Monday saw the return of Parliament after its long winter hibernation, a product of the Harper government’s surprise prorogue in December. And much like a hungry bear waking up from months of slumber, it was a pretty sluggish, grumpy affair.
The throne speech itself provided almost nothing of substance, just refried Obama-ish platitudes about standing shoulder to shoulder in a time of crisis, etc. etc. Today was all about the mise en scène for the real show, which is of course tomorrow’s budget. In the televised scrum after the speech (helpfully televised on CPAC) both Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton were pressed on whether their parties’ coalition plans from last month will amount to anything now. Layton said he was still game and that the ball was in the Liberals’ court; Ignatieff said he was going to read the budget before making any decisions. But given that the details of the budget have leaked out steadily over the past week, there can’t be many surprises there.
Given the government’s backpedaling on the more poisonous features of the previous budget — “Old assumptions must be tested and old decisions must be rethought,” the throne speech sheepishly telegraphs, the parliamentary equivalent of “my bad” — conciliation is in the air, and nothing will kill the dreams of a progressive coalition faster than goodwill and co-operation. My bet is the Liberals cave and support the budget, and this whole sorry episode is reduced to a single question in the Trivial Pursuit “Crazy Canuck Aughts Edition.”
I’ve embedded the PDF of the speech for your reading, uh, pleasure here.