An irredeemably evil thought from my extra-diabolical piece in the next issue…
Yet the reality is the coalition is dead. Much as Ignatieff might like to hold it in reserve — “coalition if necessary, but not necessarily coalition” — as a deterrent to future Conservative adventurism, the threat lacks credibility. The public’s reaction has seen to that. When, therefore, the Tories bring down their budget on January 27, there can be only two possible outcomes. Either the budget will pass, or the House will be dissolved, and an election called. And as the Liberals cannot possibly face an election at this time — Ignatieff has reportedly been brutally frank about this in caucus — far the greater likelihood is that the budget will pass.
Unless… Unless the Tories can find some way to make it impossible for the Liberals to accept it. They have to be careful: they don’t want to lose the public. But suppose they were to spend the next several weeks advertising their willingness to work with the opposition — especially the Liberals. And suppose they were to take on board many of the opposition demands: a massive bailout for Big Auto. Billions more in infrastructure spending, complete with “shovels in the ground” photo-ops. A feel-good meeting with the premiers in mid-January, ending in some sort of agreement to “work together” on the economy. All wrapped up in a budget whose every second word is “stimulus.” And now suppose, having given the Liberals just about everything they could ask for, they also include the party financing proposal.
Bundle up, Grits. It’s going to be a long winter.