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Lino Correia from Toronto writes: Mr. Martin, as a long-time subscriber of the Globe and Mail and political junkie, I enjoy reading your sage columns. So here is the question: Does the Liberal amendment to the 2009 budget truly capable of holding the Harper Government to account ? Please explain your response.
Lawrence Martin: Hi Lino, there are many ways of holding a government to account, or trying to do so, starting with the daily Question Period. Ignatieff added a new one with his report-card caper. It does put the onus on the government to respond in a more detailed way to budget implementation than is normally the case. In that respect it is good. The government will be reporting on itself however and will undoubtedly find a way of giving itself very high grades. Or, if it wants to force an election, it could ignore the Liberal Leader`s request.
Ignatieff might have been better to combine his putting them on probation strategy with a demand for budget amendments, on employment insurance for example.
Robin M writes: Dear Mr. Martin, it is disappointing that Michael Ignatieff made no suggestions for amendments to a budget that is terribly flawed and without a long term vision for Canada. He says he intends to hold the government's 'feet to the fire' and in March expects to see a report on what it has actually done.
My question is if, at that time, the Liberals are not satisfied with this report, would Mr. Ignatieff then go about defeating the government, which would put us into an election in April or May? Or would he again give the government another 'chance' at proving they can do better?
It seems this is the path the Liberals have taken throughout the Harper government 'reign' of power and has pushed Canada's position as one of the most forward thinking nations, to the end of the rung, especially in regard to the environment.
Is this a failure of leadership? Or smart politics by a Prime Minister whose only ambition is to change the political map in Canada and by doing so, jeopardized Canada's reputation around the world?
Lawrence Martin: Hi Robin, Ignatieff is serious about bringing the govenrment down at an appropriate time, perhaps later this year. He called it a "reckless, arrogant and shortsighted government" yesterday. But the budget did go a good distance to meeting Liberal demands and the opposition, as he said, forced them to do things they don't even believe in.
But Ignatieff is new in the job and wanted to be seen as actring responsibly by launching a dramatic power grab at this point.
You're correct in your inference that Harper has no vision, atleast not a stated one. He is a politician who exists entirely in the realm of tactics. His credibility has taken a pounding in recent months. They were so slow in seeing this big downturn coming that by December they were still forecasting years of balanced budgets. Then they turned around and brought in a budget with $64-billion in deficits. When you've been that far off the mark, how can you be credible. But they got away with it. The media was soft. There was hardly a call, despite one of the biggest flip-flops in Canadian history, for the finance minister's resignation.
Vivaldo Latoch from Ottawa writes: Mr. Martin, from your recent political writings, you seemed to support the Liberal, NDP, and Bloc poltical coalition. Can you state why you were willing to see a coalition governing the Canada? Thank you for your time and attention.
Lawrence Martin: Hi Vivaldo, what I wrote was that the coalition was a legitimate idea. In fact a coalition is far more representative in the democratic sense than one party government. The coalition parties represented roughly two-thirds of Canadian voters, the Conservatives little more than one-third.
The Harper government left itself open to the formation of a coaliton because it didn't act in the consultative fashion that is required of minority governments. It tried to govern like it had a majority or a landslide and the farcical budget update was a perfect example.