Wednesday, January 28, 2009

So Harper's Lease on Political Life Has Been Extended

So, Ignatieff decided to let the Con$ have their budget ... sort of.

I won't say I'm thrilled with this - Harper is a destructive PM, and the sooner he's gone the better in my opinion.

However, Ignatieff has done something that Dion never managed to do - position Harper so that he has to compromise.

Ignatieff's comments are interesting and articulate:

In the face of this crisis, we have a government that has mismanaged our public finances for the last two years.

The Conservatives chose reckless spending and irresponsible tax policy over prudence and fiscal discipline. They drove Canada towards a deficit—long before this recession began. And, in so doing, they harmed the federal government's ability to act in the national interest in times of crisis.

For that failure—the failure to plan and act responsibly as a government—we hold them responsible.

This is the first time any of the opposition parties have held the Con$ up to responsibility for their behaviour since taking power. Ignatieff has signalled that he's willing to reach back and slap the conservatives about for their irresponsibility from day one.

Yesterday's budget is a flawed document.

It doesn't go far enough to protect Canadians who have lost—or will lose—their jobs.

It extends EI benefits but fails to extend EI eligibility.

It opens the door for attacks on pay equity for women.

It does not seize on the wealth of opportunities in the green economy.

It breaks their promise to all provinces from only two years ago on equalization.

It attaches strings to infrastructure dollars that may delay projects and delay jobs.

It promises to sell government assets for cash, without saying which assets and for how much.

And it lacks a credible plan for getting us out of the $85-billion hole the government will dig us into over the next five years.

I like this summary of the budget's shortcomings. Ignatieff has called the Con$ervatives out on their failings in this budget, and in doing so has shown Canadians that unlike Dion he is able to articulate the failings of the Con$ clearly, and concisely.

Accountability is something that Stephen Harper has always said is important. I agree with him.

But this budget does not include one word about accountability.

We will require regular reports to Parliament on the budget's implementation and its cost — one in March, one in June and one in December.

Each of these reports will be an opportunity to withdraw our confidence should the government fail Canadians.

We will vigilantly monitor its effects on our economy and on every region of our country.

We will be watching like hawks to make sure the investments Canadians need actually reach them.

To be absolutely clear, this is the opposition doing their jobs - correctly. I must applaud this, because Ignatieff has just put Mr. Harper in a position where he is obliged not only to carry out the actions he has promised, but Ignatieff has guaranteed that there are multiple points of review - any one of which can be used to take down a government that is failing to enact its promises.

Ignatieff has just put Mr. Harper into the position of having to live up to his often promised, never delivered accountability - at a time when Canadians will be paying very, very close attention to their government's behaviours.

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