Thursday, June 06, 2013

Rebellion On The Right

Stephen Harper's most loyal supporters are deserting him. Tom Walkom writes in The Toronto Star:

The latest stress point is a damning critique of Harper’s economic policy by the head of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a right-of-centre organization that is usually friendly to, if not always onside with, the federal Conservative government.

Entitled “Judging Harper by his own fiscal standards,” the essay by Gregory Thomas, federal director of the low-tax advocacy group, appeared in this week’s Globe and Mail.

It clinically but ruthlessly takes apart Harper’s economic record.

It's a record that leaves Harper's base increasingly furious:

The federal budget? Still not balanced. The federal debt? Up by almost one-third since Harper took office. The tax system? More complicated than ever.

Unemployment is higher since Harper took office, Thomas writes. But more to the point, he says, fundamental reforms promised by the Conservative leader have failed to materialize.

Harper pledged to end subsidies for business. The subsidies have grown. He challenged the equalization system that sends money from Alberta to poorer provinces like Quebec. The system continues.

It's no secret that progressives loathe Harper. But, when the people who enabled you start to grumble loudly, you'd better watch your back. Peter Penashue is gone. Shelley Glover and James Bezan are up for suspension for also exceeding campaign spending limits. And this morning comes word that Brent Rathgeber has resigned from the Conservative caucus.  The Harper majority is slowly disappearing. And, of course, there is the Wright-Duffy debacle.

Never one to endure political defeat, I wouldn't be surprised if the prime minister is considering other career options.


Lorne said...

I have a deep suspicion, as you suggest, Owen, that Harper will 'pull a Mulroney' and not be around for the next election. I doubt that his ego, like another bully named Mike Harris, would be able to endure an electoral rebuke. Indeed, some are suggesting that the prospect of a vaccuum at the top is the main reason that Jason Kenney, a Conservative-leadership hopeful, has been conspicuously absent in defending his government over the Senate scandal.

Owen Gray said...

No one will challenge Harper, Lorne. But, if the news keeps going downhill, my bet is that Harper will go away.

Ck said...

I'm not that optimistic. For openers, Harper has always had luck with timing of certain events to rapidly change the channel on his side. He is not called Teflon Steve for nothing.

Rathgeber was a backbencher with little significance to begin with.

Now, if Peter McKay perhaps put his blackmailing to Harper he no doubt continuously does to remind STeve he owes his career to him out in open public, then we may have something. But not some whiny back bencher.

Rathgeber even admitted he'll vote with government most of the time anyway. So not much significance.

As for Bezan and Glover, well, Speaker Andy, the most partisan speaker in history, as usual, has his boss's back. He'll never let Bezan and Glover go unless Steve chooses to throw them under the bus, which I don't see happening. As pointed out, He lost a few caucus members since last election, that MP from somewhere in Edmonton, nailed for drunk driving, what's his name again? Petey Penashue, of course, and then Rathgeber.

Steve can ill afford to lose more of them as 2 years is a long way til next election, there is potential for more to either take retirement or whatever before then. I hear that a few, like John Duncan have been in ill health for some time now.

Glover and Bezan, while 2 of the most intellectually bankrupt of the Harper clan (Harper likes them that way...they follow and not try to freelance...), are serial "yes" men to Harper. I don't see Steve throwing them under the bus anytime soon.

Dana said...

I don't believe Harper has it in him to admit defeat prior to actually being defeated.

To tell the truth I'm not even certain he won't attempt to delay/cancel a federal election if it appears certain he'll be relegated back to the opposition benches.

I also don't think he'll leave without dropping some poison pills and shiny big turds into the punchbowl.

And I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if he fled the country afterwards.

Ck said...

Also, not that I think Harper is going anywhere...his ego and past history won't allow him to...word has it that he will prorogue and thus, the channel will be changed in short order like the last prorogations. Add a potential crisis where Steve can take photo ops playing Captain Canada/Superman, like that earthquake in Haiti in winter of 2010.

However, I can think of a few who back benchers or party members may be thinking of.

It would depend if they're really serious about winning again, or simply looking for a convenient fall guy to take a hit in 2015, a la Kim Campbell.

The first, and only insider who holds a seat, of course, is Jason Kenney. It's true that he has been rather incognito for the 2 weeks since senate scandal broke. No charisma, a known social conservative and devout Catholic who would no doubt, more aggressively, pursue more restrictive reproductive rights on women, which could render the party unelectable.

If they're serious, they will likely look outside the party. I can think of one who could be seriously recruited and may just accept, the other 2 are more longshots.

