Michael Den Tandt writes that today's throne speech is aimed directly at Justin Trudeau:
It also betrays more than a whiff of desperation. For of all the issues the Conservatives could have made their own, few contain more sheer political peril than this. It is a gusher that, once tapped, will be difficult to cap.
Why the desperation? Put simply, despite all the hype and the message discipline, the Conservative record is a record of failure:
On procurement — the Byzantine process by which Ottawa buys hardware for the military — nothing short of a stand-alone procurement agency, managing a system shorn of political interference, will impress the government’s critics. That’s because of the disaster of the Royal Canadian Air Force fighter-replacement project. In 2010, you will recall, the Conservatives hitched their star to a sole-source plan to buy 65 F-35 fighter-bombers, for $9 billion. In late 2012, driven by life-cycle costs that had skyrocketed past $46 billion, that plan was shelved and replaced with a new “options analysis.” The damage to the government’s credibility was enormous.
Justice-wise, the Conservatives discovered in August that Canadians weren’t much bothered by the fact that the Liberal leader had admitted to smoking pot while an MP. For years, the Conservatives have been hammered for their ideological, punitive and not-very-effective approach to marijuana prohibition. Their tough-on-crime agenda works best, at a popular level, when it focuses on protecting the rights of victims of violent and sexual crimes. Therefore, we should expect new measures to crack down on sex criminals, and scant or no mention of pot.
And when it comes to the Keystone XL Pipeline, the government's complete lack of commitment to the environment is coming home to roost:
Ottawa has routinely missed its own targets for establishing greenhouse-gas-emissions-reduction regulations for the oilpatch. It can no longer do so, because U.S. President Barack Obama is hammering on the front door, requiring the Harper government give him something — anything at all — that he can use as cover to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
So what have they got left? Cell phone rates and cable television charges. It's targeted policy, which is intended to lock up votes.
It's survival time. And Mr. Harper is desperate.