Liberal leader eating Stephen Harper's populist lunch
In politics there are big triumphs and there are small triumphs.
Today's passage of the Conservative party's federal budget is hardly a triumph. As Tasha Kheiridddin notes, many conservative-minded Canadians feel betrayed about the deficit the government has run up.
But Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff emerged with a small triumph today, as he allowed six Liberal MPs from Newfoundland to vote against the budget -- and against the official party line -- without the threat of reprisal.
"I decided to permit them in the budget vote tonight a one-time vote of protest to signal their displeasure and my displeasure at these unilateral actions which in my view weaken our federation, cause strains in our federation at a time when Canadians should be pulling together," Ignatieff announced.
It's a far cry from the fate that befell then-Nova Scotia MP Bill Casey, who voted against the 2007 federal budget and was ejected from caucus for voting his conscience.
Reportedly, the part may not have been done with Casey even after that. In the 2008 federal election Casey was forced to fight an election campaign against a Conservative candidate who had access to funds raised in the riding by the Tories while Casey was still with the party. The Conservatives reportedly even accused Casey of embezzling funds from the party.
There's a stark, unflattering distinction between these two approaches. One party, the Liberals, not characteristically known for allowing its MPs to deviate from the party line -- Not even Dr Carolyn Bennet, who was forced to vote in favour of a Hepatitis C compensation package that fell far short of meeting the needs of tainted blood victims -- and another party that was expected to marry populist traditions with traditional party discipline.
Both are moving away from what Canadians have come to expect of them -- one for its betterment, the other to its detriment.
Ignatieff has, in one fell swoop, dispelled mounting rumours that he is a control freak. Harper could have done this long ago, but his party's continuing treatment of Bill Casey simply will not allow that particular spectre to disappear.
The political momentum in Canada is clearly turning, and for good reason: Michael Ignatieff is making good decisions, and his opponents are suffering from a combination of poor fortune and poor decisions.
Other bloggers writing about this topic:
Jerad Gallinger - "Iggy, Danny, And a Battle Delayed"
Far and Wide - "The Appropriate Response"