Michael Ignatieff’s uncertain position on the civil liberties of terror suspects

“We have to chart a path somehow in which we make some hard choices, some lesser evils, that is to say I’m not sure we can keep to a pure civil libertarian position all the way, for example we might have to engage in the preventive detention of suspects on lower standards that we would use in a criminal case, we might even have to engage in certain forms of targeted assassination of terrorist enemies. These are evils in the sense that people get killed, people get hurt, we don’t keep to the fullest standards of due process, but they avoid greater evils which is that our society lays itself open to constant terrorist attack and in response we still do worse things to our constitutional fabric.” — Michael Ignatieff

“I think you can draw a relatively clear line between interrogations that subject a terror suspect to a certain kind of stress, a certain kind of sleep deprevation, a certain disorientation and you can keep that clear of torture.” — Michael Ignatieff

And in a letter he co-signed with Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe and NDP leader Jack Layton, (a lot of tri-partite letters have been signed lately) Ignatieff argues,

“It is also clear that Mr. Khadr has been subjected to conditions of confinement and interrogation that Canadian courts have found violate international prohibitions against torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.” — Michael Ignatieff

I find Ignatieff’s ambiguity on this topic to be notable.

Also, Ignatieff is calling for the repartiation of Omar Khadr whereas Khadr should instead be granted full due process and face his accusers in the United States. Let’s clear up that matter before we embrace him with open arms and “call upon Prime Minister Harper to cooperate in these efforts [to repatriate Khadr] and ensure that appropriate arrangements are made through the provincial government of Ontario and appropriate members of civil society to provide for Mr. Khadr’s supervision and reintegration into the community upon his return to Canada.”

The role of the Bloc in the coalition government

Consider the following talking points from the Liberal Party website:

and consider this set also from the Liberal Party website:

The “Issue” from the first reads:

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, New Democrat Leader Jack Layton and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe have agreed to form a cooperative government to address the impactof the global economic crisis on Canadians. The NDP will support this agreement until June 30, 2011.

and from the second, the issue reads:

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, New Democrat Leader Jack Layton and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe today announced that an agreement has been reached among the
three opposition parties to support a cooperative government to address the impact of the global economic crisis on Canadians.

A subtle difference but it does concede that the Bloc Quebecois is part of this proposed coalition government.

The Liberals must be scrambling around this calming members of their own party. Yesterday, their website featured a picture of Dion, Layton and Duceppe at the signing ceremony to compliment their featured story on their homepage. The picture was quickly dropped for the image of the Canadian flag that is now displayed instead.

Liveblogging Flaherty’s economic statement

4:09pm: Persuant to a standing order I do not recall, the Minister of Finance tables his economic statement.

4:10pm: Time of unprecedented economic deterioration. Uh oh, this sounds bad.

4:11pm: IMF projects global growth weakest since ’93. Good thing the IMF puts Canada in the best fiscal position of the G7.

4:13pm: CTV reports that the Liberals will not support the economic statement. This statement is a matter of confidence and if defeated would precipitate an election.

4:14pm: Reformation of global finance will be done with global partners.

4:15pm: Trade will be expanded.

4:15pm: Opposition mocks Flaherty for saying the government planned for the downturn last year.

4:15pm: Taxes have been reduced by $200B. Investments have been made in infrastructure, S&T and training.

4:16pm: Funding for infrastructure projects. Taxes down by equivalent of 2% GDP. Sustainable and permanent tax relief.

4:19pm: Canada will come out of the crisis in a strong position because it went in a strong position.

4:21pm: Will not engineer a surplus just to say we have one.

4:21pm: Budget is balanced for now, but future injection of government stimulus may move Canada into deficit.

4:22pm: Days of chronic structural deficits are behind us.

4:23pm: Tax dollars for political parties and tax credits for donations brought up. Flaherty talking about the $1.75 per vote subsidy. Political parties should pay their own bills without excessive tax dollars.

4:25pm: $1.75 subsidy gone as of April 2009.

4:26pm: Spending growth will follow sustainable track.

