Opposition's fiscal support of Harper could paint them into a corner
Michael Ignatieff may be disappointed in a few days' time when he watches his fellow opposition parties vote on the ways and means measure being introduced by the Conservative party.
NDP leader Jack Layton has tenuously voiced his support for the motion -- although he's noted that "the problem with the Conservatives [is that] the press release comes out, but then the devil is in the details."
Now Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe has followed Layton's lead and announced that he will support the bill -- the last fiscal bill the Conservatives will introduce before the Liberals' planned confidence motion at the end of this month (or early in October).
The Conservative party will remain secure in office for at least that time, pushing the time for a possible election back to mid-November or early December.
But there is one thing that even Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff will have to admit when he watches the BQ and NDP prop up the government to fight another day: it undermines any credibility for Ignatieff's own promised non-confidence motion.
In Parliamentary terms, there tends to be a word reserved for the sentiments of the opposition whose fiscal bills they support:
It would be hard for the NDP or Bloc to jump behind a Liberal non-confidence motion when they've been helping that government advance its fiscal agenda -- in this case, extending additional Employment Insurance coverage to long-tenure workers and supplying funds to pay for the Home Renovation Tax Credit.
Regardless of whatever campaign strategy-related goals are actually motivating the Bloc and NDP -- and speculation has been all the rage for weeks -- this dilemma is particularly distressing for Michael Ignatieff.
As Margaret Wente speculates in the Globe and Mail, Ignatieff himself is facing a severe crisis of political identity.
Ignatieff needs to establish himself as a "warrior king" before he gets saddled with the wimpy label applied to his predecessor, Stephane Dion.
Ignatieff once seemed to think that being a warrior king was a lot like being a philosopher king, just with tougher words.
But, as Wente notes, "The trouble is that up till now it's been all talk. You can only bluff and bluster so many times without looking silly."
"It's not hard not to conclude that Canada is a stage set for Mr Ignatieff's fantasy life," Wente continues. "He has always been torn between being a man of letters and a man of action, pulled between the ivory tower and the battlefield. He has spent time in nasty war zones."
Wente notes that Ignatieff lacks the political instincts and the killer instinct to defeat Stephen Harper in an election.
"Stephen Harper does not deserve such luck," she concludes. "His opponent is yet another man who vastly overestimates his own abilities. Mr Ignatieff is looking more and more like Mr. Dion, without the accent."
Like Dion, Ignatieff seemingly cannot only not command the confidence of his fellow oppositon leaders, but is seemingly losing the confidence of his caucus as well.
If the opposition parties cannot muster enough confidence in Michael Ignatieff to support his non-confidence motion they'll essentially be painting themselves into a confidence corner.
If they aren't willing to pull the plug on Harper sooner by voting down his fiscal bills, it will take a matter of substantive consequence later to convince them to vote him down at all.
In the meantime, it seems that Stephen Harper may enjoy greater confidence than Michael Ignatieff does as opposition leader.
That bodes all kinds of troublesome for the would-be philosopher king.
Other bloggers writing about this topic:
Dan Shields - "The BQ Blinks First"
Counterweights - "'Separatists' will keep Harper minority government alive (once again, with feeling?)"
Chuckman's Choice of Words - "Ignatieff: Can You Trust This Guy?"