Just like in medicine, politics has a Hippocratic oath to guide its practitioners: never do anything to worsen your weaknesses. You can be sure your opponent is going to attack you, so don’t hand them the stick with which to beat you.
It’s simple stuff. Yet the Liberal Party’s “Absent Opposition” strategy runs directly counter to it.
Rex Murphy laid bare the price the Dion Liberals can expect to pay for their forced irrelevance in his rant on The National last night:
“The House of Commons only exists for two reasons: for MPs to vote in favour of stuff they like and vote against stuff they don't. They can, incidentally and have been, whipped for both. But when a party has to flog its members to make sure that they don't vote at all: neither fishing nor cutting bait, then why are they in the House of Commons in the first place? 'Elect me to the House of Commons as your member and you can count on me to duck all the major votes.' Doesn't work for me.”
By effectively giving Stephen Harper his majority government by sitting out confidence votes, the Liberal Party is not only being irresponsible, they are also confirming ALL of their major weaknesses – that Liberal MPs are ineffective; that the Liberal Party is doesn’t know what it stands for; and that Dion is a weak leader.
When the time comes for Canadians to replace Harper, they will have a clear choice between a leader like Jack Layton who knows what he stands for and, peculiarly, actually stands up for it, or the discredited Dion Liberals who by their own admission can’t stand up to Harper.