The one most likely I can think of is former PC premier of New-Brunswick, Bernard Lord. Not sure if you've ever read Harperland by Lawrence Martin, but Lord was spoken of. Apparently, back in the day, Harper was not the first choice of party insiders to lead the newly merged Conservative and CA. Lord was.

The other 2, who I admit are longshots, are 1) Jim Prentice, who was always seen as Harper's successor. A Red Tory, he is seen as not as extreme. However, earning a multi-million dollar pay checque at CIBC these days, would he really want to come back to that messy party at a significant pay cut? Also, approachign 60 or past it, he may well be thinking of retirement.

The 2nd, Ethan Cox from mused about this, our ex-premier, Jean Charest, who's dream it was always to be a PC Prime Minister. However, not sure how much of the Charbonneau Inquiry those in rest of Canada are following. Thus far, nothing really damning about him, personally has come out, but the Commission has a mandate for another 2 years approx, and anythign can happen between now and 2015.

Owen Gray said...

I'm sure Harper will try to hold on to them by hook or by crook, ck. If Mackay left, he might perform a Lucien Bouchard and bring others with him.

You're right about Harper being able to time events. He probably still thinks he can run out the clock.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Dana, that Harper will try to shut things down before tabling his resignation. This is far from over.

On the other hand, Harper doesn't wear humiliation well. If he had no other option, he just might find another Kim Campbell to be around for the party's defeat.

Owen Gray said...

I'm sure there would be a line up to replace Harper, ck. What puzzles me is whether any of them could hold the Conservative coalition together.

The party has always been a marriage of convenience. It would be interesting to see how many of the caucus and party could live under the same roof as the new leader.

The Mound of Sound said...

I think Harper would be loathe to leave before Northern Gateway is decided. He wants an irrevocable deal in place before he goes and he knows that, without China, the bitumen bubble is quite exposed to bursting.

The foreign oil producers are strictly bottom line outfits with no loyalty to Canada, Alberta or Athabasca.

Time is not on the Tar Sands' side and Steve knows it, especially after he had to go on bended knee to approve the Nexen sale to Beijing.

My guess is that the Politburo looks at Athabasca as a strategic safeguard. One only needs to look at how the Chinese are locking up Iraqi and Iranian oil reserves to understand Canada is not their first or only oil rodeo.

The Chinese have shown, with Pacific Rim coal, that they have a shrewd talent for getting a lock on a particular market and then using that control position to their, and not their suppliers', advantage.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Mound, that Harper sees his legacy in terms of pipelines. They are to Harper what the CPR was to Macdonald.

And, unfortunately, it appears he is willing to do anything to get his pipelines through.

Perhaps the only thing which could stop him would be a fractured political party.

Kirby Evans said...

I find the events of the past seven years or so to be so remarkable that I simply can't speculate on what might happen. Since I was a youth in the States and I watched the so-called Reagan revolution unfold, I was accustom to the idea of a so-called conservative coming to power and not doing what he said he was doing. The republican party in the states has long been a front for big-government and big-brother that pretends to be the very opposite of what it really is.

But, perhaps naively, I really thought that the HarperCons would be more like actual conservatives. But the past seven years has been a bizarre combination of corporatism and government control with an almost pathological paranoia verging on a banana republic fascism. And as the house of cards comes crashing down it has become tragi-comic political theatre and I have really no idea what is going on or what will happen.

Owen Gray said...

John Kenneth Galbraith understood who these people were a long time ago, Kirby. They have been trying for a long time now to find a moral justification for selfishness.

They never were conservatives. They bought the balderdash that Ayn Rand used to peddle.

Anonymous said...

Harper's policies have all amounted to one thing. How can I maximize my return today, the future be damned.

The entire financial community has totally missed the issue of who gets to pay for all the moves put forward by Stevie and the Boys.

Boomer Retirement wave causing grief - change the rules so that the next generation gets reduced benefits.

Want tax free investing - don't use an RRSP where the current government has to give the benefit, and future governments still maintain some tax revenue, Use a TFSA where the current government takes the tax revenue, and defunds the future.

Lets reduce funding for education. Better yet, let's get out of fundamental research and do applied research. Isn't that what corporate research used to do? Anyone remember Bell Labs?

Anyone see a trend?

BemusedLurker - (Tories do look after your interests - as long as you are a multi-millionair)

Owen Gray said...

Exactly right, Anon. Harper's constituency is the same as George W. Bush's self defined constituency -- "the haves and the have mores."