Ignatieff leadership gain of LeBlanc and the scuttling of the Liberal-NDP coalition?

News that is late-breaking tonight suggests that Liberal MP Dominic Leblanc will drop out of the Liberal leadership race and endorse Michael Ignatieff. It is rumoured that Leblanc will provide Ignatieff with an additional nine members of the Liberal caucus in what is shaping up to be a backroom leadership election by caucus. Leblanc’s move over to the Ignatieff camp should be smooth for Leblanc supporters as some senior east-coast Liberal organizers who were initially eyeing Frank McKenna for the top job of that party chose Leblanc instead. New Brunswicker Steve McKinnon, who would have backed McKenna has blazed charted the waters for martime Liberals to sail over to Ignatieff.

This late development means that Bob Rae, who is beating a path coast-to-coast promoting the coalition concept, finds himself further behind now that Ignatieff enjoys an even more comfortable lead among caucus colleagues. Somewhat ironic is the fact that the coalition deal was struck out of a sense of urgency (or opportunity) to topple the Harper government and that this sense of urgency is also driving the Liberal party to select a leader via caucus selection. Strategically, Rae should now advocate for a period of Liberal introspection, an abandonment of the push to a coalition with the Bloc and to have a real (yet delegated) full-blown leadership election. As it stands, Rae would fare worse under the urgent scenario than that which allows the Prime Minister to stay in power for now.

And why not? Some time for the Liberal party to heal might do them some good. Joining up with the NDP erodes the brand of both parties and upsets each ideological base. True, those that seek power despite principle would rather see Stephen Harper evicted from 24 Sussex tomorrow. However, for the longterm livelihood of the Liberal party they ought to take some time out to rebuild, to fundraise and to craft an original policy platform – one without the word “shift”.

If Michael Ignatieff does assume the helm of the Liberal Party through caucus selection, the January throne speech/budget combo should pass through Liberal abstention. Poll numbers are showing poor support for a Liberal-NDP coalition and Ignatieff himself has never been warm to the idea of coalition. Besides, don’t you get the sense that Iggy is the sort who plays the long game rather than leaps before he looks? A number of Liberals in caucus have privately expressed concerns over the coalition proposal and most scenarios of how a coalition would play out are unknown and therefore should be somewhat worrisome to most.

For Mr. Dion, the coalition concoction was to be his magical elixir which promised new life. Realistically, his leadership prospects have been long dead. For Mr. Rae to avoid a quick demise, he should insist upon a delegated leadership election as planned meaning that the coalition ought to be on hold for now or done like Dion.

Dion will implement carbon tax even if there’s a recession

After a joint address to the Empire Club and Canadian Club yesterday, Stephane Dion faced reporters. The exchange between Richard Madan from City and Dion was interesting.

MADAN (Voiceover): But Dion has shifted his own tune lately, suggesting that Canada may be headed into recession. And he only mentioned his controversial Green Shift plan just once at the end of his speech.

MADAN (to Dion): You mentioned “recession” in your speech. So if indeed Canada does hit a recession will you delay implementing your carbon tax?

DION: First, it’s not that. It’s the Green Shift.

MADAN: No, I know. But the question is: if things get worse, will you delay implementing a carbon tax, Green Shift, whatever you want to call it? Will you delay it?

DION: It’s not carbon tax, it’s a Green Shift. It’s to put a cost…

MADAN (interupts): Will you delay it?

DION: No, because it’ll be good for the economy.

Did you get that? If Canada falls into recession, Dion believes his “don’t call it a carbon tax” Green Shift will be just want Canada needs to get out of the storm.

Recently, Maclean’s editor Andrew Coyne has stated that he believes that there may be something to it when Harper complains that Canada’s opposition is “cheering for a recession”.

The Opposition parties have gone mad with attacks explaining that Mr. Harper doesn’t care about the economy because he’s not panicking. The opposition will be upset to learn that the World Economic Forum has declared Canada’s banking system the most stable in the world.

There have been cries of dissent from Dion’s own ranks on the Green Shift and it’s timetable for implementation. Liberal candidate Shawn Murphy told the Charlottetown Guardian on September 12th, “This winter, I don’t think you’re going to see the green shift even if the Liberals got elected.” Former Minister of Revenue John McCallum conceded about Dion’s carbon tax, “I cannot say to you that no Canadian will be unharmed by this… it’s not going to be totally painless for every human being”.

Even former NDP Ontario Premier Bob Rae is
sounding more lucid on the economy as he suggested yesterday that the implementation of the carbon tax should be delayed.

There’s an old saying that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. While Mr. Dion’s plan aims to address environmental concerns with his plan, the ballot question will ask who is the best manager of the economy as crises become a daily occurrence in foreign markets. Canada has a sound economic position — indeed, the fundamentals are strong — and while members of his own team have second thoughts about his carbon tax, Mr. Dion is ready to add new untested variables to the economic equation in a time that calls for the kind of stability that comes from an economist Prime Minister rather than untested tax theory from a man who is not.

“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.