Monday, January 12, 2009

Ignatieff: Coalition govt. possible if Tories' budget not acceptable.


Given the condition of the Liberal finances and the likelihood that Harper will include at least some token measures to sweeten the budget for the Liberals a coalition govt. may be possible but not likely. Even if the budget were voted down the Governor General might grant Harper an election rather than accepting a coalition govt. If the budget is voted down that certainly will create an interesting situation with lots of opportunity for pundits to ply their trade. Apparently the Canadian public would prefer an election to another coalition. Many Canadians are masochists I guess!
This is from the Herald Chronicle.


Published: 2009-01-12
Ignatieff weighs options
Liberal leader says coalition government possible if Tories’ budget not acceptable
By AMY SMITH Staff Reporter Five Questions
FEDERAL LIBERAL Leader Michael Ignatieff was in Halifax last week kicking off his national tour on the economy. Staff report­er Amy Smith sat down with him for a one-on-one interview Friday afternoon. Q: Since many Canadians went to the polls in October without the con­cept that there could be a coalition gov­ernment, should the government be de­feated, would it be fairer to go to the polls (again) rather than to carry on with this coalition? A: I respect Canadians’ feelings about that. It’s perfectly legitimate to form a coalition under our system of government. There’s nothing kind of fancy or underhanded about it. It’s quite normal, but I think Canadians do have concerns about it. There are con­cerns inside my party. I don’t think it’s a secret about that. But I have to keep these options on the table be­cause Mr. Harper’s outrageous failure to address the eco­nomic crisis in late November — his attacks on public­sector union rights, on pay equi­ty for women and on funding for politi­cal parties — just left the opposition with no option but kind of slap him and say, ‘Wake up. You don’t have a majority. Stop doing this stuff. Address the eco­nomic crisis.’ Smarten up is what the coalition was all about. Smarten up, Stephen. So he’s smartening up and his tone has changed remarkably. We’ve got a budget moved forward a month. We’ve got new signs of co-operation, and all of that is positive. Now we have to see whether the mess­age is received, whether the budget meets the needs of the hour. If it does, that’s one thing. If it doesn’t, then I’ve got a bunch of choices. They include voting it down and going into an election. They include voting it down and seeking to form a coalition government that would have the approv­al of the Governor General. But never forget the role of the Governor General. She’s the one who chooses what we do here. She’s the referee. Q: Post-secondary funding goes to where the student comes from rath­er than where the student goes to school. Would you change that if you had the chance? A: I think we should. It won’t be easy because provinces from which the students originate will make a claim that it should stay with them. But I think we ought to encourage and reward the universities that actually at­tract students from out of province, and there’s a nation-building reason for that. It’s not merely (that) you want to reward Atlantic Canada for having good univer­sities, but you also want to give Cana­dians, young Canadians, a national experience. One of the things that builds a nation is, you know, if someone is born in Onta­rio, spends some time in Atlantic Cana­da, someone in Atlantic Canada spends some time out in Calgary. So we ought to have a financing sys­tem that incentivizes that, that encour­ages (us) to create a generation of Cana­dians that have national experience. Q: You had talked about tax cuts for low- and middle-income Cana­dians. How significant do you envision those cuts to be, and would it be enough to pull us out of a recession? A: Tax cuts alone can’t do it. Tax cuts have to be focused on the vulnera­ble. We mustn’t risk tipping the country into structural deficit because they are permanent. Nobody can put a tempora­ry tax cut in.They’ve got to be perma­nent. So there’s a place for targeted, focused tax relief that increases the purchasing power of the low-paid. That’s not a broad-based tax cut. That’s a narrow one, and you want to keep it narrow be­cause you don’t want to run a deficit. In addition, you have to engage in oth­er stimulus matters — infrastructure, increasing the range, scope and cover­age of EI, because that’s another thing that gets purchasing power into the vul­nerable. And there may be some other measures we’ll have to look at, but tax cuts alone can’t do the stimulus job. Q: You made some reference that you have some family connection to Jo­seph Howe. Can you expand on that? A: Joe Howe in my family was kind of a hero. It’s not a blood connection . . . but my great-grandfather was a con­temporary of Joe Howe, revered Joe Howe and disagreed with Joe about Con­federation. My great-grandfather, who was the pastor of St. Matthew’s in Halifax, was a great proponent of Confederation and Mr. Howe was an opponent, but that didn’t stop my great-grandfather from writing a very admiring biography of Joe Howe at the end of his life. Nor did it stop his son, my grandfather, from writ­ing another biography, so we are pretty keen on Joe Howe in my house. Q: How big a transition has it been coming from private life to public life, (from) being able to speak your mind freely and then having to be a bit more careful about what you say? A: It’s been a challenge and an adapta­tion. In (Friday’s) meeting (at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic), for ex­ample, I said some things the crowd didn’t want to hear. I think it’s important in politics to be credible, and one of the ways to be credible is to not always stroke the beast in the di­rection of its fur. People want straight talk, especially in the Maritimes, a very straight-talking part of the country. You try and get them to face up to some of the challenges that you’re facing and that gets the dialogue down to the issues that we have to decide. Yeah, it’s been an adaptation, but it’s unforgettable to be at dialogue with a couple hundred people like that. It’s a great experience. I don’t miss anything about my former life in that way.
( asmith@herald.ca)

© 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited

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