Ignatieff's Big Mistake

Michael Ignatieff left the Quebec gathering of Liberals on the weekend feeling good. His supporters had shouted down the other leading candidates for the leadership.His Quebec base of support seemed strong. But that gathering may have sown the seeds of Ignatieff's ultimate downfall.Mr. Ignatieff and his organization made their mark by persuading the provincial wing to back his notion to recognize Quebec as a nation.The motion to recognize Quebec as a nation passed by a two-thirds majority. Ignatieff staked out his position: "I will speak for all those Quebeckers who say, 'Quebec is my nation, but Canada is my country,' " Ignatieff said in his opening statement.

This may help Ignatieff win the Liberal leadership on the grounds that he is best positioned to win support in Quebec. But when he gets to the broader arena of a federal election Ignatieff may find that he has won the battle only to lose the war. There is no willingness in English Canada to re-open the Constitution to give Quebec special status as a nation within the country, Canada. But that is what Ignatieff has promised. He will finding it exceedingly difficult to persuade Canadians that this file should be re-opened.And that, coupled with his foreign policy gaffes, will cost him the election should he win the leadership.


Harper's fatal error

On October 6th I speculated that the next government would be another minority government. Since then we've had new polls showing the leaderless Liberals tied with the Conservatives. And this week Harper's Conservatives have sealed their fate with middle-of-the-road Canadians like myself who voted Conservative last time. The charade purporting to be an environmental plan will alienate all Canadians concerned about environmental issue. Targets for 2050! Who can take this malarky seriously?

Harper cannot secure a majority or even maintain a minority by only appealing to hardcore rightwingers and yet his every action now seems to be aimed at solidifying his core base and and to hell with the rest. That way lies electoral defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

Kudos to Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe who dismissed the Conservative environmental plan as “made in Alberta, written in Washington.”


The next election will give us another minority government

You heard it here first. The next federal election will produce another minority government.

Chantal Hebert has an excellent article in today's Star, arguing that the Bloc is likely etching for a spring election. She sets out the following reasons:

In a reversal of his earlier concern that another election would see the Conservatives soar in Quebec, Gilles Duceppe is now

"more concerned that a backlash against Conservative policies will send his supporters straight into the embrace of the next Liberal leader.

"This fall, Michael Ignatieff, Stéphane Dion and Bob Rae all have more presence in Quebec than Harper's ministers. None of the Quebec members of the Conservative cabinet has emerged as a strong voice. On the contrary, there are reasons to question their influence."

"If they had any of the latter, they would have stopped the minority government from proceeding with some of the cuts announced last week. If the Conservatives wanted a lot of bang for the relatively few bucks saved in the process, they certainly achieved their purpose. In Quebec, that bang was overwhelmingly negative."

"A government that had solid intelligence on Quebec would have known that literacy has been a big deal in the province since Jacques Demers, the last coach that brought the Stanley Cup to the Montreal Canadiens, wrote a book about life without basic reading and writing skills."

"It would have thought long and hard before eliminating the federal Courts Challenge Program that has allowed francophone minorities across Canada to assert their constitutional rights."

"Not so long ago, the program financed an Ontario legal battle to keep Montfort, the only French-language university hospital west of Quebec, open. It has not escaped attention in Quebec that the federal ministers who killed the program last week used to be part of the Ontario government that tried and failed to close down Montfort."
In other words Stephen Harper has screwed up his plans to build a majority in Quebec. According to Hebert's analysis, he will be extremely fortunate to hold the Quebec seats he currently has.

Meanwhile the Liberals continue their dance in search of a new leader. Will the leading candidate Michael Ignatieff (30% of elected delegates) make it to leader on the final ballot? Or will Rae or one of Dion or Kennedy break through to take the prize? Who knows?

Whichever of these gentlemen secures the Liberal crown, will he be able to beat back the Conservative hordes and snatch victory from the man who looks every inch a Prime minister and already acts as though he has a majority. Possible, but the Liberals are extremely unlikely to secure a majority.

So, Stephen Harper, by acting decisively and in accordance with his convictions, is eroding his chances of a majority. The Liberals, likely to choose either an untested academic who has spent most of his life outside Canada or the jaded former NDP Premier of Ontario, are unlikely to bounce back from Opposition status to a majority. Hence, my conclusion that another minority is amost inevitable. The colour of that minority government is another question. That will depend on what issues arise to trip up Harper between now the election.