The Odd Couple

Rex Murphy notes that, with the NDP and Bloc now agreeing to support Harper, the bigger winner may actually be Ignatieff - spared an election no one wants.

Read the transcript of this Point of View

Rex Murphy Point of View

September 17, 2009

Dearly Beloved, What the Home Renovation Tax Credit has joined together let no dropping of the writ put asunder.

The Bloc and the Conservatives are now, sorta, together --- and who would have thought that the great science of patio repairs and kitchen renovations could have brought about so untoward an embrace.

Last December when the great Coalition crisis transfixed the nation, Stephen Harper was going on about Duceppe and the separatists in the kind of language usually reserved for exorcism ceremonies --- or Kanye West, the ignoramus rapper, doing a walk-on at an MTV awards ceremony.

Now the Bloc and the Tories have buried their several keen rhetorical hatchets: – Gilles will support Steven to save the tax credit for household renovations --- will Mike Homes be our next Governor General? – And we will be spared a great general election as a result.

In part, Jack Layton and the NDP have had a doomsday conversion as well.  Before Michael Ignatieff threw down the gauntlet a few weeks ago, Layton and the NDP had been chest-beating for nearly a year on their irreconcilable opposition to the demon Conservatives --- as heartless, incompetent, untrustworthy, opportunistic, Bush-lite,  --- the kind of party in fact that only Liberals could support. 

They voted 79 times against the "Harperites" – scourged the Liberals as enablers, patsies and camp followers, and bragged about their role, the NDP’s, as the real Opposition. And dropped such jewels of scorn as "it’s now the Harper-Ignatieff Coalition."  Well, the spigot from which flowed such perfect sarcasm has been turned off.  

Mr. Layton, through his stand-in for difficult moments, Thomas Mulcair, announced yesterday that his party will support these otherwise unspeakable Tories on E I reform.  It’s not so much entry to the bridal chamber as a one-off romp for "the good of the country." Jack and Gilles and Stephen are, sorta, seeing eye to eye on something once again.

Are they hypocrites?  Good heavens no!  You have to have principles before you can be accused of abandoning them.  And the long minuet between all the parties since the Coalition Crisis has been nothing more than the absolutely conventional politics-as-usual Ottawa dance.  Posture, spin and positioning – every bit of it:  much as Michael Ignatieff’s sudden discovery of Liberal spine, and his announcement that the Liberals were no long going to "prop up" Mr. Harper, came about only because it was necessary, for them.

But, irony of ironies, now that the Bloc and the NDP are offering the jaws-of-life to the Conservatives, the real winner is…Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals.  Saved from themselves – saved from an election that could quite possible have hurt them more than Mr. Harper.  

Don’t believe that every Liberal was happy with the Ignatieff gambit when it looked like – just last week remember – it would bring on another election.  He hadn’t just gone out on a limb; he was revving up his own chain saw.

But now – thanks to the new enlightened accord – the Layton, Duceppe, Harper-Home-Reno-and-E I - Coalition, Mr. Ignatieff looks like every grad student’s idea of Napoleon.

Curious isn’t it:  the Duceppe turnabout, and Layton’s forced conversion have saved both Harper and Ignatieff.

You can’t buy this stuff.  Canadian politics – the one sitcom that never gets cancelled.

For The National, I'm Rex Murphy