Monday, September 21, 2009

Jack's Story and Iggy's Plan - A Typical Ottawa Monday

It's break week so there shouldn't be much to discuss, right? Wrong.

The day started with Jack Layton telling us "Why I'm Voting with Stephen Harper" ( I am quite certain that this was near the top of his "things you will never hear me say" list. Ouch.

If I am reading this right, his answer boils down to the following: something is better than nothing. That's fair. The government has offered something which, although a long way from what the NDP has sought, does represent a positive move from the NDP's perspective.

Honestly though, this is something the government was likely going to do anyway. What they didn't want was to be seen to be doing it as a result of a Liberal-driven panel.

I see it as a no-lose move for the government. Table the proposal, have it accepted and you look like you are committed to making things work. Table it, lose and you go to the polls in a far stronger position than any of your opponents. What will be interesting to see is whether Jack's support costs him some of his core.

Later in the day we had Mr. Ignatieff delivering his second policy speech in a week - this time focused on the economy. You will recall last week when I noted how Ignatieff needed to get more of his policies out in the open so that he could move away from being a puzzle. So how did he do?

The speech ( is similar to last week's piece on foreign policy - here's where the government has been poor, here's where we a Liberal government will focus.

There are some specifics, most notably the commitment to make fully independent the Parliamentary Budget Officer and to open the country's books up. The latter pledge is interesting in that it can be seen as an attempt to build some wiggle room into the platform.

See, any delays or discarded Liberal plans will be because the situation was revealed to be far worse than was reported by the government - shame on you government (cue righteous indignation). A tried and true approach.

In terms of a plan for reducing the deficit, we again see the focus on controlling government spending (in what areas? how?). However, this is complemented by a recognition that Canada will need strong economic growth to climb out of the hole.

Here Ignatieff tries to lay out, albeit at a high-level, how a Liberal government would stimulate economic growth. R&D investments, trade missions and a focus on both a knowledge-based and a green economy will feature prominently in the months ahead.

Importantly, we are starting to see hints at how the two main parties will contrast themselves against one another. Cut spending and taxes on one side; maintain tax levels and make targeted investments on the other. For me, this is the fun stuff as it gets at that important "role of government" question.

Hopefully we see more of this in the weeks to come...

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