During this campaign, Stephane Dion has been giving lessons on how to play a bad hand badly.
Last week Jack Layton hinted (it was a very mild hint) that he might be willing to consider forming a coalition government with the Liberals. The suggestion was that even if the Conservatives ranked first in seats, provided that the NDP and the Liberals had more seats between them they could defeat the Harper government in the Commons and then form a coalition ministry. The Liberals and the NDP combined to do exactly that in the Ontario Legislature in 1985. Although they did not establish a formal coalition, they did work out a common agenda, a progressive one at that.
Dion quickly slammed the idea of a coalition government with the NDP on the ground that the NDP seeks to increase corporate taxes.
"We cannot have a coalition with a party that has a platform that would be damaging for the economy. Period," Dion said. A few months after becoming Liberal leader, Dion proclaimed that he wanted to push corporate taxes even lower than would the Conservatives. Yesterday, when Layton launched the NDP platform which includes a plan to reverse Stephen Harper's $50 billion corporate tax cut, Dion dismissed this as old fashioned socialism. This sort of thing is just not done in the world these days, he sniffed. Dion needs to re-examine his neo-liberal orthodoxy, whose precepts underlay the widening gap between the rich and the rest during the Chretien-Martin years.
Against the backdrop of the stinking mess on Wall Street, Dion's corporate tax plans do not go down well with most voters. While attacking the NDP, the Liberals have adopted the Harper corporate tax cuts as they're own and they want to go even further.
This week the Liberals are getting feisty. But they're charging off in all directions, proclaiming themselves the true progressives while rallying to the defence of the corporations.
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