Remarkable piece by elite Liberal blogger Rob Silver poses several pointed questions to “any and all Liberal MPs” regarding their support for the coalition and the man who negotiated it. Namely: where were you? If you didn’t think the time was right to bring down the government, if you were opposed to the coalition, if you preferred that someone other than Stephane Dion should lead it, why didn’t any of you say so? The air is full of recriminations now. But not a word was said publicly at the time — not even, it appears, privately.
Of course, when Silver points out that none of them said anything, it follows logically that one member of caucus in particular said, and did, nothing to prevent this train wreck: Michael Ignatieff. That’s significant, because unlike other MPs — Bob Rae comes to mind — Iggy has let it be known through various anonymous surrogates that he had unspecified “concerns” about a coalition government, that he was never really “comfortable” with it, that he might not even have served in it. Yet… it proceeded.
Understand: Ignatieff controls something like 80% of the caucus. With one arch of his magnificent eyebrows, he could have stopped this at any point: when the decision to bring down the government was made, when the coalition deal was being presented to caucus, when it was decided that Dion should lead the coalition, when the letter to the Governor General pledging allegiance to the coalition was being drafted. Yet he did nothing — indeed he continues to defend the coalition publicly.
Even so, his people are still winking to the press that he was secretly opposed to the deal all along. For example, as Jane Taber informs us, he was the “very last Liberal to sign“ the letter to the GG. The Globe even published a facsimile of the letter, with a blow-up of Ignatieff’s tardy signature. Excuse me? You call this leadership? This was a formal petition to the Crown asking her to install the coalition as the government of Canada. It was freighted with the most far-reaching political and legal consequences. It could potentially have changed the course of Canadian history. Your signature is on that document. But it doesn’t count because you had your fingers crossed?
What does all this mean? It means if you’re a Liberal looking to escape from the coalition — and virtual extinction at the next election — Iggy’s not your boy. He is implicated up to his ears, only without even the virtue of conviction. When the Tories come to remind voters, as they will, who tried to “steal” the election, who was “in bed with the separatists,” who would have let Jack Layton loose in the cabinet, they will make Iggy wear it just as surely as they would Rae or Dion.
The damage done by the coalition dalliance is already massive, and mounting by the day. If the Liberals are to have any chance of walking away from the wreckage, they have to make a clean break — with the coalition, and with those who, directly or indirectly, were responsible for it.