4:27pm: Spending review will also look into crown corporations. Government will save $15B over the next five years because of expenditure management system.

4:28pm: re: public sector… New legislation will put in place “annual wage increases for the federal public administration, including senior members of the public service, as well as Members of Parliament, Cabinet Ministers, and Senators, of 2.3 per cent in 2007–08 and 1.5 per cent for the following three years, for groups in the process of bargaining for new agreements.”For groups with collective agreements already covering 2008–09, the 1.5 per cent would apply for the remainder of the three-year period starting at the anniversary date of the collective agreement. In addition, the legislation would suspend the right to strike on wages through 2010–11.” Some honourable socialist members: “oh, oh”.

4:32pm: Largest increase in infrastructure spending. $6B in spending. Aim is to provide new jobs.

4:33pm: Flaherty wants more power to help sustain the banking industry. These powers would include:
– Funding in the unlikely event that there is a draw on the Canadian Lenders Assurance Facility.
– The Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC) to establish a bridge bank as a further resolution tool to help preserve banking functions.
– An increase in the borrowing limit of CDIC to $15 billion to reflect the growth of insured deposits since the last increase in 1992.
– The Minister of Finance to provide the CDIC Board of Directors broader scope of action when systemic risk concerns may result from the potential failure of a member institution.
– The power to direct CDIC to undertake resolution measures when necessary to prevent adverse effects on financial stability.
– The provision to CDIC of greater flexibility in the timing of preparatory examinations.
– The Government to inject capital into federal financial institutions to support financial stability, with appropriate provisions to protect taxpayers.

4:37pm: taking action to allow RRIF holders to keep more money in their RRIFs.

4:40pm: increase available credit to the exporting sector. $350 million injection of credit for these businesses.

4:41pm: Inject an additional $350 million of capital to the BDC to help SMEs.

4:44pm: “The greatest histories are written in the toughest times”

4:45pm: Scott Brison to respond for the opposition. Demands a “real action plan”. Brison accuses Conservatives of symbolism over substance. Conservatives have provided gimmicks instead of a game plan. “Nothing for manufacturing, autos”.

4:46pm: Brison: PM wants to change the channel from economy to politics. Canadians are hurting. They want talk on economics rather than politics.

4:48pm: Brison bringing out the personal anecdotes describing real Canadians and real concerns. Liberal are making this statement out to be about that $1.75 vote subsidy cut.

4:50pm: Brison accusing the Conservatives of huge spending and huge cuts at the same time.

4:51pm: Brison: government is selling the house to pay for the groceries.

4:51pm: Brison calls Flaherty “Deficit Daddy”.

4:52pm: NDP will not support economic statement.

4:53pm: CTV reports that the government is digging in their heels on the $1.75 subsidy.

4:55pm: Brison brings up Obama and speaks about his economic team and accuses the Conservatives of schemes.

5:00pm: Brison calls for “a new deal”. Brison’s seat mate earlier called out “FDR”

5:01pm: Gilles Duceppe responds for the Bloc. Duceppe: hat was presented was not an economic statement but an ideological statement.

5:02pm: Duceppe: government blind to urgent need to stimulate the economy. Government is attacking democracy, women’s rights and worker’s rights. Government has attacked Quebec.

5:03pm: Duceppe: government has sparked a democratic crisis.

5:03pm: Duceppe: economic statement runs against Quebec’s interests.

5:04pm: Duceppe: Bloc will not cave in on its principles.

5:06pm: Duceppe: Bloc ready to support the reduction of the size of the state.

5:12pm: Bloc Quebecois will oppose the economic statement.

5:13pm: Layton responds for the NDP. He’s got his wounded face on.

5:14pm: Layton: government has failed to act on the economic crisis. Layton is speaking quietly and slowly to show concern and disappointment.

5:15pm: Here comes the anger. Now Layton is doing some finger pointing.

5:19pm: Layton applauds Duceppe and Brison for “standing up to ideology”.

5:21pm: Layton reiterates NDP’s position that they will vote against the economic statement.

