The only real surprise here is how easily the Liberals are rolling over and playing dead. The first rule of politics — all politics — is seize power when you can. Everything is possible once in power. Nothing is possible outside of power. So what gives? Why no coalition?
I suppose party-insiders may be weary of giving the NDP a little bit of the limelight. If that is the case, it seems a pretty silly worry. History shows, the new kids in government rarely do well with their first taste of the limelight and the impending gong-show from the NDP might just shore up the Liberals position that Dippers are unfit for government. Moreover, with all the back-room experience the Liberals have, surely they could run circles around the Dippers while they are still aw-shucking about being in the government lobby. Heck, even if the Liberals played nice and worked cooperatively with the Dippers, they might open up an opportunity to bring the Left together under the Liberal banner. At any rate, it seems like there is more opportunities here than dangers. So that can’t be it. Surely.
I suppose the strategists may be worried that relying on the tacit support of the Bloc might not wash so well in the rest of the country. Of course, getting the tacit support of the Bloc might do wonders for the Liberals in Quebec where they need all the help they can get. Eight to twelve months of Duceppe saying “well, those Liberals aren’t so bad compared to the Conservatives,” might actually make them the federalist alternative again. And, of course, that always helps in Ontario. Sure, a lot of folks in the West might have a good pout but they will pout whenever the Liberals are in power and however they get there. The West pouted its ways to power! Do you think they will stop because the Liberals hold a few roundtables out there and go out of their way not to be successful in Quebec. The only chance the Liberals have in the West is to stir up resentment about the Conservative shift to the middle and hope another Reform party crops up.
I suppose the strategists may be worried the world’s hottest head of state might call an election rather than let the coalition take over. Now, I will say, I agreed with the experts and thought it impossible for the GG to shut Parliament down. Oops, my mistake. But surely after giving Harper his re-do, Michaëlle would be required to let the coalition have a go. Admittedly it is a risk she might call an election but not a risk so great to avoid the chance for power. Moreover, it’s only really a risk because — undoubtedly — the Liberals are not ready for another election. Well, if they aren’t ready now, they won’t be ready four months from now either. Plus, by blinking — indeed, really by cowering in the corner and wagging a finger — Harper knows he has the advantage again. A future coalition is now impossible, the only possibility is an election. Look for more strong arm tactics from Harper in the very near future.
So far I’ve been focussing on the possible risks, but let’s think of the positives. Whoever is Prime Minister will get to bask in the warm and positive glow of President Obama and the US’s massive stimulus program. Whoever is Prime Minister will be in a position to set when the next election occurs. Whoever is Prime Minister will get to control the agenda and take credit for all the stimulus-spending. Whoever is Prime Minister gets to call the shots, use government money for glossy photo-ops, gets more money for staff, and the list goes on and on. Heck, the Liberals might even get a few more donations if they were in power.
So, my guess is the strategists aren’t really thinking at all but simply moving forward with the same plan they have had for — gosh, how many years has it been now? If we just get our guy in, give him a little coronation (very little now that we have a look at the Party’s budget), our numbers will bounce, and by golly winning conditions will appear from nowhere, Canadians will rally to our banner, and electoral manna will fall from heaven. Remember, they love us. They really do.
Sure, the strategists may be worried that being in power during the worst of the recession may reflect poorly on them. Better to let Harper take the heat. But, endorsing the budget does not help them. In the eyes of the electorate, either the stimulus will work or it won’t work. If it works, the Conservatives take the credit. If it doesn’t work, they share the blame with the Liberals who endorsed it. Better to take the power now, take control, and set the agenda then wait and see.
But, honestly, the best reason for voting down the budget and taking power has to be the supreme pleasure of sitting in the hallway outside the PMO and watching ex-Prime Minister Harper walk out with his little cardboard box of belongings. Oh yes, and to sit back and watch the frenzy of knives that would emerge if Harper truly blew it and lost power. Even if the coalition collapsed in four months, the destruction in the Conservative party may have lasted for years.
So, why no coalition? Obviously, there must be some factor I haven’t considered because, anyway I look at it, letting the coalition collapse is a mistake.