Cold Hard Wonk

No sentiment but politics

Consider Reconsidering

Posted by JJ in Strategic Planning, Golden Tacks (Monday October 30, 2006 at 11:15 pm)

For Liberals who bravely cheered Paul Martin’s hail Mary during the 2006 election, Michael Ignatieff’s pledge to open constitutional negotiations with no more directed aim than recording Quebec’s nationhood in the unbending stone of the written Constitution is divine nectar. But, setting criticism of the plan’s inherent wisdom aside, consider what this latest news means for its most urgent function: winning votes.

Since the Ignatieff-heavy Quebec wing of the party demanded the change (sparking suspicion that the resolution was pushed through largely to prove the extent of Ignatieff’s command of Quebec), it must be considered at the same nationwide convention at which Liberals will choose their new standard-bearer. Suddenly, the candidates are rushing to avoid the spectre of such consideration:

There appear to be several options available to the party. It is possible to amend a resolution in the smaller workshops, or to not designate it as a “priority” to be moved forth for debate on the full floor. A resolution may also be amended on the convention floor, providing there is enough support for such a change, a senior Liberal told the Star.

Why, do you ask? It’s not just the haunting problem of a party emerging from a leadership convention deeply wounded by a divisive policy debate. Given how controversial the issue really is, it shines brightly enough to compete with the main event. When you’re trying to maximize publicity of the new leader, you really don’t want to have constitutional scholars clogging up the media with analysis of plenary discussions.

And yes, it is controversial. Ignatieff defends his plan:

“Other candidates have said … recognizing Quebec as a nation in the Constitution is too difficult,” Ignatieff said in that [the Quebec City] debate. “Yes, it’s difficult, but we must do it. Otherwise, what alternative are we offering against (Prime Minister) Harper’s status quo and the Bloc’s politics of fantasy?

And yet, his staff suggest shelving it:

“All of the candidates agree that now is not the time for constitutional discussions,” said Ignatieff’s national director of policy and Internet strategy, Brad Davis.

Controversial, it seems, even within his campaign, since this couldn’t possibly be another example of the equivocation Iggy never does. But a few questions are worth asking:

Why introduce a policy in such a way as to potentially upstage yourself?

Why recommend constitutional amendment if you agree that it’s the wrong time for it?

Why propose policy likely to alienate a large portion of your party while trying to unite it after a bitter feud?

Who could possibly recommend a candidate with the political clumsiness to do the above?

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