Monday, June 15, 2009

Prolonging the agony

If nothing else, let's give Michael Ignatieff points for surprise in his press conference this morning.

The smart money would surely have been on his either getting his capitulation over with now, or at least making some policy demand that could justify putting off the inevitable. But instead, he's doubled down on his strategy of asking only for information rather than anything of substance, declaring that he'll overlook Harper's failed "What I Did Last Quarter" report if the Cons turn in a small extra credit assignment.

Here's the problem, though: another demand for absolutely nothing of substance only figures to give the Cons a fairly desirable set of choices. If Harper wants to appear conciliatory in avoiding an election, he can easily hand over a minimal rewrite of his party's economic numbers and a couple of policy details - which might well give the Cons an opportunity they wouldn't have had otherwise to put a more positive face on their party going into a summer blitz of spending announcements and other PR.

(And unlike the blame-shifting tactics of the PQ which Paul Wells invokes, Ignatieff's demands don't actually reflect either a substantive loss for the party facing the demand or a meaningful gain for the party making it.)

Or Harper can instead take Ignatieff's position as a sign of weakness and say that he'll stick with his current report. That would leave Ignatieff in no better position by Friday than the one he took a pass on today. And given how easily persuaded Ignatieff seems to have been in the past to avoid doing anything which could possibly challenge Harper's hold on power, there's little reason to think he'll pull the trigger then either.

In sum, it's probably fair to describe Ignatieff's choice as merely punting on the question of whether to pursue an election. But the reality is that punting tends to happen only following the failure of one's offensive strategies. And there's every reason to think Ignatieff will be in even worse field position when he gets the ball back later this week.

No comments:

Post a Comment