With Campaign 2011 about to start, Michael Ignatieff could be having a Stéphane Dion moment.
Specifically, is the current Liberal Leader's difficulty with giving a clear and precise answer about whether he would or would not enter into some sort of coalition with his opposition partners after the election akin to the havoc Dion's carbon tax wrought on the Liberals in the 2008 campaign? Ironically, it was Ignatieff who was the original Liberal Party champion of that measure. If Ignatieff continues to twist and turn on this coalition issue he may suffer a similar level of pain to his predecessor in the last election.
Ignatieff's evasiveness on the subject also eats away at his credibility as a self-styled advocate for a new, open and effective democracy. Ignatieff rightly describes the Canadian public as his boss and that of every politician. Well, I am sure the boss would like to know how the employee plans to operate if he finds himself in a marketplace similar to the one he just vacated.
If Ignatieff wants to score points off the backs of others by claiming they disrespect our democratic system he blocks his own shot if he refuses to answer clear questions about his own intentions for governing in a variety of circumstances. If he wants, as he often says, to have a mature and responsible democratic debate he has the opportunity now to lead it as opposed to lecture others about the way things should be.
As long as he is opaque on the matter of the coalition others will define him. And if he supports some sort of coalition arrangement – which is his prerogative – the voters, his boss, should know. Come to the people now and tell them how it would work so they can decide if it is something they support. What better time than an election than to do that?