Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ignatieff Agrees With Layton But Will He Force an Election?

But Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton have already stated that they will not support the latest fabricated economic update, leaving the decision to Michael Ignatieff whether or not to bring down the government.

It's a tough call. Harper is holding municipalities hostage with stimulus spending, indicating that they could lose their promised money if he loses his job.

It's always interesting how it takes that kind of risk to make him actually do that job, but can we go through an entire summer with this gang of crooks, as they bungle their way through another few months, or is enough is enough?

Ignatieff blasts PM's handling of economy
Tories are neglecting key foreign markets, Liberal leader charges
Jun 12, 2009
Andrew Chung

MONTREAL–With the fate of the government resting in his hands, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is ratcheting up his criticism of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's record on the economy.

It's inconceivable that, at a time of economic crisis and growing protectionism south of the border, Canada is not more aggressively tackling foreign markets that are growing faster than ours, Ignatieff told a business audience here yesterday.

He also slammed the government's handling of federal stimulus spending.

"You have to have a PhD in economics to actually figure out whether the (money) has got out the door," Ignatieff said after a town hall meeting with the Federation of Quebec Chambers of Commerce.

People don't seem to be seeing the money on the ground, he added, citing what he heard at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting in Whistler, B.C., last weekend.
"All I can tell you is, 1,600 mayors and municipal councillors were saying with one voice, `Where's the money?'"

The Liberal leader has threatened to try to bring down the government, and force a summer election, if an economic report issued by the government yesterday didn't show progress in getting stimulus funding to work. He said yesterday he was examining the report.

During the town hall, Ignatieff slammed the government on various issues, including Harper's comments Wednesday that Canada will get out of the medical isotope business, something he said showed a lack of "leadership."

But his sharpest comments were reserved for Harper's economic record. Ignatieff warned against Canada's dependence on the market provided by the United States.

"This government of Mr. Harper has neglected in a scandalous way China and India, and the markets of the Middle East," Ignatieff said.

"My vision of the future of Canada is that we must urgently find other markets than that of America."

In addition to the worldwide economic crisis, which began with the colossal collapse of the U.S. housing market, Ignatieff cited the renewed spirit of protectionism in the U.S.

"Even after this crisis, we are going to have the problem with `Buy American' (policies) at the level of the states and municipalities," Ignatieff said, adding that's why it's necessary to go after foreign commerce.

What could justify a summer vote?
Jun 12, 2009
Toronto Star
Chantal Hébert

OTTAWA—If the Liberals really want to rush Canada to the polls this summer, there is no need for them to toy with a motion whose wording would be designed to convince/trap the other opposition parties into helping them bring down the government.

All Michael Ignatieff has to do is withdraw his support for the Conservative economic action plan. The House of Commons will only adjourn for the summer next Friday after it has voted on the main budget estimates, and those votes are automatic confidence matters.

The NDP and the Bloc Québécois have opposed the budget from the start and they have already ruled out supporting the estimates. Without Liberal support, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's second government would likely be history by the end of next week.

But before crossing the bridge to another parliamentary high-stakes episode, Ignatieff would have to convince Canadians that he is not just playing games for the sake of repositioning his party in Parliament.

The only possible reason to take the risk of a snap election in the dead of summer would be gross government mismanagement of the recession.

The fact that they are still combing yesterday's Conservative progress report for a reason to move against the minority government is a sign that nothing in it really jumps out at the Liberals.

Harper's claim that 80 per cent of the first half of his two-year stimulus package is already making its way into the system is hard to verify. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that the figure is inflated.

But there is also no independent yardstick by which to measure whether it would have been feasible or even desirable to expect billions of public dollars to have been spent more quickly.
If anything, there are signs that the government might be running a number of yellow, if not outright red, lights as it strives to rush its money out the door.

The specific changes to employment insurance Ignatieff has recently called for are not on the government radar. But there have been other changes to the system, designed to make it more accessible to many of the immediate victims of the recession and the government is not ruling out additional moves in the fall.

In the five months since the budget, the biggest change in the government's fiscal outlook has been the ballooning deficit. But a large chunk of the increase was spent on the GM bailout, a move that the Liberals have yet to signal that they oppose.

Since the budget, Ignatieff has been as parsimonious with the elements of an alternative Liberal economic plan as he has been generous with criticism of the blueprint of the government.

As a result, the notion that the thrust of a Liberal government would be dramatically different from that of the Conservatives is hard to sustain with facts. Moreover, given that the ship of state cannot be turned around overnight, the time it would take a new government to change tack might actually outrun the recession.

Polls show that the Liberals could eke out a victory in a summer vote, although it would hardly be a sure thing. But at the end of the day, the real question Ignatieff has to wrestle with is what, if anything, he has to offer that could possibly justify a second election in less than a year.

From all available indications, he is more likely to take the summer to come up with a convincing answer than to plunge Canada in an uncertain campaign.

Like the threat of the Coalition, I support the threat of an election, because it seems to be the only thing that makes Harper do anything, other than launch partisan attacks. Whether we have an election this summer is not, makes no difference to me.

As much as I really want my country back, I can be patient, especially if an election now hampers needed stimulus money from reaching the areas where it is drastically needed.

The opposition can continue to hold his feet to the fire, because it seems to be the only thing that makes him jump.

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