Sunday, September 19, 2010

Time for an Election, Mr. Ignatieff

By Harroon Siddiqui, Toronto Star, September 19, 2010

King Stephen wants his orders obeyed. Those who don’t are fired, transferred or demonized. Or they quit. The list is long:
Linda Keene, nuclear regulator. Bernard Shapiro, ethics commissioner. Peter Tinsley, military police complaints commissioner. Kevin Page, parliamentary budget officer. Richard Colvin, the diplomat who exposed the Afghan detainee abuse. Paul Kennedy, RCMP watchdog. Pat Stogran, veterans’ ombudsman. Marty Cheliak of the RCMP and the police chiefs from across Canada, who both backed the gun registry. Remy Beauregard, head of Rights and Democracy, who died of a heart attack after being hounded into line.
Nor does Harper change his mind easily, leaving his ministers to justify the unjustifiable: Stockwell Day to rationalize $9 billion for jails for nonexistent inmates from unreported crimes; Peter Mackay $16 billion for fighter jets for phantom enemies (“the F-35 will allow us to see threats before they see us”); and Tony Clement $30 million extra on a new census that would be worse than what we have.
And there was Michael Ignatieff, last night, speaking with Peter Mansbridge about the "enough is enough" phrase of his own choosing, and not quite saying that it is time for an election...by reminding his host that he is one of three opposition leaders.
Is he leaving it to his listeners to make the call? Is he wandering around in his own mind about how to induce a confidence vote to bring the government down? Is he already putting out those necessary emmisaries to the other party leaders to bring about the needed number of votes to achieve the inevitable? Is he waiting until the party coffers have been filled completely, so that the Liberals can run an effective campaign?
As Mansbridge wondered, "Are you waiting for all the stars  to be aligned in your favour before making the decision?" In other words, is he waiting for the perfect moment in order to make the call?
And in politics, while there are a few "perfect storms," it is really the job of the leader of the opposition to build enough public trust in his/her judgement that if and when he calls for the government's overthrow, the public is in agreement and the government falls and an election ensues...and if the case can be and is made, the opposition forms the next government.
Clearly, whatever it takes, in a situation requiring clear, unequivocal thinking, judgement and leadership, the country needs a new government and the Liberals are the country's single best hope for that change. (That is not to say the Layton NDP is not competent, only to note the obvious that Candians are not likely to move from a "conservative" minority to an NDP minority, let alone an NDP majority.)
And this situation requires not merely a change in the leadership of the conservative majority, as the party hacks might like to speculate, and an attempt to make that change prior to permitting a vote in the house of commons that would, in their mind, bring about the fall of the government.
This government is defined in the public mind as the government of Stephen Harper, and all those who signed on to serve in his cabinet are now tarred with the brush of his choosing, and the public has come to see that brush as painting them all with a "black" seemingly unredeemable and also non-removeable terminality.
Like Mike Harris in Ontario, he makes all the decisions; his face is the face of the government; his decisions are the legacy of his place in history, and all those minions who serve at his pleasure do so knowingly, faced now with the prospect of falling with him on his sword. And certainly his sword is large enough for them all to find a place on it, given the list of credible, intelligent, responsible and now M.I.A. public servants whose careers have been terminated by that very sword.
And if Mr Ignatieff does not have the stuff needed to bring the government down, by selecting both the issue and the arguments that would persuade one other party leader (and really only one is necessary), and if the conservatives, with their huge war chest, do their usual character assassination of Mr. Ignatieff, as they did so successfully with Stephane Dion before him, and if the government persists in self-destructive decisions that are also not in the best interest of the country...then we will all know that, as some respectable historians have observed in the past, the country is virtually ungovernable...and that we have not produced the leadership necessary to continue a long and honourable history of "muddling through" (as Arthur Lower put it).
Perhaps, "muddling through" is no longer acceptable as the only option; perhaps now we need some clarity of national purpose, not merely clarity in the Party Quebecois' question positing separation. Perhaps some clarity, coming as it must from the courage of our political leaders, would be a welcome sign of strength and of leadership and of a new direction for the country.
And Mr. Ignatieff has captured the spirit and mood of the country in his assertion that he can not see a combat role for Canadian forces after 2011 in Afghanistan...because enough national blood has been shed in an honourable cause, conducted honourably by Canadian forces and their leaders, in coalition with other forces under ISAF. Maybe that is a sign of his capacity to capture the spirit and mood of the country in our need for replacing Harper and his totally insensitive, uncompassionate and arrogant government.

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