Adam Radwanski writes in this morning's Globe and Mail that Michael Ignatieff has finally fallen into Stephen Harper's trap:
Mr. Harper has been setting this trap ever since Stéphane Dion’s ill-fated attempt to take power 2 1/2 years ago. Now, Mr. Ignatieff has wandered straight into it. He has 11 days to find his way out.
Oh, that wily Stephen Harper! National party leaders, writes Radwanski, are not supposed to be civics professors:
If the two men were being graded by civics teachers, Mr. Ignatieff would indeed be winning. His explanation of how another Conservative minority would work – the need for Mr. Harper to gain the confidence of Parliament, the possibility that a failure to do so will lead the Governor-General to turn to Mr. Ignatieff instead – is grounded in parliamentary conventions. Mr. Harper’s insistence that only the party with the most seats can govern, and anyone else attempting to do so is usurping the will of the people, is an open defiance of those conventions.
But the leaders are not being judged by civics teachers; they’re being judged by an electorate looking for a reasonably concise explanation of what its options are. Mr. Harper is providing that, however misleadingly. Mr. Ignatieff is not.
His column is a measure of how cynical political punditry has become in this nation. But there are occasional glimmers in the gloom. In this morning's Vancouver Sun Craig McInnes asks, "When did compromise become a dirty word?" He notes that:
Because of the low turnout in the 2008 election, Harper has been governing with the express consent of just 22 per cent those who could have voted for his party. If he gets similar support this time and a similar number of seats, to continue governing he will have to seek the support of a Parliament in which a majority of MPs were not sent to Ottawa by their constituents to keep him in office.
Harper says, unlike Ignatieff, he won't compromise with the other parties to get their support. Given the compromises the Conservatives have made in the past five years to stay in power, that seems unlikely unless Harper is trying to force a confrontation. More to the point, what benefit is there to Canadians when a party with only minority support insists it has the right to impose its views on the majority without taking theirs into consideration?
Mr.Harper maintains that, even though a majority of votes cast would not Conservative, those voters would be losers.That notion is more than just wrong, McInnes writes:
Beyond the legal position, if we believe that a country with disparate cultures and traditions can thrive under a common government, the notion that compromise and seeking consensus is un-democratic or un-Canadian, is simply offensive.
Mr. Harper doesn't get it. Neither does Mr. Radwanski.