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The Globe and Mail

Ignatieff's honesty, Harper's spokesman and anti-Layton bombast

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff addresses a townhall meeting in the election battleground of Brampton, Ont., on April 19, 2011.


1. Michael Ignatieff comes clean on forming government.

Renewed talk of coalition and minority government scenarios is making the Conservatives very happy. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff went on national television Tuesday and laid out in great detail to CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge how he could form a government if a Tory minority government is defeated in the House of Commons after the May 2 election. This, of course, revived Stephen Harper's contention that Mr. Ignatieff is all about seizing power.

"There is some pleasure about that but the trick is not to overdo it," a veteran Conservative told The Globe. "As you know we have the ability to step one step too far. Certainly those traveling with the PM were pleased to hear about it."

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Tories should beware, however. There are a couple of theories as to why Mr. Ignatieff said what he said.

Liberal insiders argue the polls are showing a Harper majority is almost out of reach. So, Mr. Ignatieff and his team want "to telegraph their intention to form a government if Harper has 153 seats or less," a veteran Liberal said. "The fear is that they would look like liars if they didn't come clean now that there would be an informal coalition with the NDP and Bloc."

But Ignatieff spokeswoman Leslie Church maintains Mr. Ignatieff did not say anything more or less than he has previously said about how democracy works in this country - and she pointed to the letter he released ruling out a coalition government at the very beginning of the campaign.

"Whoever leads the party that wins the most seats on election day should be called on to form the government," he wrote. "If that is the Liberal Party, then I will be required to rapidly seek the confidence of the newly-elected Parliament. If our government cannot win the support of the House, then Mr. Harper will be called on to form a government and face the same challenge. That is our Constitution. It is the law of the land."

The real question, Ms. Church said, is "why Mr. Harper is misleading Canadians about the way our democracy works?"

"Canadians are tired of politicians spinning and misleading them, and they want a leader who will tell them the truth about their constitution and the way our democracy works."

2. How will Quebec react to Dimitri Soudas's lobbying efforts?

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Nik Nanos, the Globe and Mail/CTV pollster, picked up some concern about the Tories in Quebec during his polling Tuesday night - part of that disquiet, he believes, could be a result of the Soudas story.

The Globe and Mail Daniel LeBlanc has detailed efforts by Mr. Soudas to have a Montreal engineer, Robert Abdallah, appointed president of the Montreal Port Authority. Two senior Conservative ministers had to intervene on behalf of the agency.

Quebeckers, Mr. Nanos said, are sensitive to stories involving government and ethics - and he points to the Liberal sponsorship scandal as an indication of how strongly Quebeckers react. "What we have to watch now is if it is sustained," the pollster said. "Will it last or is it a two-day wonder?"

The Harper Conservatives are hovering between 15 and 16 per cent support in Quebec. In the last election, where they won 11 seats, they had about 25 per cent support. The Soudas story broke just Tuesday night as Mr. Nanos was in the field polling.

3. Jack Layton's rise in the polls and the resulting pile-on.

Watch for the other parties - especially the Bloc Québécois and the Tories - to go right after Jack Layton and his NDP, given this recent surge of his in Quebec. Mr. Layton is poised to add to his seat count in the province as he sees his support increasing every day. According to the latest Nanos Research numbers, Mr. Layton is at 25.4 per cent support in Quebec - about where the Tories were in the 2008 election and they won 11 seats.

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Mr. Layton and his policies will now come under much more scrutiny in this sprint to the finish.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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