English debate, the next morning

Five federal party leaders squared off last night around the oblong table at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Coming off of a sort of dress-rehearsal last night for the English speaking viewers, leaders were coached all day yesterday on earlier missteps and new opportunities as senior scripters checked debate playbooks, wiped the blackboard clean and chalked out some final plays.

And though politics can be a contact sport, referee Steve Paikin kept the unnecessary roughness to a minimum and even straightened out a few players when needed. The format of the debate has been criticized by some Conservatives as too amenable to unbalanced debating particularly when four candidates (including one late-comer and one spoiler) focus their attention squarely upon the incumbent. However, if one contrasts this with the American Vice-Presidential debate last night, the table format led to more exchanges and discussion rather than moderator-induced conversation without direct confrontation between candidates. Indeed, the Palin-Biden debate was instead two separate interviews, occurring simultaneously in the same room. The Canadian debate format for this election cycle proved more interesting for viewers and provided an unvarnished look at the candidates as they were challenged directly by the other candidates.

Despite this, the current Prime Minister seemed at ease though at times I’m certain he wanted to leap across the table and give Jack Layton a better-balanced bludgeoning. Viewers of the French language debate joked that the Prime Minister seemed to have been sedated while partisans both friendly and not yearned for more emotion; the unfriendlies hoped for anger while Conservatives hoped for more passion from their champion to describe their common agenda. In the English language debate, the Prime Minister seemed to exude what is more appropriately described as confidence than calm as he took the barrage that came as the polarized players flailed their collective left-wing and labeled the Prime Minister everything from out-of-touch with the middle class — quite brazen coming from Elizabeth May — to a George Bush clone (the left will miss him when he’s gone).

Despite the constant attacks, Stephen Harper performed strongly by donning his figurative blue sweater vest appearing the most rational and collected candidate of the group. As one twitterer likely not voting for Harper put it, “It concerns me that Harper sounds the least crazy.” Jack Layton, the other strong debate performer appealed to the dramatic by twice making cynical references to the very same sweater the PM wears in the Conservative ads. Jack Layton and Stephen Harper needed each other to boost their debate performances and by focusing their heat on each other, they were able to wedge out Dion. Though the Liberals have never had a leader like Paul Martin that was richer, the critics couldn’t be fairer; the Liberals have never had a greener candidate than Stephane Dion and despite Martin’s failings, he was more animated than Dion was last night. Though Martin entered the election in the lead, Dion is coming from behind and failed to capture anyone’s attention last night.

Elizabeth May surprised last night as she was the most sober of the opposition leaders. In comparison with other leaders, May brought a calm, number- and fact-referencing persona to the debate and politely corrected leaders as to the “facts” (though many as she saw them). For many Canadians who look at the political landscape and see the same old players locked in a seemingly eternal stalemate, May brought a fresh face to the stage for Canadians to consider. The Green Party leader needed to show Canadians that she deserved to debate on the same stage as the party leaders. Despite real and valid arguments against her inclusion and a childish repeat of her fraud accusation leveled against Harper, last night she didn’t appear out of place. In that, May scored an impressive victory for her cause.

As the leader of a french-first-and-last separatist party from Quebec, Gilles Duceppe did not have much to gain or lose during the English language debate and the Bloc leader appeared to be the candidate most genuinely at ease during the two hours last night. Duceppe also appeared as a shadow moderator; when he was not advancing his ideology, bringing he brought realism against rhetoric particularly when he gestured towards Layton and Dion suggesting they knew they’d never become Prime Minister and then proceeded to address the sitting Prime Minister — indeed, seated directly across from him — speaking about Quebec’s issues as the Bloc leader saw them. Most observers note that this will likely be Duceppe’s last performance in this forum as the dean of the debate is expected to retire from federal politics before the next federal election.

