming Iggy is intent on election. However, Iggy would be better to view this as a seige and not a frontal assault.

  14. Looks like Iggy took Robert Silver's advice!

    Robert Silver's "ghost writing": If I was interested in taking power through such a deal, I would have become Prime Minister in January.

    Globe & Mail, hours later: Michael Ignatieff says the proof that he's not scheming to head a coalition government is that he rejected the prime minister's chair in January.

  15. Or someone leaked the plan to Silver?