Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Its Amateur Hour in Parliament

When even the Liberal-leaning columnists like Don Martin think you are a joke, you know the jig as Liberal Party Leader is almost up. If he wasn't playing games with the lives of unborn children in order to score cheap political points, Ignatieff might actually deserve some sympathy.
"Stiff competition for the worst misstep of this gaffe-plagued parliamentary session ended with a no-contest loser on Tuesday when amateur miscalculations and aloof behavior backfired on Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, sending his bewildered MPs slumping in their seats.

A needlessly provocative Liberal move to sneak abortion back on the agenda, aimed at dividing the Conservatives, actually drove a wedge deep into the Official Opposition. In a result political veterans cannot recall happening for years, if ever, the Liberals were defeated by their own MPs on a motion Mr. Ignatieff had steadfastly maintained was a defining issue. In the words of a senior Liberal MP: "Ouch".

The motion had demanded a "full range of reproductive health services" -- which loosely translates into birth control and abortion -- be part of any foreign aid funding for maternal and child assistance. The motion's defeat was a jaw-dropping setback for a party gathering this weekend to ponder its longevity by developing a 2017 vision for a 150-year-old Canada.

Instead of unleashing obvious heckles, usually boisterous Conservative MPs responded with sympathetic silence for severely battered Michael Ignatieff on Wednesday, perhaps sensing he faced enough opposition from his own ranks on this particular day. When they pity you in politics, you're halfway dead. . .

The mood was even more downbeat inside the Liberals' private caucus meeting a few hours earlier.

After Mr. Ignatieff rose to take responsibility for the voting debacle, sources say MPs sat on their hands and refused to applaud his act of contrition. Popular caucus whip Rodger Cuzner also rose to grovel and take responsibility, shrugging that he'd received the motion while living it up at a hockey game.

It now appears nobody bothered to declare the vote important enough to be whipped into compulsory Liberal MP support and, what's worse, nobody tried to round up every MP in the hours before the vote was called.

That explains the 13 Liberal no-shows and why a trio of pro-life Liberals felt they could stand with the government (and against their leader) without being seen as breaching caucus discipline.

Whatever procedural mixups took place, the damage caused by Liberals rising in person or by proxy to defeat their leader on a rare, firm party position is hard to understate. . .

The seeds of the motion's defeat lay in its strange wording. Had Liberals confined the focus to birth control provisions, stripping away any hint of abortion, the government would have been forced to support the plan and pro-life Liberals might have fallen in line.

But by piling on the rhetoric about "failed right-wing ideologies previously imposed by George W. Bush" which linked international humanitarian assistance to anti-abortion beliefs, they handed the Conservatives an escape hatch from the trap."

Read the rest here.

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