The debate was interesting to watch and was more interesting than debates in previous years. It certainly brought a fresh perspective to the players that we see in Question Period when parliament is sitting. If more and more newcomers show up to claim their stake on the democratic frontier as May did last night, we might see this format degenerate into a collective browbeating of an incumbent. If democratic reform proceeds along the path which May advocates, do more voices create more noise or do the enrich the process? In the American primary process we’ve seen about ten voices crowd one stage at a particular time with the TV networks biased towards perceived front-runners. Democracy is by definition a dynamic process and the evolution of the Canadian leader’s debate will follow its own path. The method by which our leaders appeal to Canadians for their votes will be, for the most part, fixed directly to the format by which Canadians would choose to hear them. That is democracy.

Tonight’s debate: the drinking game

Tonight, Canada’s four national mainstream party leaders (and one wildcard) will gather at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre for the English language debate. To occupy yourself while you twitter, and yell at the screen here’s the debate drinking game.

First, pick your poison.

If you support Stephane Dion, make sure you have some Château Pétrus on hand. Sip it slowly and savour it. If Stephen Harper is your guy, go to the corner store and get yourself some Coke Zero. Same great taste, zero calories. For those of you supporting Jack Layton, grab a can of Steelworkers Oatmeal Stout. Gilles Duceppe will be in the debate and without much of a clear purpose, if he’s your choice, just pour yourself something bitter. Finally, if you choose Elizabeth May finish your organic pomegranate with vodka and then go and mooch off of Dion. That Pétrus is some good stuff, and though and it won’t give you a hangover unlike the one that came after that thirteen year bender when the Liberals were drunk with power.

And now the rules:

If Jack Layton references the initiatives of one of his MPs, take a drink.

If Elizabeth May calls an idea/policy/person “stupid”/”ridiculous”/”outrageous” take a drink.

If Stephen Harper talks about the fundamentals of the Canadian economy take a drink.

If a leader says “George Bush” take a drink.

If Stephen Harper says “George Bush” finish the bottle and keep drinking til it stops hurting.

If a leader says in reference to Dion “you didn’t get it done”, “Mr. Dion doesn’t think it’s easy to make priorities” take a drink.

If Dion says “this is unfair”, finish the bottle.

Every time Duceppe puts the emphAsis on the wrong SyllAble take a drink.

Every time Dion seeks clarification take a drink.

If Jack Layton says “corporate tax cuts”, “boardroom/kitchen table”, “Ed Broadbent”, “Tommy Douglas”, “hope/change”, “working families”, “big oil/gas/pharma/banks” take a drink.

If Jack Layton says “big labour”, “big ass” or “Barack Obama” finish the bottle.

If Elizabeth May/Jack Layton/Stephane Dion cite Al Gore or David Suzuki take a drink.

If Stephen Harper cites Al Gore or David Suzuki finish the bottle.

Every time Harper/Layton tag-team Dion take a drink. Every time Dion/May tag-team Harper take a drink.

Anytime anyone tag-teams anyone with Duceppe, finish the bottle.

Every time Steve Paikin brings out his pleasant non-offensive wit, take a drink.

If Steve Paikin makes an off-colour joke, finish the bottle.

Add your own in the comments, and… please drink responsibly.

“Clearly, our leader won the debate”

You’ll hear this line from every party but the first public utterance of it that I saw was from the Liberal camp on twitter:

“Stéphane Dion won decisively! He clearly demonstrated that he is the only leader with a credible plan for Canada’s economy!”

This might be the same “credible plan” that was introduced on the floor of the NAC tonight by Dion that CTV commentators admitted reminded them of Paul Martin’s “Hail Mary” Not Withstanding Clause policy at the 2006 leader’s debate. Nobody heard about this plan until tonight. Having already released their platform, which was or wasn’t about the Green Shift depending on what polls Liberal strategists were reading in a given day, the Liberals seem to have released a second draft of their platform tonight. On the economy, is Stephane Dion making it up as he goes along?

