We MUST make sure our plan for the country is set out in a VERY public way early in the new year - hopefully AFTER we get financial info from Harper (as a pre-condition of ANY talks on the budget). We could even go into the process with perhaps "3 levels" of Liberal budget: one for a situation where we are running a deficit (which no doubt we are - Harper IS lying), one for a situation where the country is basically "break even". There may also be the potential for a small surplus (I doubt it), which should be immediately translated into an income tax break for families.
We must be VERY vocal about what has to be in the plan - where we will spend, and where we won't. Sure, the actual coffers of the government will determine HOW MUCH we can spend in each area, but WE MUST ensure that we have the areas we want addressed.
The other option, is that we make a very public proposal - costed, of course - and very publicly give it to Harper. He can then turn and say "this is impossible - you don't know the figures", to which we could reply, but alas, Mr. Harper, we have been asking you for the figures since Dec 10th (and earlier). If he rejects the proposal, then we can say to the Canadian public, "See - Harper doesn't care about you, AND he's a liar to boot (not that you didn't already suspect that)". There is nothing barring us from this move. A Liberal budget document, that would be a certain crowd pleaser, with LOTS of serious relief for Canadian workers and their families. If Harper then says, "can't do", he is either rejecting the ideas - which won't go over well with Canadians - or he is saying the government is broke. Either way, we win.
The advantage for us in advancing Liberal budget demands early (before the Cons release anything - particularly their budget), is that it puts Harper on the spot - forces his hand. Of course we are the most cooperative, concensus building party in the land - it is the very nature of being a moderate liberal. We're not one of the "wings" of extemism. We need to seize upon this issue with the voters - especially those in Ontario, Quebec, and BC - and watch the momentum percolate across the land.
The media is expecting our "consultation", but they too probably believe it would be a "closed door" session with Harper. Let's make it public - to the people, for the people, so to speak.
Having a tremendous Policy Convention in Vancouver will simply add to the public "wowing". We have much to gain from showing sound policy for troubled times. It is the Liberal way, and we have just the people set up to do this now.
It all hinges - however - on the ability of our party to put our budget out there first. Win the hearts and minds of the people. We have just over a month to do this. Will our MPs take up the challenge?