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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Meanwhile, to Our North….

Even as Americans have focused on the transition to the Obama administration, our friends Up North in Canada have been undergoing a political drama with more twists and turns than a fictional potboiler.
When we last looked in on the Canadians in this space ten days ago, a grouping that included the centrist Liberals, the social-democratic New Democratic Party, and the Bloc Quebecois was poised to topple the minority Conservative government of Stephen Harper and form a virtually unprecedented coalition government. But Harper played the one card he had, and convinced Governor General Michaelle Jean to grant an adjournment of Parliament until January 26, forestalling a no-confidence vote that would have brought down his government. There’s a wonderfully detailed blow-by-blow account of events up to that point now available at Macleans.
As polls showed a backlash against the coalition maneuver, Liberals decided to accelerate their election (originally scheduled for May) to replace Stephane Dion as party parliamentary leader and putative Prime Minister of the coalition government. Former Harvard professor Michael Ignatieff–reportedly not a huge fan of the coalition–won with relative ease.
It remains anyone’s guess what will happen next month. If the coalition hangs together and forces a no-confidence vote, Jean could let them set up a government, or could order new elections (given the passage of a few more weeks since the last election in October), in which the Conservatives might have a significant advantage. Alternatively, the Liberals, with arguably the most to lose in new elections, could blow up the coalition and bide their time. It will be very interesting in Ottawa on January 26.
The one sure thing is that events have forced the Conservatives to backtrack on many elements of the neo-Hooverist and blatantly partisan economic package that precipitated the whole crisis. They’ve abandoned plans to end public financing of the political parties, and to temporarily ban public sector strikes. And they’re now talking about stimulating the Canadian economy, and maybe even helping the auto industry, instead of digging in their heels and welcoming a deep recession as a healthy opportunity to discipline the private and public sectors.
Perhaps the Tories’ counterparts in the U.S. should pay heed to this rethinking of neo-Hooverism, which may ultimately prove to have saved the day for Harper and his party.

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