Everyone please relax. Being Leader of the Opposition when the economy is in free fall and the government's own figures indicate unemployment will rise at least until the summer of 2009, is a whole lot easier than trying to lead a government out of this mess.
Michael Ignatieff is an intelligent pragmatist and quickly becoming a seasoned politician. As push comes to shove over the Federal Government's budget, he'll take the easy route. The Leader of the Liberal Party will instead pick his own time to trigger an election. Since the Government's own forecasts show things will get uglier. Why would Mr. Ignatieff make this his time? Clearly he will not!
Out from the ashes of the learned lesson of his ill advised November economic update, Prime Minister Harper had found a new religion. Tuesday's National Budget, delivered by the Conservatives, had all the elements of a Liberal Government budget. Having seamlessly reached that objective, the opposition Liberals will just sit back and wait for the Conservatives to falter on the delivery.
It's been less than 12 hours, but much like the tag "Canada's New Government" heard ad nauseum in Harper's first term; I am near ready to up-chuck over: "Canada's Economic Action Plan". I've noted for instance that the projected deficit of just short of $15 billion before the stimulus package, is amazingly close to the estimated drop in revenue from the two-percentage points, in the politically expedient but ill-advised, ill-conceived cuts to the GST, since Harper was first elected. Questions thus remain about what becomes of the many "sunset clauses" of the budget on their expiration in two years following what we now know will be minimally a $64-billion deficit.
One example noted for instance by Montreal's mayor about the Government's infrastructure initiatives is how the Conservatives expect the cities to pony-up 33% of the financing when municipalities are already broke, and their total access to Canada's tax revenues amounts to less than eight percent. Someone else has already described the apparent urgency of the projected stimulus spending as a pan-Canadian "sponsorship program" in the making...suggesting indeed that the Auditor-General best have her pencils sharpened as the Tories push unabated to get program money "out the door."
In a global economy, Canada's economic recovery is really outside the scope of Ottawa's well intentioned, perhaps misguided, efforts. It's what happens south of the border in President Obama's Washington that will determine just about every aspects of North America's return to prosperity. Mr. Ignatieff will be amongst the winners by bidding his time over the future of the Harper Government and its budget.
The first loser in this equation will be the leader of the New Democrats, Jack Layton. who's pinned his party's only hope of success on a now dead governing coalition.