The Liberals are stuck in a difficult place during this election. The Green Shift was a train that had already left the station and for Mr. Dion one that was already serving dinner in the dining car when Canadians suddenly became fixed upon the economy. For a serious political party that is vying for power, it is not simply enough to attack a party on an issue — especially one on which one’s rival is strong — but one must also define the path that a party’s leader would take should he or she become Prime Minister. What is astounding, is that Dion is reacting to the global economic crisis like an investor that gets the market numbers from the local TV news between the weather and sports. On the twenty-third day of the election campaign, Dion derails the train and tries to make it hop the tracks. Instead of being proactive on the economy, Dion is reactive.

For the Conservatives, this is an easy pick-up because it underlines the message they’ve been carrying as one of their main themes since this campaign started: Harper represents stability and Dion represents risk. What a disaster it was to see Mr. Dion drop his bombshell so quietly on the debate floor while the other leaders simply paused and moved on. Mr. Dion appeared but as one of four opposition voices — hardly dominant — against the Prime Minister and for Mr. Harper, representing one pole of a polar argument doesn’t exactly hurt his chances.

The most heated exchanges during the debate occurred between Stephen Harper and Gilles Duceppe, the two front runners of the election in Quebec. On the issues of 14/16 year-olds going to prison for serious crime and repeat offenses, Harper with rare emotion for the evening responded by backing up his plan with third party endorsements of the idea from a police union president and the head of a victim’s rights group. On the Quebec nation and Mr. Duceppe’s two day hesitation and subsequent reversal on the motion that declared Quebec a nation within a united Canada, Mr. Harper demonstrated strength. However, on most other issues such as the environment and the arts, the four-on-one atmosphere that Duceppe led for most of the evening showed the Prime Minister defending his record, the default position for any incumbent.

Will this debate move numbers in Quebec? Likely not. For Mr. Harper, this may mean that he might need a scripting change for that province in order to produce a game-changer that may light a fire under his numbers there. On the other hand, Bloc support may have firmed up on the island of Montreal and the numbers breakdown outside of the city may float Mr. Harper in the more conservative regions of la belle province in order to secure that majority.

LiberalTour (LiberalTour) is now following your updates on Twitter

I just received this email on my Blogging_Tories twitter account. Somebody in the Liberal war-room has been spending their afternoon following everyone and their brother on twitter.

At the time of this writing, liberaltour on twitter is following 1,963 people while being followed by 532 people.

Perhaps the Liberal strategy is to follow as many people as they can in order to build reciprocal followers. When people follow others on twitter, the followee receives an email indicating that they’re being followed and this gets them to reciprocate with the person who is following them. So, is the Liberal campaign building a following by blasting twitter users email inboxes with follow notices? It appears that they are succeeding somewhat as the number of people following the Liberal tour has also increased this afternoon.

At 2:45pm, liberaltour had just over 1,300 people that they were following, up to 1,600 at 3:15pm, to 1,731 at just before 5pm, and now at 1,932 (5:16pm).

Here are the current standings (as of 5:15pm on September 25 2008) among the five federal party leaders:

Account Following Followers Ratio Updates
jacklayton 909 920 1.01 84
pmharper 854 807 0.94 35
premierministre 17 58 3.41 28
liberaltour 1,962 532 0.27 36
tourneeliberal 0 10 10.0 1
gillesduceppe 171 182 1.06 69

Taking the English and French twitter feeds together for each campaign, the Conservatives have a ratio of 0.99 Following/Followers, the Liberals have a ratio of 0.28, the NDP has 1.01 and the Bloc 1.06.

Most campaigns follow as many people that follow them. However, the Liberals follow more than are followed in the twitter race.

The Liberal campaign should be careful, the folks at twitter advise

A Twitter account may be suspended for a variety of reasons. The most common of which is automated mass following or other types of spammy behavior.

Twitter is a growing social platform that all campaigns are trying to figure out during this campaign and it’s impact on Canadian politics has yet to be seen. If you like, you can follow me on twitter and check out political updates on twitter in real-time at govtweets.ca

Election’s a go

Today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper asked the Governor General for the dissolution of Canada’s 39th Parliament and Her Excellency will ask for the return of writs in 37 days. All five major party leaders made television appearences to either give speeches, take question or both. Here are my initial impressions.

