Don’t adjust your set. Just when things were settling down on the Canadian election front, things are heating up again...
Under Michael Ignatieff’s leadership, the Liberal Party of Canada seems more determined than ever to defeat Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative government.
Three weeks ago, Harper survived a Liberal ways and means motion in the House of Commons with the pro-independence, Québec-based Bloc Québécois and the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) as unlikely allies.
The vote not only kept the Conservatives in power but it also saved the Liberals from a likely bad showing at the polls. Undaunted, they signalled last week that they would try again to topple the Conservatives, saying the government doesn’t have the confidence of the House. But a non-confidence motion introduced in the House of Commons last week failed to win enough support.
But the trump card is in NDP Leader Jack Layton’s hands. After repeatedly calling for an election to shake out the Conservatives and after opposing their every move, Layton indicated that his party will support the government—at least until a more generous benefits package for the unemployed is passed into law.
It’s the price the party is willing to pay to avoid a snap election. The NDP lobbied hard for changes to the employment insurance program, claiming too many unemployed workers were falling through the cracks.
With 143 of the 308 seats in the House, the Conservatives only need the support of one of the opposition parties to stay alive. And since the Bloc Québécois has vowed this time to support the Liberal motion, the NDP is the Tories’ lifeline.
But the political landscape in Canada is so volatile that Layton might want to rethink his strategy.
The Liberal party is in disarray after political infighting has weakened Ignatieff’s leadership. His chief political organizer in the province of Québec, long-time Montreal Member of Parliament Denis Coderre quit last week, claiming the party was run by Ignatieff’s Toronto advisers who don’t understand Québec. Coderre’s choice for a candidate in a high-profile Montreal district was dismissed by Ignatieff.
The rift has badly shaken the Liberal Party. If the government were to fall, that might present the perfect opportunity for the NDP to chip away at the center-left Liberal vote.
Whatever the outcome of this vote, there will be other opportunities to topple the government this fall.
*Huguette Young is an americasquarterly.org contributing blogger based in Ottawa, Canada. To reach a blogger, send an email to: email@example.com