Chantal Hebert, Toronto Star, September 15, 2010
Over the past few weeks, Harper has been laying out the case for a majority government, arguing that a possible alternative would be an unpredictable Bloc-supported Liberal/NDP coalition.
The Canadian voter must not be seduced by the Prime Minister into falling into the trap of his picture.
To speculate that the only or the primary option to a Conservative majority in the next election is a coalition in which the Bloc is a participant is a bogey-man that plays to the fears of Canada outside Quebec.
In Opposition, Harper was happy to align with the Bloc, if necessary.
In government, he paints a spectre of "separatists participating in the setting of policy" in order to cast a shadow over a potential vote for the other three parties.
As a fervent Canadian nationalist, I would much prefer a coalition of the three parties to a majority Conservative government under Harper.
Also, the option of a Liberal majority, while remote, is certainly not unthinkable.
Ignatieff needs to be more clear in his articulation of important policy options. He has said his government, and his party would reject a tax cut for corporations. However, in an interview with Peter Mansbridge of CBC's The National, yesterday, he would not rule out cancelling the $16 billion, untendered contract for the F-35 figher jets. "We will take a long hard look at it" while pointing out that the Conservatives could not answer three basic questions: Do we need this specific plane? Did we get fair value, since the contract was untendered? And can we afford it in this tight economic squeeze?
That is not the same as Jean Chretien's memorable, "We are going to cancel the contract for the helicopters!"
before taking power in the 1990's.
Nuancing his options, to protect his flanks, and to preserve his integrity....not an option any more. He is the leader of a potential national government party. He must demonstrate his capacity both for nuance and for decision-making. And in the world of instant mistakes, magnified out of all proportion, it is perhaps reasonable that an academic would choose the lower road, in order not to offend any part of his constitutency.
Nevertheless, there are defining issues for a neophyte political leader, especially in a time when Harper is willing to pontificate, "I make the rules!"
We want subtlety, and nuance and careful attention to both the fine points and to the big picture. It is now Ignatieff's time to paint some broad brush strokes, so that the average voter can grasp his "mettle" and begin to have confidence not only in his warm fuzzy personality, but also in his capacity to articulate specifics in his national vision.