By Ryan McGreal
Published January 29, 2009
After complaining that the new Conservative budget doesn't do enough to extend Employment Insurance benefits and may lead to structural deficits, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff proceeded to roll over and acquiesce to it, insisting only that the Conservatives report in periodically on how the budget is working out.
The Conservatives, no doubt pleased to confirm that the Liberal Party didn't acquire a spine with its new head, gladly accepted this 'concession', pointing out that reporting to Parliament and facing confidence votes it isn't exactly an added burden.
As House Leader Jay Hill put it, "You know, this is nothing new. We're always accountable to Parliament and to the Canadian people".
So now we're left with a stimulus budget full of sound and fury that won't actually do much to stimulate the economy. Infrastructure money will still seep through the tangled Building Canada Fund (and municipalities will still have to come up with matching funds), and most unemployed people will still be left in the lurch.
Meanwhile, the tax cuts - which even the government admits will do little to spur economic growth - will lead to structural deficits and the need to cut spending down the road.
Ignatieff had a chance to insist that the Conservative government make real improvements to the budget or face defeat. That is, Ignatieff had a chance to be a leader. Instead, he revealed himself as merely a calculating sycophant.
It turns out that we have a coalition government after all: a coalition between the minority Conservatives and their Liberal enablers.