In his book Harper's Team, Tom Flanagan discusses the 2008 coalition and Michael Ignatieff's role. Ignatieff has taken a lot of heat from progressives, because he was the last one to sign on, and then only after being coerced.
And yet to hear the Conservatives, you would have thought that he drafted the agreement. He can't win.
Almost as soon as he became leader, Ignatieff began hinting that he might depart from Dion's bargain with Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe. He said he would wait to see Jim Flaherty's budget before deciding whether to vote for it, whereas Layton and Duceppe were ready to defeat it sight unseen. "A coalition if necessary, but not necessarily a coalition," became Ignatieff's mantra."For Layton and Duceppe to simply turn down a budget sight unseen, is hardly fair to their constituents. Canadians were tired of the coalition drama and just wanted parliamentarians to get on with the business of running the country.
Harper, therefore, continued with his strategy of crafting a budget that would get Ignatieff's support. There was a veritable blitz of consultative efforts in December and January –appointment of a high-level citizens committee to advise the minister of Finance; consultative sessions by Flaherty and other ministers across the country; private meetings of party leaders with Harper and finance critics with Flaherty; even a first ministers meeting. The Liberals preferred to play dog in the manger and refrained from making specific demands, but there was enough highly visible consultation for the budget to look some?thing like a national consensus.
But what did Michael Ignatieff get for his role in ending, what was turning into a fiasco? Constant attack ads from Harper and grandstanding from Layton.
Now the NDP are running ads that look more Republican than Harper's. And Layton is wooing Quebec with promises that are convoluted at best, and divisive at worst.
This election is supposed to be about restoring our democracy, not saving his career. He knows he won't be prime minister and his posturing is damaging. I find myself wondering why Jack Layton is so determined to give Stephen Harper a majority. What will be in it for him?
He should campaign for the NDP, but stick to policy. In the Star today he said that he will now be targeting Ignatieff. To what end? He can't be pm so instead, as my mother used to say, he will "cut off his nose to spite his face".
If he feels like he has little power now, what voice will he have in a Harper majority? None. The target here is Harper and the prize our democracy and healthcare.
If Harper gets his majority I'm going to send Layton a "thank you very much" card. Canada had a good run and who knows. Maybe we'll be Harper-Laytonland. Nah.
He agreed to make Harper prime minister in 2004. He sided with Harper in 2005 to take down Paul Martin, leaving a national childcare plan and the Kelowna Accord on the table. He agreed during that campaign to go easy on the Conservatives because Harper convinced him that getting rid of the Liberals was the prize. In 2008, he campaigned against the Carbon Tax, aping the Conservative ads.
Maybe we should be worried about a Layton-Harper coalition.