Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Layton's Gamble

Well, against the odds, we do have a deal in principle. After all the harping and negativity over the state of affairs being revealed in Ottawa (by myself as much as anyone), I must applaud the initiatives that seem to be emerging from the Martin-Goodale fold in order to keep the government alive.

Kudos to Layton for pressing forward his agenda. He has kept his eye on the ball. Liberals do seem fairly content with the outcome of the negotiations, but make no mistake - this is a rather surprising capitulation. As Ibbitson writes (although in much more ominous and hyperbolic terms), it amounts to a substantial altering of the budget: "Jack Layton told Paul Martin that the price of survival was nothing less than the equivalent of a new Speech from the Throne, written by the NDP. Paul Martin, dizzy from gazing into the abyss, surrendered without a fight." But I am much less convinced than he is that this will prevent NDP voters from bleeding to the Liberals in the face of a strong Conservative challenge next election. That's the risk Layton takes.

In my haste to see the back of a regime too comfortable in power that they have neglected and foresaken their authority to govern (through direct acts, willful blindness, or otherwise), perhaps I had overly closed my mind to the possibility of initiating socially progressive policies while we wait for the hour to render judgment.

My overriding concern here has always been that Martin's play for time will cause Canadian anger over the sponsorship allegations to fizzle away. The Liberal party must be held to some type of political account for the scandal by the public. I hope that Layton's deal only delays that inevitable bruising. And there are elements of seediness in being seen to "bribe" a tainted regime - but politics is a tough game, and these are not new NDP priorities unknown to Canadians.

If the government does hold, the true masterstroke of Layton's endgame has been under-reported thus far. Keeping the government alive greatly increases the chances that the same-sex marriage legislation will not die on the order paper and then suffer through a Conservative minority. Ideally, it will pass before an election. Getting that into the books alone might be worth the wait. If the numbers don't add up for the Tories, Harper will have to win it on Martin's terms. I still think he is fully capable.

Off to London (oh how I love typing those words!)


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