Sunday, June 14, 2009

Time for a reminder

It hasn't been by accident that I haven't had much to say about the latest election rumblings about of Ottawa. But I'll take a few minutes to offer up a refresher course in why the Libs figure to be unlikely to take a stand against the Cons - and why they could be in serious trouble in a campaign if they do pick now as the moment to start acting like an opposition party.

Remember that over the course of the past two and a half years, the Libs have sent the message that exactly zero of the Cons' failings and manipulations were worth toppling the government over. They've criticized the Cons over the environment, immigration, pay equity, fiscal irresponsibility, and all kinds of other issues - and they've had every opportunity to vote Harper down. But every time, they've gone on to declare that those problems didn't matter enough justify voting down the Harper government.

That's always figured to make it tough for the Libs to change directions. In effect, the moment the Libs declare that some single issue is big enough to demand that they vote down the government, they'll immediately have to answer the question of why every other issue they claim to care about fell short of that standard.

Which means that the Libs have painted themselves into one of the few corners where the trigger for an election really matters. Absent some scandal or failing on a scale which obviously dwarfs all the bad news that's already come out about the Harper government, any Lib vote of non-confidence now figures to demoralize seemingly-friendly groups by making clear that their concerns didn't matter enough to the party to be worth pressing.

And as many concerns as there are with the Cons' actions over the past couple of months, there's simply no reasonable argument to be made that anything new has come up. Incompetence and deception surrounding Chalk River and medical isotopes? Failure to spend promised infrastructure money? Politicization of government spending? A perpetually-deteriorating economy and fiscal situation? Those are the main weak points for the Cons at the moment - and on every single one of them, the Libs have sent the message on previous confidence votes that they didn't justify bringing down the Cons.

Of course, it remains equally true that the Libs see themselves as better off kidding their supporters than being honest about the likelihood of their actually standing up for anything. So they don't figure to stop saber-rattling anytime soon.

But there's no way for the Libs to pull the trigger on the Cons now without opening themselves up to obvious questions as to why they never bothered earlier. Which is why there's little reason to think next week's confidence votes will have any different outcome from the last 71.

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