Ignatieffâ€™s Third Motive
I admit to not keeping up with all of the progressive reaction to the new Liberal-Conservative coalition. But among mainstream political pundits, there seem to be two main explanations for Igantieffâ€™s decision to not substantively amend the budget.
First, he was unwilling to go through with theÂ progressive coalition or risk an election, so he tried to sound tough without proposing anything to which the Conservatives could possibly object. Second, with the economy deteriorating, he did not want to put his fingerprints on the governmentâ€™s economic plan. As Don Martin explained, â€œNew rival happy to let Tories own crisis.â€
There is undoubtedly much truth in both explanations but there is also a third, more fundamental reason. Igantieff could not amend the budget because the Liberals were making contradictory criticisms of it. He almost said as much when a reporter asked him why he did not propose â€œmore substantial amendments based on the policiesâ€:
. . . it would be irresponsible of us to propose amendments that would increase the budgetary excess. We need a balanced budget, and I feared that if we started with amendments, we would never end . . .
So, we need a balanced budget that provides more fiscal stimulus???
The Liberals want smaller deficits and more spending to create jobs, protect the vulnerable, etc. The only way these proposals could be compatible is with significantly higher revenues. But last time I checked, the Liberals also wanted deeper corporate tax cuts than the Conservatives. The Liberals are not proposing to reverse GST or personal income tax cuts either.
The Blocâ€™s budget sub-amendment, which the NDP supported, provides an outline of how a progressive coalition budget would have differed from Harperâ€™s budget. Ignatieffâ€™s inability to propose substantive amendments suggests that a Liberal budget would not have been much different from the Conservative one.
With the progressive coalition now dead (or at least in a completely vegetative state), I suggest that the whole enterprise would have fared better had my proposal from almost two years ago been followed. A major stumbling block for the coalition was Dionâ€™s ineffectiveness as a spokesmen and implausibility as a Prime Minister. Layton would have been much stronger on both counts.