Dion seeks safe way through Harper's minefield

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

OTTAWA — Stéphane Dion has been advised by party officials not to defeat the Conservative government's Throne Speech and pick his battles with each bill that is subsequently tabled as the Liberals plot a way out of the election trap set by Stephen Harper.

The strategy, supported by Mr. Dion's newly appointed principal secretary Johanne Sénécal, is aimed at helping to buy the Liberal Leader more time while painting the Prime Minister as an autocrat who cannot tolerate checks on his power.

“The idea would be to move case by case,” said an official close to Mr. Dion. “The prevailing view among senior officials is to delay. Literally, we should play them one at a time.”

Mr. Harper said earlier this week that his government intends to increase the number of confidence motions in the House of Commons, a tactic that is being interpreted as an effort to corner the Liberals into either supporting his government agenda or provoking an election. Mr. Dion's challenge is to redefine the fall session away from that Conservative framing of the issue.

Strikingly, Mr. Dion remained silent again on the issue of the Throne Speech Friday despite Liberal MPs publicly asking what the next move from the party should be. Mr. Dion was in his Ottawa office Friday working on strategy with his officials.

Party officials told The Globe and Mail that the Liberals can forestall government confidence motions by extending debate, amending bills or counting on other opposition parties to support the government on certain bills.

One person familiar with the Liberal thinking said the Liberals could even look for ways to defeat the government on issues that play to their strengths.

One example might be Mr. Harper's pledge to restrict the federal government's right to spend federal government money in areas of provincial jurisdiction. The Liberals believe most voters want the government to maintain that right and that it could be an election issue.

The source said that Ms. Sénécal's appointment has helped bring focus to the debate.

“We've gone from sleepwalking to wide-awake.”

Liberals also argued Friday that Mr. Harper's ultimatum makes the Prime Minister look power hungry. Indeed, some actually said they would keep the Tories in the House of Commons just to demonstrate his strong-arm tactics.

Liberal candidate and past leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy said Mr. Harper was contributing to a false state of election panic.

“I don't think that we should take it as anything else but almost adolescent, in-your-face stuff.” He noted that Mr. Harper's fortunes declined last spring after his party opened its election headquarters.

Others wanted to see whether Mr. Harper would follow through with his threat to call a number of confidence votes.

“If, in fact, we don't vote down the Throne Speech then I would say [to Mr. Harper], ‘Okay, show the public what you really mean by pushing everybody to the wall,' ” said former Liberal leadership candidate Martha Hall Findlay.

“He is trying to govern as if he had a majority, and his attitude was absolutely so clear in that press conference: ‘My way or the highway.' ”

Toronto Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett, also a former leadership contender, said her caucus would have to see what is in the Throne Speech before deciding its next move.

“The Prime Minister is just continuing to demonstrate that he is a bully and doesn't understand that the people of Canada elected a minority Parliament so that his policies would be moderated,” Ms. Bennett said.

One Liberal aware of the most recent thinking said “there is no way” that the party wants a fall election.

“You don't go to war … without all of your munitions,” the Liberal said. The party is seen as behind in organizational terms and a poorer than usual financial situation.

The source said that strategists don't want to go to the people at this point and that Mr. Harper's most recent statements don't change the situation.

There are three confidence votes scheduled later this month on the Throne Speech, and another life-or-death vote could be held on the November fiscal update. The government also can quickly start to introduce bills once the House has reconvened, with the opportunity to pronounce second-reading votes on the bills to be issues of confidence.

However, the government can only be defeated if all three opposition parties are united.

If the Liberals want to keep the Parliament alive, they can ask a few MPs to abstain or not show up for votes. The opposition can delay confidence votes on government bills by putting forward long lists of speakers during debates and prevent the government from imposing closure and forcing the bills to a vote.



Our commentary in the Globe and Mail

October 5, 2007

  1. You (Ottawa Mens Centre.com, from Ottawa - Home of family court flagrant abusers of judicial POWER., Canada) wrote: Stephane Dion so far has demonstrated his ability to deal with Harper. What a pity that Dion is not a leader of a party that exists anywhere else bar Quebec. I'd like all our federal politicians to spare a thought for the most serious issue facing Canada and that is the negative population growth caused by Canada's failure to have a legal presumption of equal parenting. Half our marriages end in divorce, most children grow up without a father and most fathers are scared of having children due to the unofficial Male Gender Apartheid that permeates Canadian society. It encourages lawyers like Lawyer Lesley Kendall of the Kingston Ontario firm Cunningham, Swan, Carty, Little & Bonham to personally fabricate evidence and then present their own fabricated evidence while arguing for their client and knowingly present fraudulent information to a judge and ask him to do indirectly what he was prohibited from doing directly all to overcome another judges order for expedited trial. While we have feminist lawyers blatantly committing criminal offences in open court what hope has Canada got of encouraging fathers to have children. Across Canada, we have a large percentage of the judiciary politically engaging in the process of justification to promote hatred towards men. Go to any family court across Canada and in most of them you can feel the hatred towards fathers oozing out of the walls. We have judges like Justice Denis Power of Ottawa striking pleadings, issuing restraining orders and draconian orders for costs for not other purpose than to prevent fathers from litigating the best interests of children. While we have such professional child abusers as judges and lawyers Canada is demonstrating that its justice system is nothing better than that of a corrupt banana republic. The Ontario Court of Appeal issues costs orders against fathers 30 times more than that against mothers. Its time for a change. www.OttawaMensCentre.com (613) 797-3237