Chantal Hebert writes in today's Toronto Star that the Liberal Party is floundering because Canadians believe Stephen Harper is a competent economic manager:
The global economic downturn has become to Harper what the unity debate was for a string of successful Liberal governments — a defining file that he is managing to own.
So far, no opposition figure is emerging to give the Harper/Flaherty tandem a real run for its money. The opposition narrative on the government’s economic management is failing to find traction with the public.
But, once again, Hebert focuses on only part of the narrative. The Harperites have been ramming through highly ideological legislation -- which has infuriated different segments of Canadian society. The Omnibus Crime bill has both Quebec and Ontario up in arms. The bill to abolish the central desk at the Canadian Wheat Board has alienated a significant number of Canadian farmers. Killing the gun registry -- and the data base that goes with it -- has created significant opposition in Canadian cities. And the government's prohibition of strikes in the private sector has unions seething.
Anyone who thinks that Mr. Harper's attempt to restructure Canadian society is a political no brainer should look at what has happened in the United States during this week. E.J. Dionne writes that Republicans are taking a "shellacking:"
This week’s elections around the country were brought to you by the word “overreach,” specifically conservative overreach. Given an opportunity in 2010 to build a long-term majority, Republicans instead pursued extreme and partisan measures. On Tuesday, they reaped angry voter rebellions.
In Ohio, voters rejected Governor Kasich's attempt to restrict union bargaining rights. In Maine, voters exercised a "peoples veto" of Republican attempts to outlaw same day voter registration. And, most surprising of all:
In Mississippi, perhaps the most conservative state in the union, voters beat back a referendum to declare a fertilized human egg a person by a margin of roughly 3-to-2. Here was overreach by the right-to-life movement, which tried to get voters to endorse a measure that could have outlawed popular forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization.
Since coming to power, Mr. Harper has followed the Republican model. It would appear that American voters have looked at the Republicans and have had buyer's remorse. One wonders if Stephen Harper is paying attention.
Ultimately, voters will judge him on much more than his stewardship of the economy.