Before today’s decision to prop up the Conservative minority government, there seemed to be two schools of thought in pundit land on what the Liberals should do: a) avoid defeating the government to “fight another day” until the party’s fortunes under Stephane Dion improve; and b) trigger an election, and use the expectedly-poor results to justify the removal of Dion as leader.
Neither scenario made much sense. The Liberal Party, in every region of the country save for Toronto proper, is literally imploding under Dion. More time means more destruction. And to trigger an election knowing the results will be a dramatic loss of seats would be, for a party already strapped for cash, absolute suicide. No, the backroom boys in the Liberal Party had neither of these scenarios in mind. They have a third, which seems to have been put in motion in the wake of the Outremont debacle, that will see both an election avoided, and Dion gone.
Here’s what I believe is happening: the back-room masters have decided to allow Dion to make himself look so bad – through his crumbling inner circle, his lack of caucus support, and his bizarre justifications for letting the Throne speech pass – that the party will have no choice but to call a leadership review, dump him, and hold a quick Bob Rae-Michael Ignatieff battle to move on to a new era.
Just look at Iggy’s sly mug. He’s been looking like this for days, as he’s bounced from camera to camera, telling anyone who will listen that “Canadians don’t want an election” (the familiar call of a party that knows it’s going to get its ass kicked). And hey, what do you know – Bob Rae (whose brother, John, happens to have been recently reinstalled as the key man in the Liberal Party’s back-room) has been bouncing around from camera to camera saying the same thing!
I don’t think they’re in collusion – but I do think they understand well the dynamic that needs to play out for their party to have any life whatsoever in the next several years, and for themselves to have a viable party to lead. They each want to take over the ship, and they each realize that they need to do so with a reasonably-sized caucus. So, they each needed to make sure Dion did what they wanted – avoid an election that could reduce them to Tories-circa-1993 levels.
So it goes – phase one, the survival of the current caucus, is complete. Phase two – the removal of Dion – starts tomorrow. BEFORE he has a chance to vote the government down on the crime bill next week.
Update 10/18/2007 10:45am – This article in this morning’s Toronto Star backs up pretty much everything I wrote here…