Now that Ignatieff’s little bombshell has gone off, there is much anxiety over just what the next steps are going to be. But as with many things in politics, this is likely just a means of jockeying for position. Bob Rae likened it to the Liberals “returning to normal,” in that they should be the one to oppose the government – they’re the official opposition, after all, and it’s their constitutional role to critique and offer an alternative government when the need arises. Rae also correctly pointed out that it’s Harper’s job – not Ignatieff’s – to ensure that Parliament functions and that he maintains the confidence of the House. And it’s about bloody time that MPs started realising that in the House’s current configuration. But then again, this was one of those unintended consequences of the “fixed election date” law, which took away the ability of a Prime Minister to decide an election date, and gave it to the opposition.
Of course, it also starts to place more pressure on the Bloc and the NDP. Previously, it was easy for them to simply say they were going to vote against the government, no matter what, because they were more interested in scoring points against the Liberals than the Conservatives – though Layton basically abandoned his power as kingmaker in the process. And it puts the pressure on Layton and Duceppe to make deals with Harper if they want to avoid an election. Layton has said that he’s willing to offer the government help on a case-by-case basis in exchange for support on Private Members’ Bills, but Harper has already said that he’s seen no sign that Layton is willing to work with him, and is saying that Layton is more interested in forming a coalition with the Liberals and Bloc than he is in working with the government. So…that’s a no, then? Duceppe said he’s willing to support any measures that are good for Quebec – and then he laid them out. But can Harper actually accept support for the evil separatists after all the rhetoric last November? Or will we get to see him contort himself into very unwieldy positions over that one?
The Conservatives are also looking to play cute on when the first confidence vote might be. The Liberals were looking at a date somewhere around October 1st, but the Conservatives are planning on moving a confidence measure right out of the gate, and it has to do with implementing their Home Renovation Tax Credit. You know, that thing they’re using taxpayer dollars to promote shamelessly, even though it actually hasn’t pass Parliament yet? Yeah, they’re looking to embarrass the Liberals into voting against it first thing, so that they can tell Canadians that the Liberals voted to take away the tax credit (and probably that they’re so evil they’ll come to your house and rip out the renovations you did expecting the tax credit). So that’s test number one.
Oh, and if the Conservatives tell you that an election will destabilise our fragile, recovering economy, well, a host of economists have just thrown cold water on that bit of hype.
And what about the EI “working group”? Well, after Marlene Jennings came out in the Toronto Star yesterday with accusations that the Conservatives were acting in “bad faith,” the Liberals have decided to walk away from the talks, despite the fact that they were supposed to meet tomorrow. Now that Ignatieff has drawn his line in the sand, they don’t need to pretend that they’re trying to Make Parliament Work™ anymore, and hey, now they can say that they tried and the government just wasn’t willing to play ball. Which is what they wanted all the time. It all proceeded exactly as, well, we all had foreseen it.
And finally, a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ruled against its own legislation, saying that Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act violates the Charter protections against freedom of expression, and should be struck down. As part of the ruling, it let an accused hatemonger off the hook – much to the chagrin of the Jewish community, and the surprise of critics like Ezra Levant. Could freedom of expression actually win the day on this one? Stay tuned, as it’s bound to get a whole lot more interesting.