Before the summer, Michael Ignatieff threatened to bring down the government over changes it wanted to EI. He went into negotiations with Harper and came out with a promise of a ‘blue-ribbon’ panel to study the issue over the summer. Citing his great concern for ‘ordinary working Canadians’ Michael Ignatieff seemed relish his role as the champion of unemployed Canadians.
Parliament is now back in session and it seems that Ignatieff has done some ruminating over the summer BBQ scene. He has now decided that he and the Liberals can no longer continue to support the Harper Conservatives. Ignatieff is now threatening to bring down the government over proposed changes to EI that would see benefits flow to some workers for a longer period of time. Instead of trying to ensure that ‘ordinary working Canadias’ receive extended benefits he has decided that he would rather bring down the government.
The NDP have looked at the proposed legislation and has decided to support it. This legislation will pass with the support of the NDP and the BQ. It is doubtful that the NDP would be supporting this legislation just to prevent an election. The NDP would not be blamed for bringing down the government – that would fall on the Liberals. So there are really no political consequences for the NDP if there is another election. The NDP cannot really afford another election right now but I doubt that is why they are supporting the proposed legislation. The NDP is supporting the proposed legislation because it is good for unemployed Canadians.
The Official Opposition is very important to our democracy. Without it governments would run amok. However, oppositions have to be careful that they are not opposing things for the sake of opposing them. Carole James and the BC NDP learned this lesson the hard way when they opposed the Carbon Tax in BC. By opposing the tax and making it a central tenet of their campaign they alienated key supporters of the NDP. They bled a lot of votes to the Greens and allowed the BC Liberals to win again.
Ignatieff seems poised to make the same mistake. If he and the Liberals are really concerned about ‘ordinary working Canadians’ and ensuring that EI benefits are flowing to as many as possible, for as long as possible then they will get off their metaphorical high horse and support the legislation. If they are succesful in triggering an election then we may well be saddled with a majority Conservative government.