Stephane Dion started by saying that in this election there will be “two stark differences”, that between the Liberal Party and the Conservatives. Stephane Dion is picking up right where Paul Martin left-off. No, I’m not talking about a firesale where all seats must go, but rather by trying to define the election as one of two choices. Unfortunately for Mr. Dion, this election is crowded on the left and will see attention given to NDP, Bloc and even the Liberal-proxy Greens which may end up being more trouble than benefit for the Liberals. In modern elections, Liberals have always had to strike out against their main Conservative opponents while taking time to suppress NDP gains on the left. By defining “two stark differences”, the right may be well-defined but there is a low signal-to-noise ratio on the left. Dion also made a point of saying that he “loves Canada” and took a minor tangent and regaled people on his love for our country. You’ll remember that Stephen Harper wasn’t so explicit when asked by a reporter/plant during the last campaign on this topic. It took the then-opposition leader by surprise and his answer wasn’t prepared. This may be significant because of the similar backdrops of the House of Commons; Dion gave his launch speech in exactly the same location that Harper did in December 2005. The Liberals may be trying set the scene quite literally for a contrast video piece on “loving Canada”.

A reporter asked Dion if he accepts the premise that this election is defined by leadership. Dion stumbles by accepting this directly and says that he leads on the environment, poverty and a whole list of Liberal policies. The Conservatives would like nothing better than the national media to accept leadership as the ballot box question and define the rest of the race through this lens through which the Conservatives have already focused their message for almost two years since Dion won the leadership race in late 2006. I also think that it was a disastrous mistake for the Liberals to lead with what is their de facto main policy plank months before this election. Questions have arisen even among Dion’s own MPs about the implementation, the regional differences and even the concept of the Green Shift itself. Canadians are aware of the Green Shift, so how does Dion plan to re-launch it? A reporter asked about the “carbon tax” and whether its a good policy for Canadians. Dion responds without redefining the question about the “Green Shift” and answers it instead in the context of a tax. These were two significant mistakes by Dion; to accept this election as a referendum on leadership and taxation.

Jack Layton addressed supporters from Gatineau along the banks of the Ottawa River overlooking Parliament. The speech was somewhat annoying because his crowd of supporter either wasn’t big enough, or didn’t translate on the microphone well enough to sound big. The camera shot also featured a somewhat disheveled looking lady and a guy in a bucket-hat. While his supporters applauded every speech point (which were many and frequent), Layton defined this election for himself; Jack Layton is running for the job of Prime Minister. Layton is taking a bolder and different track this time around and doing (what he may argue) Dion cannot. By echoing the same message of a choice between two visions, Layton is trying to drop the Liberals from the game. How can NDP voters go Liberal to stop Harper when Liberals gave the Prime Minister the green light during the last session? The Conservatives and NDP will attack the Green Shift on two fronts. On the right, increased taxation will be Conservatives warning to Canadians while on the left the NDP will make try their point that only the NDP has credibility on the environment (Bill C-377).

Gilles Duceppe with each passing election is becoming an anachronism in Canadian politics. The Bloc Quebecois leader’s speech had a number of hidden agenda references from George Bush to abortion to gender equality. Isn’t this 2008? We’ve heard this song before et désolé, ici ce n’est pas le Bloc. Also of note, Canada may be unique in modern western democracies in that it is a viable election strategy to inflate your opponents chances indicating that they may win a majority government.

Finally, Elizabeth May gave an impassioned speech about voter participation which should be well received by anyone watching. However, May’s passion moved into a speech about climate change that gave me the feeling that an advocacy group has not yet fully matured into a political party. If the Greens are going to debate, they need to broaden their platform and present themselves as alternative on the left rather than a pseudo-Liberal coalition. Watching CPAC coverage, I could not believe my ears that former Sierra Club senior policy adviser and now-Green Party spokesman John Bennett said that because of climate change “Stephen Harper doesn’t give a damn about his children’s future”. The Green Party is not ready for prime time. However, the fact that CPAC is putting them on panels, featuring May in the rotation may indicate that the most balanced political news outlet considers them part of the mainstream and this will have an effect on their coverage (and political gains). Will the Greens’ coverage actually harm the Liberals? Does the emergence of a fifth voice (and fourth on the left) amplify trouble for the Liberal brand especially under the weak leadership of Dion?

