Ignatieff: targeting NDP voters

Perhaps I shouldn’t pick on the NDP but it’s hard not to when Michael Ignatieff starts sounding more like a social democrat than tax-cutter Jack Layton does.  Of course, even though there may be no election in the offing, the Liberals now have the advantage: they are the ones seen to be taking it to Harper and saying the House of Commons has no confidence in the Harper government. Which is, uhm…true.

It is always fascinating – regardless of how may times it happens – to see the Bay Street Liberal party move so shamelessly to the left to steal voters from the NDP. But if you read Michael Ignatieff’s speech Wednesday to the Toronto Board of Trade you would have to go back to the head line to make sure you got the name right. This is very good stuff and it should be coming out of the mouth of Jack Layton.

Here’s, in part, what Ignatieff said – it was about taxes:

“Back in July, after the G8 Summit in Italy, Mr. Harper gave an interview to The Globe and Mail, in which he said, and I quote: ‘I don’t believe that any taxes are good taxes.’

Think about that for a moment. It’s an astonishing statement for a prime minister to make.

We pay taxes, Mr. Harper, so that premature infants get nursing care when they’re born; so that policemen will be there to keep our streets safe; so that we have teachers to give our kids a good education.

We pay taxes, Mr. Harper, because we’re all in this together. It costs us something, but it makes Canada the place it is: a place where we look out for each other.

But Stephen Harper doesn’t think that way. Stephen Harper thinks no taxes are good taxes because he believes that the only good government is no government at all.”

Wow. Now that is impressive – from a framing perspective and from an ideological perspective. It should scare the hell out of Mr. Layton and his clever young tacticians because it is a bull’s-eye on the chest of the NDP’s electoral chances whenever the election is called.

Ignatieff, aiming to create as big a difference between himself and Stephen Harper as possible, went on to explicitly declare the old neo-liberal ideology dead:

“(Harper’s) is an ideology of the past. An ideology that’s contemptuous of anyone who sees government as a means to do good. It’s an ideology that vaporized the day Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy a year ago.

When Wall Street crashed, even the most ardent free marketeers turned to government to save the free market. The last year has proved government’s value, as the guarantor of risk of last resort in the capitalist system.

The last year blew Stephen Harper’s ideology out of the water.”

It doesn’t matter whether or not you actually believe the Liberals, a cynical machine if ever there was one, or Iggy, an ethically-challenged opportunist recruited by the Liberal power brokers to get them back into power. What matters is that if this is a sign of where they are headed, the NDP is in serious trouble and have to respond quickly.

With the NDP committed to propping up the Hideous Harperites for the next two months at least, the Liberals can continue to frame themselves as the party who save the country from the barbarians – and keep doing so until the NDP has enough money to run a campaign.  And try as he may, Jack Layton will have trouble sounding progressive as he votes over and over again for Stephen Harper.

The only man who could save him is Harper himself who might see a compromise with the NDP on some minor issues as the best way to neutralize the Liberals.

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