Everybody’s having press availabilities today to let Canadians know what’s going on concerning the near inevitability of an autumn election. Jack Layton had one in Halifax, Diane Finley and Pierre Poilievre had one to cry foul at the Liberals for pulling out of the EI “working group,” and then Bob Rae took a turn for the Liberals. And since it was in the Foyer of the House of Commons, I headed over to listen in.
Rae got right into it, not even going through the pretence of an opening statement – this was a media availability plain and simple. (How refreshing is that?) And right off, he said he didn’t think much of Layton’s statement.
“We’re going back to the normal situation of an opposition party, which is opposing the government,” Rae said. “For the leader of the Official Opposition to say I’m opposing the government is not exactly earth-shattering. It’s a return a situation where Liberals are now free to speak our minds and vote the positions that we want to vote, and Mr. Harper’s challenge since 2006 has been whether or not he can make a minority Parliament work, and that remains his challenge.”
Which is true – it is incumbent upon a Prime Minister in a Parliamentary Democracy to maintain the confidence of the House. That’s the way the system works. And according to Rae, they’re not in the business of supporting the government.
Will a campaign in the middle of a potential resurgence of swine flu affect the way they campaign? Will they have to give up shaking hands and kissing babies?
“I’ll kiss anybody who comes forward,” Rae quipped. “I don’t think that’s going to be an issue for us in the campaign.” Toronto Centre – pucker up.
What about the possibility that the government will move a Ways and Means motion around those Home Renovation Tax Credits, in order to provoke a confidence vote right out of the gate?
“The thing about the tax credit is, that is, that is a total non sequitur,” Rae said. “First of all, you don’t fill out your income taxes, last time I looked, until the New Year. We’ve all committed to maintaining the tax credit. There’s no need, by the way, to move a ways and means motion, I’m reliably informed by our House leader, unless you’re going to raise taxes, this is a reduction in taxes. So the ways and means motion is a classic red herring. I’ve had a couple of talk show hosts shouting out to all their listeners that this is a cause for panic, you can put down your shovels now and stop painting. And it’s ridiculous. You know, carry on painting, carry on renovating. Those tax credits will be fully recognized… by whoever the government is in 2010 and this is absolutely nothing to do with anything. It’s a complete non sequitur.”
And what about Harper’s meeting with Obama on the 16th, or Stockwell Day’s negotiations around the “Buy America” provisions? Irrelevant, Rae asserts. Harper is still Prime Minister until he’s defeated.
“You see, there’s an effort here on the part of the Conservatives to create an atmosphere of total kind of instability and to say, you know, this is all very bad for the world,” Rae said. “Well, you know, we’re not a banana republic. We have votes and we have… you know, Mr. Harper’s not a generalissimo yet. He has to get used to living in a constitutional democracy and so he can put his medals and his cap aside and just come to work everyday like the rest of us.”
And on Buy America, Rae gave a shout out to Scott Brison for raising the issue in the House repeatedly for many months. “The economy will recover better if there’s a Liberal government,” Rae said, while pleading for calm around the accusations that an election will create all this uncertainty. “Life will go on.”