If Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion walks the talk, Canadians will be returning to the polls soon.
It's certainly the sense that the caucus gave to me today. It's very clear that we will be an Official Opposition, that we will be very constructive, that we'll look at each vote on its merit, and if we don't think there is a merit, well we’ll vote as a team, altogether.
MPs return to parliament on Nov. 18 with a throne speech on the following day. And the first major test could come soon after when the opposition is faced with proposed Conservative legislation with measures which include life sentences for youths as young as 14 who are convicted of murder and fewer conditional sentences allowing convicted criminals to serve their time at home.
And the Tories have warned that the legislation will be brought before the Commons quickly, and that they will not back down.
If the Grits vote against this crime legislation, it could mean an election, assuming enough NDP and Bloc members join them. Neither of those opposition parties have much taste for this legislation, so who would blink first?
One wonders whether Dion is just bluffing as he has so often done since he became leader of his party. Would he really pull the plug on the government at a time when his party is in the process of replacing him?
One never knows. The Grits brought down Joe Clark’s Progressive Conservatives in late 1979 after Pierre Elliott Trudeau had resigned as their leader. The Liberal Party then persuaded Trudeau to stay on, and he, of course, defeated Clark in the 1980 election that followed—and the Grits won a majority government.
I can’t imagine the Liberals going into another election with Dion, though. But they could make a deal to appoint an interim leader (with consensus of the caucus) who would fight the election and go into a leadership convention afterwards. Hmm, but I doubt they’d do anything like that.
I just don’t see this boast of Dion’s ending happily for him.