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The best explanation I've seen so far today for why the Liberals might force an election comes from Rob Silver. That says something about Rob, but it says a lot more about Michael Ignatieff.

Ignatieff's ongoing flirtation with bringing down the government stems, by many accounts, from his determination to prove he's tougher than Stephane Dion. There's no word if Ignatieff is actively trying to prove he's just as lousy as Dion at articulating a coherent vision for the country, but he's doing a damn good job of it either way.

Dion's problem was that he had a vision; he just couldn't find the right words to sell it. Ignatieff has managed to flip things around; time after time, he articulately ties himself into knots trying to get around the fact that he has very little to say.

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If you're going to threaten to bring the government down five months after you voted in favour of its economic plan, you'd better have a good reason for it. More to the point, you'd better be able to explain what it is that you'd do differently, and why what you want to do is so important that it merits a second election in a nine-month span.

So far, the only significant policy difference Ignatieff has been able to articulate is on the number of hours Canadians should have to work in order to qualify for employment insurance - hardly the biggest issue when it comes to the country's economic recovery.

On everything else, Ignatieff falls back on opposition complaints so vague and unconstructive that they sound like they're from the middle of a majority mandate, not the cusp of a campaign.

He accuses the Conservatives of lacking a plan to deal with the deficit, but presents no plan of his own. The same goes, more or less, for his complaint about the management of medical isotopes. His biggest gripe of late, about the speed with which stimulus dollars are going out, seems contrived to paper over the fact that his party endorsed the stimulus plan itself.

Five months ago, Ignatieff didn't want to chance an election because he knew his party wasn't ready for one. The Liberals have since made great strides on the organizational side. In terms of policies, and the manner in which those policies are communicated, there's much less evidence of progress.

Backing his party into an election he's neither prepared for nor able to justify to the public would certainly be gutsy. But the line between gutsy and foolhardy is a pretty thin one.

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Political Feature Writer

Adam Radwanski is The Globe and Mail's political feature writer. More

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