Friday, May 19, 2006

Ignatieff's Yes vote

The left of centre blogosphere is apoplectic at the success of the Harper snap vote on the Afghan mission extension, not least because Harper approached and shook hands with Ignatieff after the vote - I can't understand the bile heaped on Ignatieff on that point, was he supposed to not shake Harper's hand? How petulant would that have looked?

The true failure of the Liberals was not Ignatieff's, after all he was one of the few that voted with their interim leader (and Minister of Defence during the Kandahar deployment approval). He also at least showed up, unlike Paul Martin, Ralph Goodale, John Godfrey, Irwin Cotler and others who failed to represent their constituents either way.

The real failure was Graham's, who as leader had a choice - vote for the deployment as a caucus or against. The vote against could have been premised with a plan agreed with BQ and NDP to strike a committee (they have the votes after all) to examine the existing deployment and recommend on an extension within a short timeframe, with the Chief of Staff testifying as to how much leadtime the Forces would need to get a go or no-go. It is difficult to see how Harper could have persisted with his "unilateral one year extension" plan given that the vote on the extension was probably part of the BQ budget deal.

The vote for could have been premised as merely endorsing the efforts of the existing missions to Kabul and Kandahar and the request of the Afghan government itself for an extension but the 75% No vote of those present and voting probably meant option 1 was more likely.

The split down the middle has compromised the Liberals as a caucus. For those who now want Ignatieff tarred and feathered remember this - look at the people who voted with him. Many are social conservative Liberal MPs who are in the buffer zone keeping 905 Tories out of the 416. Others like Karygiannis were absent. Lose them, and Harper gets a certain overall majority. Frankly many of them would be better off as Tories but I'm not a member of the Liberal party so I don't have to rub shoulders with them.

For the left of the Liberal party the Afghanistan extension is a disaster - but it is merely a pinprick compared to how they will feel in a Tory majority if the attitude of Harper with a minority is a guide. Volpe and the other no-voters will lead the Liberals into an election platform that will win the hearts of college students who don't vote anyway and of NOW magazine. Ignatieff can steal Tory votes, or at least stop the fleeing of centrist middle class votes.
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