#43 – Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals need a Hail Mary play.

It is the time of the year for football and football analogies and when one looks at the needs of Canada’s Liberals, a Hail Mary play is the best answer. A Hail Mary play is one where the quarterback throws the football as hard and as far as he can and says a prayer in hopes that the intended receiver catches it to win the game. It is a desperation play. It is also known as the long bomb.

After a quiet summer of barbeques and meetings with Liberals across the country, Michael Ignatieff and his fellow Liberal Members of Parliament were poised to do the Harper Conservative team serious damage when the House of Commons met in September. They were on a high and were ready for the scrimmage. In that game opening, they were teetering on the line of scrimmage, when the NDP’s Jack Layton went off side and the referees blew the whistle on the campaign. That turned the play against the Liberals. Only Jack Layton was chuckling. By siding with the Harper team, Layton had once again proved that he believes Liberals are more of a threat to him and his party than the Conservatives.

Whether Layton is right or wrong will only be known when Ignatieff starts calling the plays for his team in the coming election. The problem seems to be that Stephen Harper and the news media are all really curious as to what Michael’s policies might be—if he has any. Declaring his support for national day care at this early stage is just Michael telling his team that he recognizes a long-time Liberal platform plank. The plank might be weathered and silvery at this stage but it is far better than Harper’s miserly handouts to parents, telling them to solve their own day care problems.

Luckily, Michael’s Liberals are having a policy super bowl in Montreal in January. It will be like the Kingston Conference of Lester Pearson and the Aylmer Conference of Jean Chrétien but more fun. At least, we hope so. Anyone who has spent time in Montreal in January knows it is usually no fun. Americans are smart in that they hold their super bowls in the south or in covered stadia.

I expect I will want to go, if only in hopes of keeping the party in tune with its electorate. There is a real danger that the right-wing MPs in the party will pull Michael into the trap of exorcising Harper’s minions for the budget deficits they are creating. We finally get those Conservative ideologues into admitting there is an economic problem and laying out some money to help solve it and now they want to castigate the Conservatives for running a deficit. Somebody has to tell them, we cannot have it both ways.

Liberals need to remember that it was Paul Martin as Finance Minister under Jean Chrétien who fumbled the ball on Employment Insurance in the first place. Getting the unemployed back a few lost downs from Stephen Harper took the NDP’s Jack Layton and the threat of an election. If Harper believes today’s polls, he might just tell good ole Jack to take his game ball back to the stands and support the Liberals, ending up with an election, the Conservatives hope to win.

While Harper has done some stupid things since taking office, his advisors would tell him not to trust those polls that show the Liberals unlikely to last four quarters. They are still in fighting form. They have candidates on the line of scrimmage and ready to go in about 90 per cent of the ridings across Canada. After the January policy super bowl and a new Red (Play) Book ready to go in March, Michael will be just laying in wait for Finance Minister Flaherty’s budget.

If Jim Flaherty has a brain in his head, which he has, he is not just an ideologue like his leader, he will phone Gilles Duceppe, the erstwhile boss of the Bloc and see what is Gilles’ current wish list is for Quebec. That way the Conservatives can jilt Jack and his NDP and win the Bloc’s blocking without necessarily appearing to be in bed with them. They would be hoping that by taking the momentum away from Michael that his quarterbacking of the Liberals would be brought into question and cause dissension.

Michael can make sure that this will not happen by staying his course on the left side of the field. That is where all his fans are cheering him on. It is where he uses Jack Layton as the Liberal water boy, throws a few blocks at the Bloc and mops the field with Harper’s sycophants. Harper will draw a lot of penalty flags from the referees with his dirty tricks and in the final quarter Michael will need his team’s Hail Mary play. It takes guts. It takes planning. There are naysayers who will talk of the risks. It is also done when there is nothing to lose.

– 30 –

Football tips available from peter@lowry.me

Comments are closed.