Cold Hard Wonk

No sentiment but politics

Confusion in the Ranks

Posted by JJ in Golden Tacks (Wednesday March 21, 2007 at 1:49 pm)

With all the fuss and hubbub of dealing with a government budget, it’s easy to understand that Liberal leader Stephane Dion might be a bit flustered. So his muddled explanation of confidence motions as a reason for kicking Joe Comuzzi out of the Liberal caucus is somewhat understandable:

The consequence is that he is not any more part of our caucus because a vote on the budget, like a vote on the Throne Speech, is vote of confidence. You cannot vote against the caucus on it.

But Canadians shouldn’t be misled by M. Dion’s obvious confusion. Voting against caucus on a confidence motion is an issue for the party in power, not the opposition, because it is the party in power that risks its own failure. Voting against the party line in opposition is only a certain sin if the leader decides that it is.

The real sin of Mr. Comuzzi is that any dissent in Liberal ranks will make the Liberals’ own reservations about the budget less persuasive. And given that every criticism raised thus far by the Liberals is based on comparisons to spending which they promised in future years but weren’t around to ever implement, the party hasn’t yet hit on a simple and persuasive message to counter what little the budget contains.

After all, when your best line on the budget is:

The net personal tax relief is a modest $80 per tax-payer.

backed up by the bald:

. . .the Conservatives simply don’t understand the pressures facing low- and middle-income families.

you’re not so much fanning the flames of discontent as you are rubbing twigs together. And if members of your own caucus are hot-headed enough to break ranks over the issue, you’re confused if you think that you’re the one on fire.

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