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In an e-mail exchange with Brian Topp, Les Campbell argues that, as the way forward, the NDP should " pursue serious negotiations for a pre or post election progressive alliance." If there's any doubt what he has in mind, he refers elsewhere in the exchange to "discussing the possibility of pre and/or post election coalitions."

Meanwhile, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff pours a gallon of cold water on that idea in the last paragraph of a long interview in Le Devoir: "I am not against political arrangements between/among parties to make a minority Parliament work. I am prepared to negotiate with the other parties to move legislation forward. But, let's be clear, I've always spoken of arrangements, not of a coalition."

In truth, not always. Not surprisingly, however, Mr. Ignatieff does not remind readers that he supported last fall's coalition proposal - albeit as the last Liberal MP to sign on. Nor does he mention his view at the time that the Governor-General could call an election instead of handing the government over - a view not then shared by Bob Rae and some constitutional experts.

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These days, taking account of current Conservative attack lines, Mr. Ignatieff explains his position as follows: "We were in the middle of an economic crisis and it was not a time to play small political games. We forced the government to produce a stimulus budget. We were responsible. Now, we're in a different situation. We can have an election without threatening anything. You could even say that it would be good for the country, but that's another question. There's no problem of stability."

According to Mr. Ignatieff, the decision whether to precipitate a fall election will depend on three factors, the first in his list being whether the Liberals are ready for one. While polls come and go - and while most pollsters did not distinguish themselves for accuracy in the last election - the line story in the Ottawa Citizen will likely tamp down some of the ardour for an early vote.

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