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Norman Spector

Mr. Ignatieff's game Add to ...

There can be no doubt now about Michael Ignatieff's game plan: the Liberals are setting up a coalition grudge match.

Last time, Mr. Ignatieff - unlike either Jack Layton or Bob Rae - recognized the very real prospect the Governor-General could decide to dissolve Parliament and launch an election that the Liberals could have lost.

This time, if the Liberals feel they can win an election, Mr. Ignatieff wants to maximize the chances that Her Excellency will decide against an election if Mr. Harper were to request one.

For one thing, the Liberals are proposing to tie a Prime Minister's hands when he or she is facing a confidence vote - thus preventing the Governor-General from using her discretion in exercising the reserve powers. And how else can one explain a proposal that would purport to shut the door completely on proroguing only in the first year of the mandate - the period in which many constitutionalists believe a Governor-General is most likely to reject a prime minister's request for an election? Especially when that proposal is being put forward by a leader who said only days ago that he has no problem with prorogation as long as it is not "abused."

While a secondary objective of the Liberal proposal is to trump the NDP's proposed bill, watch for Mr. Layton - who's been measuring the curtains for a long time - to sign on to the Liberal proposal. In fact, I'd not be surprised if informal backroom discussions had not already taken place.

For his part, Mr. Harper may now decide to set up a judicial inquiry to look into Richard Colvin's allegations - supported by the opposition parties - that members of the Canadian Forces abetted the commission of war crimes. And watch for him in an election campaign, whenever that may come, to defend a tool that could be useful to a future prime minister in a crisis - a scenario that can not be excluded even in Canada, one of the most blessed countries on the face of the Earth. And to demand that his political opponents shut the door completely on a replay of the 2008 attempted coup - to use The Economist's term of choice.

(Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)

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