Urge Michael Ignatieff to support the new coalition. Leave a message at michaelignatieff.ca or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Photo By © Chad Johnston / Masterfile
Bob Rae's exit from the Liberal leadership race has left his party united and poised to provide a real alternative government in this time of crisis. All of us on the green, centre and left of the political spectrum needed the Liberal party to finally get its act together. Thank you, Bob.
The timing and circumstances are now perfect for a new coalition government to step in come January and deal with the global economic and environmental crisis that job loss figures and accelerated Arctic ice-melt show have now truly hit home.
Only problem now is whether Michael Ignatieff has the political will to rise to the occasion. Here's a little encouragement for the new Lib leader and our Toronto Liberal caucus: make the smart choice and let the coalition get to work.
Weigh the liabilities
Face the facts of a minority Parliament. There are only two choices: the Liberal party has to get in bed with the NDP with Bloc assist or prop up the Conservatives with either votes or abstentions. Of course, Harper has already started his courting mission, trying to put you in the position of looking uncooperative if you don't sign on to his process. Don't bite. If you decide to prop up the Conservative budget, you risk following in the same dumb footsteps that made Stéphane Dion look like such a fool. Sure, you may be more comfortable veering right, but face it, Harper just cannot be trusted. He is utterly unrepentant over the economic statement. His resignation as leader is the only honourable precondition for a Liberal confidence vote or you just end up saying Harper's political madness is now okay with you. How will you take that flip-flop to the electorate a few months down the road and still hope to win?
Don't be afraid of public opinion
Polls showing our populace stacked against a coalition reflected unease about handing power over to a divided party under Dion's amateurish leadership. Remember, lefties are mostly onside because they've had a great salesman for this unprecedented project in the person of Jack Layton, and Quebecers have had the ever-clever Gilles Duceppe. The centre and centre-right have had no credible sales pitch from the Liberal party's economic heavy hitters. No wonder they aren't convinced yet. A united Liberal caucus along with all the rest of the 62 per cent majority is a formidable force that can win the PR war.
The Obama factor
The vote of (non)-confidence on the Conservative budget will come just days after Obama's inauguration and the passage of his stimulus plan on January 20. That historic event, with its aura of grassroots transformation and huge media attention, will be in every Canadian's consciousness as you enter Parliament. Who is more likely to get the moral benefit of all the good feeling generated by the Washington fete - and who is in the best position to make common cause with that new and wildly popular government? Hint: it isn't Harper. The real message about a different kind of politics in the Canuck context is coalition.
Eco cred is your wedge
No matter what Harper includes in his January budget, he doesn't have the DNA to take meaningful environmental steps. And what's great for you about green initiatives is that it isn't all about money. Some of it is about smarts - and you want to play that ace in the hole. All you have to do is follow in the clever footsteps of America's president-elect and include environmental measures in your stimulus package to have something Harper can never mimic. This is key to Canada's long-term competitiveness and prosperity, and in the new Obama era, the electorate will love you for it.
Forget the election idea
Yes, some folks around you would like to see their leader confirmed by the electorate, but Canadians didn't elect a Conservative government - we elected a minority government. That means we voted for cross-party cooperation not once but twice already. Please don't make us say it a third time. A global economic crisis makes 2009 a bad year for another election.
Stand for national unity
Don't let Harper's description of the coalition as a pact with separatists go unanswered. The country needs your long-established passion for federalism to come to the defence of our ties to Quebecers and their elected representatives. You said back in 2006 that a crucial part of nation building was bringing Quebecers back into the national fold. Here's your chance. There are many in this country who love our francophonie and are ready to reward a party that has the goodwill to cozy up with Quebec and stand firm against Harper's dangerous divisive demonizing.
Bank on creativity
We know that you and the coalition don't have much money right now to counter Conservative attack ads and separatist fear-mongering. Start asking the creative class to give you a hand with this historic battle. We don't charge the prices you're used to paying, and the talent pool is vast. There are filmmakers, new media creators, musicians and even ad directors who would jump in for costs, if asked the right way. This is one of the perks of the new non-partisan politics. Take advantage.
Last but not least
Good government is the best revenge. Here's a chance to show, not tell. Please don't blow it.