At long last the Liberal Party has a leader, one who's more than a match for Stephen Harper. Slag him if you like but I won't. What I've heard from Michael Ignatieff over the past two days removes any doubts I had about the leadership vacuum our party suffered under Stephane Dion.
I've said it here many times before but the best thing that Dion and Harper had going for them was each other. There were a lot of people who wouldn't vote for a Dion government. Some stayed home, others voted for Harper. Some, who couldn't bring themselves to vote for either, parked their vote with the NDP.
I think that dynamic is ended now and I'll bet that Harper does too. The reality is that Steve Harper has been a remarkably poor prime minister. Despite being educated as an economist, he was so busy in constant campaign mode that he was totally blindsided by the economic meltdown that's swept over us. Steve didn't do one thing to protect our country against this crisis, nothing. I knew it was coming, why didn't he? Joe Stiglitz knew it was coming, Paul Krugman knew it was coming. They were telling anyone who would listen. When it came to America's economic collapse, Stephen Harper wouldn't hear of it - and he didn't.
So now there's a new kid running the show and he's one that the schoolyard bully isn't going to be able to push around. Harper may finally have to run on policy and his record, two areas where he realizes he's vulnerable. That was evident from the timing of the snap election in September. The summer was winding down, MPs were just about to return to Ottawa, the scandals of the previous winter and spring had fallen silent - BOOM, an election! So, what was the urgency, what great policy initiative did Harper have that needed an electoral mandate? Nothing, nothing at all. He didn't even bring out a "platform" until the last week of the campaign and it was thin as a reed. The election was fought over Stephane Dion and Harper held every card. It was rank political game playing and nothing but. And, for Steve, it worked. He almost pulled off a majority.
That's over now. You don't get to pull that scam twice. Now Steve is being forced to do what he fears most - he's forced to govern, to lead, as though his political life depended on it which it most assuredly does.
True to his cowardly nature, Steve is trying to lure Ignatieff into his standard trap. He wants Ignatieff to formulate an economic recovery plan which Harper can then either adopt as his own or, if he sees an opening, attack. Either way, Harper doesn't have to take the risk of actually governing. Ignatieff, however, doesn't seem willing to let him get away with that - again. Who has all the best and brightest minds in the civil service at his beck and call? That would be the prime minister. It's his job to propose this sort of legislation, not the opposition's.
Wow, the next election might be a referendum - on Harper. That would be a first and it's a prospect that must be giving our Furious Leader absolute tremors.