Strategy in a nutshell

Now that Stephane Dion has indicated that he won’t force an election before the fall, it might be a good time to look at the overall strategies of the four federal party leaders as Parliament winds down into the last days of the spring sitting before summer break.

Stephen Harper’s strategy is as it has been since Dion became leader of the Liberal party but has become much more evident with the Conservative leader’s latest chess moves. The Prime Minister aims to demoralize Liberals both partisan and reluctant. By making Stephane Dion eat the Harper secret agenda and ask for seconds rather than go to an election, the PM is showing Liberals that their leader is more interested in survival than in standing for principled positions. Just a few of the major capitulations by poor Stephane to mean Stephen have been the Liberal leader’s support of the extension of the Afghan mission to 2011, the wholesale Liberal surrender on the Conservative immigration bill and now, as we may still see, the reluctant and red-faced approval bill C-10 (it might as well be called the McVety bill to the Liberal base, but to Stephane Dion, it’s five minutes of oxygen). Stephen Harper wants to allow Jack Layton to rhetorically ask which party will stand up to the Conservative agenda.

Gilles Duceppe for some reason has indicated that he wants to go to an election. Perhaps he just wants to finally retire from politics. Duceppe stands to gain from having the House sit for some time longer as the Prime Minister’s branding of the Quebecois as a nation has not only taken fertile soil but has put down roots for Harper in the province inhabited by the nation. The damage is already done for the Bloc on this issue and Duceppe’s hope should be to tap into potential future RCMP and/or Elections Canada embarrassments for both the Conservatives (in-and-out) and the Liberals (on Adscam and Dion’s debt). This will allow Duceppe to point to the only other viable options in Quebec and say that those federalists are all the same. For a party that has no purpose left in Ottawa but to ensure the continued growth of their federal pensions, scandal seems like a better option for BQ sustainability than defense of Quebec’s non-interest in sovereignty.

Stephane Dion’s strategy has and will continue to be survival. The Liberal leader finds it more critical to parry the daggers at his back rather than thrust towards Stephen Harper across the House divide. The beleaguered Liberal leader would rather pass Stephen Harper’s agenda than face his own party. Therefore, the strategy that Dion will continue to employ is his threatening of the government and his insistence that everyone stands at the precipice of election. However, the threat is really meant for his own party as they cannot dispose of Dion so close to a potential campaign that Harper stands to win big if the Liberal party is left without, well, a leader. If Dion were to say that he will only cause the government to collapse after one year, senior party officials and those with ambitions on leadership would see such a window as a perfect opportunity to safely dispose of Dion. When Dion threatens election, he is only holding off those Liberals that are balancing the dispatch of Dion and the worser option of a (significantly more) disastrous election causing a potential Harper majority, with a faulty campaign led by the man that says it could happen any day (it really is Dion’s last refuge).

Jack Layton is probably rubbing his hands gleefully at thought of being the party of principle of the left that can be seen to oppose Harper. Ironically, this is being done as Layton effectively works with the Prime Minister to destroy any semblance of Liberal identity as liking the colour red and Gerard Kennedy’s taste in eyewear may not be enough to sustain party support under Dion’s leadership. The likes of Buzz Hargrove and Maude Barlow will carry less weight if they encourage NDP supporters to Stop Harper by voting Liberal. Indeed, the voting record shows that even when Dion is in the position to stop the Prime Minister’s agenda, he would rather make his stand defending Stornoway from the growing number of Liberal invaders. Jack Layton’s strategy is to play Harper’s game but he cannot do so too visibly without alienating his own base. However, there is a lot of room here for Layton to maneuver as only the Greens, despite their actual status as a Liberal proxy under May, stand to gain from any anger that the socialist base may have for Layton for strategizing to split the centre with Harper.