At some point, every bully crosses a line.
Stephen Harper crossed his on Thursday, introducing an economic update that hammered the opposition, hammered unions, while ignoring people hammered by this fast-expanding economic crisis.
In response, the opposition stepped up and told him they’d oust him.
It’s the parliamentary equivalent of bopping the guy in the nose.
And Harper responded like any bully — he backed down.
The opposition parties, having successfully pulled together to face down the guy, are now trying to seal a coalition that could topple the Harper government.
It’s an exercise in power politics that, to date, the Liberals and New Democrats have seemed incapable of mustering.
The response from the Conservatives has been startling.
They are in full panic mode. And, with incredible speed, some began to openly challenge Harper’s leadership of the party.
On the weekend, leadership websites have been erected for John Baird and Jim Prentice, two of the stronger Conservative ministers.
It is a challenge that was unthinkable last week.
And so, in the midst of a deepening Western economic crisis, Canada finds itself in the unnerving position of having to choose between two parties with leadership woes.
Harper’s latest bumble has laid bare the fault lines in the Conservative Party, suggesting his hold on power is not as tight as was thought.
And the Liberals are led by Stephane Dion, who is serving as interim leader until a leadership race is decided between Bob Rae, Michael Ignatieff and Dominic LeBlanc.
All this comes as the nation finds itself in the middle of a Western economic crisis that some are beginning to suggest could be worse than the Great Depression.
At first blush, the wobbly leadership in Ottawa is disconcerting.
But the opposition coalition is suggesting an economic panel made up of Paul Martin, John Manley, Frank McKenna and Roy Romanow. Such a team of experienced leaders could easily bolster confidence in a new coalition government’s ability to handle the crisis.
And, should the opposition coalition back down, it will be a chastened and more conciliatory Harper who guides the nation.
He, too, should now be more willing to discuss options with the opposition.
In either case, the government will entertain a wider range of financial opinions in the face of this crisis than it would have before last week.
Broadening the scope of opinions in the face of such a crisis makes for better decisions. And that bodes well for the nation.