Change partners and dance?

Maybe the coalition isn’t dead, writes ANDREW COYNE. Maybe it’s just a different coalition.

Change partners and dance?What’s this? First the PM lets slip, in a post-crisis interview, that he thinks the two “big national parties” should be “working together to fix the economy.” Next thing you know, he and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff are having a “cordial and businesslike” meeting.” And now this?

Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has conceded that the economic projections in last month’s controversial update were overly rosy in light of deteriorating conditions, two Liberal MPs said today.

Finance critics John McCallum and Scott Brison emerged from a one-hour consultation with the finance minister in Toronto saying they were promised a more “realistic” picture before Christmas.

“He certainly admitted that the economic situation has deteriorated since receiving the forecasts (for the Nov. 27 fiscal and economic statement). He does agree that the forecasts were too rosy,” McCallum said in a cellphone interview…

Brison said the preferred route is for a realistic budget that tackles Canada’s economic problems.

“During these extraordinarily difficult economic times, Canadians clearly want to see a better level of co-operation in Parliament, and the Liberal party is open to that co-operation,” he said.

Something is most definitely up. Just days ago, the official Liberal party line was that the government simply could not be trusted, that cooperation was impossible, etc. (You can read several variations on that theme, in fact, in today’s Hill Times.) But now listen to Brison:

“I am hopeful and indeed confident that Minister Flaherty will come back to us on both counts — a plan that we can consider to be a realistic one around asset sales and fiscal numbers that we can depend on.”…

I believe, based on our meeting today, that there is an openness with Minister Flaherty and the government to actually co-operate with us and to work with us,” Brison said.

Perhaps I was too hasty. Maybe the coalition isn’t dead. Maybe it’s just a different coalition.


Opposition Liberals came out of a meeting with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on Monday saying pre-budget discussions on how to stimulate the economy were productive and professional…

Brison said the meeting could be the first of several if the Tories are willing to be “square” about the economy


Brison, who called the meeting “very constructive and businesslike,” said he’s hopeful the government will respond quickly.

“I would hope that prior to Christmas, we can have our concerns addressed and realistic, up-to-date and honest fiscal numbers for us to work on,” said Brison.

I’m confident that we will get the information that we need to proceed.”


Newly-minted Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff should not defeat the Harper government on the budget vote next month, but he should try to buy some time to rebuild the party, fundraise, and define his leadership before the Conservatives define him as they did to former leader Stéphane Dion, say some top Liberals.

“He should get out and let Canadians find out who he is and get an organization together and then if the government is going to be defeated, it can be defeated a year from now,” said one senior Liberal…

But some of Mr. Ignatieff’s supporters interviewed for this article said that it’s highly unlikely that the budget will be defeated because Liberals are divided on the idea of a coalition government and Mr. Ignatieff himself tends to side with those against the idea of a coalition government.

Also, sources said that by not defeating the government, Mr. Ignatieff as a rookie leader will get some time to get his party ready for an election and raise badly-needed money for the party.

Sources denied that by being Prime Minister of a coalition government, he will be in a better position to build the party arguing that in the Prime Minister’s job, he will always be busy in dealing with crises almost on a daily basis.

“You spend all your time watching your back and fighting for survival and trying to maintain the pretence,” said one top Ignatieff supporter.

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