Politics of Canada
2 min

The shadow preparations

While the rest of the world was busy watching the Obama inauguration yesterday, certain key Liberals were busy toiling away in their secret underground lair offices. What is it that has them so busy? Why, it’s drafting a shadow budget.

“Shadow budget.” Doesn’t that just sound ominous? I mean, no less ominous than “shadow cabinet,” but there does have that ring of dark and arcane rituals from some kind of medieval fantasy-world…

But anyway, back to the shadow budget. In order to be a credible opposition, at a time of economic crisis when they may feel the need to bring down the Harper government over a budget that may be inadequate to face the times (or as I suspect, one that will be stuffed full of cute little partisan gimmicks designed to see just how far they can push the Liberals before they blink), they feel the need to be ready. To have that alternative economic plan ready to go should they need to vote non-confidence and form a coalition government.

Does that mean the NDP are actively involved in drafting this shadow budget? Well, no, not according to MP John McCallum, one of the key financial advisors for the party (who used to be the chief economist for the Royal Bank, by the way).

“It's a Liberal party exercise,” McCallum said. “I am also in touch with [NDP finance critic Tom] Mulcair. But he is not part of the group. But we keep in touch as potential partners.”

Good to know, but also potentially politically smart, because one of the phrases that the Conservatives used to put fear into the hearts of Canadians during the Parliamentary crisis last November was “Finance Minister Jack Layton.” In other words, there is a great deal of political sentiment in this country that doesn’t trust the NDP with the nation’s finances, and the Liberals did seem to go out of their way during talk of a coalition to say that no, the NDP wouldn’t get the finance portfolio, so stop worrying.

Of course, this is all still a theoretical exercise. I’m still not convinced that the Liberals will defeat the government over this budget. But this shadow budget is one more weapon they can use to say that if they don’t like what they see, they’re far more prepared to take charge than the Conservatives might otherwise hope or believe.