If Joe Clark’s mistake was that he arrogantly governed with his minority government as if he had a majority, will Stephane Dion’s mistake be that he is timidly opposing Stephen Harper’s minority government as if the Prime Minister had a majority?
But it’s even worse than that. Stephane Dion as Opposition leader is not opposing or even supporting the government’s mandate. In effect, by abstaining from judging the government’s sought mandate, Dion isn’t showing up for work.
The NDP has parsed the opposition benches into the absent opposition (Liberals) and the effective opposition (NDP).
The Prime Minister should play along this theme.
Since Dion is effectively silent on the Prime Minister’s mandate by abstaining from voting on the Throne Speech, Harper should simply rebuke Dion’s future questions and remind him of the opportunity he had to support or oppose the government’s outlined agenda. Harper should then proceed to only debate the points of the NDP and the Bloc as the effective opposition since these parties are the ones fulfilling their parliamentary roles.
If elections are held for parties to seek a mandate from the people to govern, the Throne Speech is ratification and confirmation of that mandate by Parliament. If Stephane Dion wants Parliament to work as he so clearly states, it can do so by approving the government’s mandate or by opposing it sending the parties back to the hustings to determine the true support/opposition to the government’s plan. In effect, by abstaining Dion has made Parliament less functional and by not wanting an election it seems that the Liberal leader would rather leave Parliament, with its checks and balances, in limbo for the sake of our convenience rather than allow us to fulfill our duty as the electorate since he cannot exercise his as Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.
If Dion cannot enunciate his party’s position in opposition when the government seeks its mandate, how can he expect us to trust his abilities to do so if he should ever form government?
UPDATE: I found this post on Ignatieff’s website concerning what the Liberals should do for the Throne Speech.
“I’m driving down the highway with Suzanna and Scott Brison is at the wheel. It is a white knuckle experience. I’ve just given a talk to 300 students at Dalhousie Law School and tonight well be in Cheverie at a fundraiser for Scott. There is media at every spot asking what the party should do on the throne speech. We need to read it first and then decide what party interest and national interest require. One thing is sure : we — and not the PM — will do the deciding. Let’s keep and hold the initiative. More later. MI”
Unfortunately for Ignatieff (or fortunately?), the Liberals didn’t take initiative and the Liberals instead decided on being indecisive.