View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – Iggy’s Clever Twist of a Word – March 27, 2011

View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – Iggy’s Clever Twist of a Word – March 27, 2011

Ottawa ON – An interesting choice of words from the Liberal leader, but people who follow politics know that politicians chose their words very carefully. That one sentence allows Ignatieff considerable wiggle room should he wish to form a government with the support of either the NDP or the Bloc or both.

“I will not seek a coalition” does not mean “I won’t support a coalition” like Ignatieff did in 2008, even going so far as to sign a letter confirming he did.

Ignatieff’s choice of words will also allow him to respond to a coalition offer from the NDP. Voters may recall that it was the NDP, not the Liberals, who were the ones that initiated the coalition discussion last time. Ignatieff saying that he will not seek a coalition is accurate if he is responding to an NDP request. I didn’t hear him say “I will rebuff any attempts or offers to form a coalition”.

“I will not seek a coalition” also permits Ignatieff room to work out a nonaggression pact with the NDP or Bloc that would be similar to the one the Peterson Liberals negotiated with the NDP in Ontario. Such an agreement would allow Ignatieff to be Prime Minister without the necessity of offering MPs from another party some cabinet seats. I didn’t hear Ignatieff say that he will not enter into any agreement, written or verbal such as a nonaggression pact to form a government should the Conservatives fall short of a majority. Incidentally, the Peterson agreement was worked out with Bob Rae, Ignatieff’s potential successor should Ignatieff step down after losing the election. Ignatieff’s words would not prevent Rae from forming a coalition.

The Liberals are desperate to get back into power. Ignatieff is far from being a strong leader with a vice-like grip on his party’s MPs and political apparatus. Just how long do you think it would be before Ignatieff bowed to internal pressure to make a deal at any cost to try to form a government? His option would be to eat his words and be Prime Minister or face a party revolt.

Ignatieff chose his words very carefully and for good reason, he still has plenty of wiggle room to cut a deal.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.

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