ITQ will be liveblogging the Liberal leader’s press conference this morning. She has absolutely no idea what he’s going to say, although she’s hoping for a Yeats quote; apparently, he’ll fill us in on whether or not his party is leaning towards supporting the budget, bringing down the government or introducing some sort of amendment that would provide the PM with the perfect opportunity to demonstrate his newfound appreciation for nonpartisan cooperative collaboration.
Check back at 11am to find out!
(An aside: You guys, this is so exciting! Don’t you love those days on the Hill when our journalistic unified theory of the immediate short term everything can be summed up thusly: “Wait, what? Did we miss something? What’s going on?” And how infuriating must it be for the Prime Minister that the day after his government delivered the most extraordinary-est budget in the history of modern Canadian political ever, all eyes are not on him or his government, but on Michael Ignatieff? Unless this is all part of that craftily designed time-release communications strategy, of course. [Insert hoary chess/checkers cliche here.])
Ahh, that’s more like it – You’ve no idea how much I missed my trusty berry during yesterday’s lockup. Liveblogging on a laptop just isn’t the same – you can’t get up and wander around, for one thing. Not that I’m doing much wandering at the moment, of course: I am stationed in my usual just-past-the-pillar seat in the National Press Theatre, listening to the room fill up with my slightly snow-encrusted colleagues, wondering – as is our lot in life – what on earth will happen next, and what about after *that*?
Team Ignatieff is already here – well, the Team, not sure about the Ignatieff – but they’re not letting anything slip as far as what their boss is going to say. What ITQ *can* report, however, is that he won’t be saying it from behind a desk; the middle leaf of the trademark NPT table has just been hauled off the stage and replaced with a lectern that I’m fairly sure is actually taller than me.
Well, he’s now officially late, although that *may* be due to the last minute addition of the lectern, which forces the assembled camera crews to shuffle around until they’re satisfied that the angle will make any looming by the star of the show sufficiently ominous.
An Ignationaut I don’t recognize is surveying the scene from the back, and looks almost too smugly and self-satisfied, although to be fair, ITQ has a very low threshhold for public displays of self satisfaction.
You know, if this was a Dion press conference starting this late, we’d be writing his political obituary.
Update! Reader Scott very helpfully passes along the news that the press conference has been officially delayed until 11:15, according to CBC. Nobody actually in the room, however, seems to have had a clue before ITQ shared the news with the rest of the class.
Well, at least we’re not shivering outside Rideau Hall, or sweltering in a closet at the Government Conference Centre, right?
I do wonder if this delay is due to some sort of last minute political crisis, or like – lighting issues.
Alright, so we’ve got the statement – which is short if not particularly sweet, and the upshot of which is that the Liberals will introduce an amendment to ensure that the government is “held accountable for its promises” – and adds, “We are putting this government on probation.” Yes, your guess is as good as mine as far as what that means, but here’s the nugget of ooh, that may actually be clever: regular reports to Parliament – in March, June and December – any of which will be a confidence motion.
So – does that mean no amendments on the substance of the issues with which he says they have with the current budget – even though he praises some measures as the result of concessions “forced on Stephen Harper” by the force of a united opposition.
And does this mean more work for the Parliamentary Budget Officer?
Looking around the room, I see lots of furrowed brows and hands under chins. Ignatieff, on the other hand, looks positively gleeful – he is waggling the eyebrows in delight.
Question from Reuters – Any word from the government on whether they’ll support these amendments? He doesn’t have to get permission from the PM, Ignatieff points out somewhat cooly.
Susan Bonner has a question “on behalf of Newfoundlanders” – will Ignatieff allow Newfoundland Liberal MPs – many of whom were elected in part due to Danny Williams’ anti-Conservative campaigning – to vote against the budget, should they choose to do so? Ignatieff dodges the specific question, but notes that he has already spoken with Charest, and will do the same with Danny Williams later today. As for voting against the budget – no answer.
Someone asks the question ITQ can’t shake: If there are weaknesses in the budget, why not propose amendments that would, you know, fix it? Ignatieff seems to suggest that it wouldn’t be worth going to an election right now over the budget – by voting against it, that is – and once again stresses the importance of accountability. Oh, and yesterday’s tax cuts ran “right up against his red line” as far as what would or wouldn’t be acceptable.
Colleague Coyne is the picture of inscrutability. Meanwhile, Julie Van Dusen wonders again if he gave the PM an early warning that he might do this if the budget didn’t meet his expectations – no, he didn’t – and then wonders how much these amendments will cost, which confuses everyone, including Ignatieff, since the amendments he seems to be proposing aren’t about money. He says as much, and once again stresses the importance of accountability.
So – if this amendment *doesn’t* pass, and he doesn’t get the quarterly confidence votes, will the Liberals support the budget?
In response to the obligatory, “Is the coalition dead?” question, Ignatieff points out that this. budget is, in fact, the result of the best efforts of the coalition – although he switches back and forth between calling it the coalition, and simply the opposition – and refuses to kill off the possibility once and for all that it may return “to serve the national interest.” Like Godzilla!
According to Ignatieff, there has been constant communication between his party and the NDP, although he hasn’t talked to Layton personally yet today. So does that mean the NDP will support the amendment? He needs all three, remember. Oh, and as for the coalition, the idea thereof, he suggests, has changed Canadian politics for the good. Make no mistake, though, he is “fiercely” proud of the Liberal Party.
One more question – from Juliet O’Neil – about the mechanics of these confidence votes: How can the opposition just declare these reports to be matters of confidence? Ignatieff assures her that these reports will be “robust” – they won’t be satisfied by press releases; they’ll want evidence! Data! Numbers!
And that’s it for the Count. Now, off to find out whether the NDP will support this, which I genuinely do not know, but when I do, you’ll be the first.
We join this Jack Layton scrum already in process, and somewhat crankily at that, as we are still stuck in our coat and boots, as well as, apparently, third person plural.
Jack, meanwhile, is suffering from no such discomfort, and having wrapped up the French portion of his statement, is grumbling in English about how very inadequate this budget was, in so many ways.
Okay, so the upshot is: No, he won’t support this amendment, and it is a ‘sad day’ what with Ignatieff providing a ‘fig leaf’ to the government. “Is the coalition dead? Is the coalition dead?” yells a reporter to my right, and is soon joined by another. “We have a new coalition on Parliament Hill”, says Jack, between Ignatieff and Harper. “So is your coalition dead?” shrieks an increasingly desperate reporter. Just *say the words*, Jack!
Sorry about that – my berry took a sudden tumble onto the marble floor in mid-update. Honestly, though, you’ve not missed much other than a lot more grumbling from Layton, who accuses Ignatieff of “propping up” the government, and doesn’t this remind anyone else of the NDP of, say, seven months ago?
Okay, that’s it from the foyer – Jack has stalked off, leaving a scattering of NDP aides to drive the point home, in case we missed the nuance: Jack? Mad! Liberals? Bad! I’ll sign off for now, but will be back later, I’m sure, although not in this post.
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