Wednesday, June 17, 2009

History repeating

I suppose we shouldn't be surprised by now that the Libs' main achievement in backing down from the Cons is to have set themselves up to chicken out plenty more times this fall. But let's take a closer look at exactly what Michael Ignatieff has agreed to - and how little it figures to accomplish for both the country at large, and the Libs as a party.

First, there's the EI panel consisting solely of appointees from the Libs and Cons. And it's worth noting that the party allocation may be the most significant "win" for the Libs in substance, as they seek to cut two parties who collectively outnumber them in Parliament out of any decision-making processes rather than working toward goals which all three opposition parties had seemingly agreed on over the past few months.

But in doing so, they also ensure that the Cons get a veto over any potential changes, rather than using the opposition's majority in Parliament to achieve any meaningful concessions. And considering that the Cons' commitment is at most to implement any "consensus" decisions agreed to by the minister responsible, we can be assured that the outcome of the process won't be anything that the Cons would have been unwilling to offer up on their own.

(As an added bonus in noting how much the Libs have conceded, consider that they've managed to broker themselves only a one-time consultation process on a single issue in exchange for propping up the Cons. By my reckoning, that gives them less sway in the current Parliament than the Bloc would have held under the progressive coalition deal, which would have provided for ongoing consultation without a single-issue focus in exchange for voting with the government.)

So what about the wording of the adjournment motion? The Libs are apparently trying to spin this as giving them an opportunity to bring down the Cons in September which might not have existed otherwise. But if that's the case, then it only suggests that the wording of their January budget motion was an utter failure, since that was supposed to ensure opportunities to vote down the government based on each quarterly report.

And the motion itself is one which the Cons can easily get around if they see fit. You'd think Michael Ignatieff would have heard of the concept of prorogation once or twice - and if the Cons decide they don't want to face Parliament in September, does anybody think they'll hesitate to go down that road again?

But then, Ignatieff's history of backing down suggests the Cons won't have much to worry about anyway. Which is what makes the motion most laughable from the Libs' perspective, as it ultimately figures to offer them little but more chances to keep embarrassing themselves this fall. And the fact that the Libs seem to see absolutely no problem with putting themselves in that position should make for the most damning outcome of all.

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