Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Calm Before The Storm

Lawrence Martin, in this morning's Globe and Mail, makes a strong case for the ascendancy of Stephen Harper. Rarely have the stars aligned themselves so thoroughly in a Prime Minister's favour. He controls the House; he controls the Senate; he has absolute control of his party. Even the Parti Quebecois -- the bane of so many other Prime Ministers' existence -- seems to be imploding before him.

And, writes Martin, Harper is not going to tamper with fate by presenting the country with a grand vision and grand promises:

Lifelong politicians think first and foremost of politics. This Prime Minister is a lifelong politician. Policy is not his top priority; stacking the political deck is. Brian Mulroney and others have urged him to do something grand, and a case can certainly be made that now’s the time to do it. But you get the idea that Mr. Harper has developed a strong sense of what governments are defeated by and that he will devote much energy to avoiding those traps.

Mr. Harper has been very good at stacking the deck. However, that is also his weakness. His government -- and yesterday's budget -- favours winners. The last thirty years have seen an international order which favours winners. Harper has not come to power by rowing against the current. But, as several commentators -- including the Globe's John Ibbitson -- have pointed out, things change once the people who have been dealt a lousy hand organize:

In the past, when governments have swung the axe aggressively to save money, people have taken to the streets. Labour has brought its workers to the lawns of legislatures. Brian Mulroney and Mike Harris faced major demonstrations and public-servant strikes.

But people don’t seem to demonstrate against the Harper government, apart from the odd smatterings of curmudgeons who show up at this event or that. The unpleasantness at the G20 summit last June was more about globalization in general.

"Will people take to the streets?" Ibbitson asks. Regardless, the Conservatives are hell bent on making drastic cuts, while they spend huge sums for jets, overseas military bases and jails for "unreported" criminals. It's pretty clear that the budget cuts will hit the youngest the hardest. The deck has been stacked against them. That's what Brigette Depape's act of civil disobedience was all about last Friday.

In this age of social media -- which Ms. Depape and her generation understand very well -- it would be wise to recall the summer of 1968.


Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Conservatives claim they are the best party to handle the economy.
It is intesting that the deficit is a result of their miss step economically. Read Stephen Gordon's articles in the Globe.

He argues the deficit is a structural one and not just due to the recession. It came about when the Conservatives reduced the GST when they first came to power.They did not realize the surplus they inherited was abnormal because of and overheated economy.

As they typically do, they made a decision out of ideology rather than reasoned factual information. (They never see a tax they would not like to reduce)
They reduced the GST and used up the surplus and then the recession hit. If they had not done this Canada would now have very little deficit, if any. No cuts would be necessary.

The Conservatives ideological way of thinking has been repeated on such things as the census, long gun registry, tax breaks for corporations. And now the government payments to parties.

What is needed to solve the deficit is to increase the GST again. Unfortunately, the people of Canada will have to pay for this Conservative mistake by having programs reduced.

I don't understand why the opposition has not attacked the Conservatives on this mismanagement of the economy.

Owen Gray said...

I agree with each and every one of your points. The claim that the Conservatives are prudent fiscal managers is a myth.

Unfortunately, when we had the opportunity to do something about it, we missed the boat.

The lopsided way we count votes also had something to do with it. Either way, we will now have to pay the price for this government's mistakes.