What Harper Should Have Said

A dispatch from an alternate universe where Stephen Harper is the calm, rational leader of the Conservative Party.

“It is profoundly sad to see the once great Liberal party reduced to begging for support from the NDP. Paul Martin is grasping at straws to keep his tired, worn out government alive a few weeks longer hoping for… what? Canadians have had enough of him.

“That said, I congratulate Mr. Layton for his skill in extracting concessions from the Martin government. I don’t agree with the changes to the budget, but at least somebody on the other side of the house is trying to get things done.

“When we sit on the other side of the house, we look forward to working positively with all the other parties to bring integrity back to the Canadian parliament. A Conservative government will… (talk up policy points)

What Mr. Harper actually said:

“It’s the most disgraceful thing I’ve seen in all my years on Parliament Hill. This is not how Parliament should work and as soon as we get back, I will be asking our caucus to put this government out of its misery at the earliest possible opportunity.


“But I want to be prime minister now! (stamps foot) Now! Now! Now! Now! Now! Now! Now!

It would be foolish to expect the Layton/Martin deal to escape criticism from Harper. He has a base that he has to speak to. He has tax cut policies to defend. But there is a right way to criticize parlimentarians for trying to make parliament work for their constituents, and there is a wrong way. The right way is to criticize policy and ideas. The wrong way is to add personal invective and hyperbole, and to make yourself look like a spoiled brat.

Let’s see:

“It’s the most disgraceful thing I’ve seen in all my years on Parliament Hill.”

So, Layton extracting concessions from this budget is right up there with Mulroney pulling a constitutionally extraordinary move of stacking the senate with eight extra appointments to pass the GST? Chretien booting John Nunziata out of the caucus for voting against a budget in protest of the Liberals’ failure to axe the tax? Any number of closure measures imposed by the Conservatives and the Liberals in the last twenty years?

I think we can safely store this comment under the term “hyperbole”.

“This is not how Parliament should work.”

How is this different from the jockeying that went on before, which produced a budget, with corporate tax cuts, that the Conservatives were able to support? How is this different from the last minute deal on the Throne Speech?

“Tommy Douglas must be rolling over in his grave when the NDP abandoned this country’s farmers”

Hyperbole. And personal invective. And how is delaying a few corporate tax cuts to big businesses hurtful to farmers?

And by likening Layton to a whore, we’re back into some serious personal invective territory.

Earlier I said that the Layton/Martin deal was almost as good for Harper as it was for Layton. The Layton deal made Martin look weak and desperate. While Layton’s personal popularity is up as a result, Layton’s NDP is not a threat to the Conservatives’ standing in the polls, yet. The best tactic to ensure that Harper leads a Conservative government after the next election is to partner up with Layton. Have Layton grab at the Liberals’ left flank (which he has done) while Harper holds the right, and then make a wish.

The disadvantage of this approach is that an election comes in weeks or months, rather than days, but this is what most Canadians appear to want at the moment. The threat to the Conservatives from this approach is minimal; additional weeks will not staunch the damage from further Gomery revelations, and it will certainly do nothing to change the perception that the Liberals have grown tired and weak. Indeed, by taking the patient approach, the Conservatives are given more time to show that they are patient, rational and statesmanlike — standing back like Mohammed Ali while Joe Fraser staggers and falls. Patience shows that they are ready to accept the trust of the Canadian people and sit on the governing side of the house.

What the Conservatives should not do, at all costs, is appear impatient or greedy, and this is what Harper’s overblown invective makes him look like. He and other Conservative supporters really need to calm down. The numbers suggest that it’s a matter of when, not if, Stephen Harper sits in the Prime Minister’s chair, but if Harper and his supporters start to give off the impression that they believe that a Conservative government is an entitlement and not a gift, if they let their discipline and veneer of maturity slip, Canadians won’t flock to them.

Conservatives should be asking themselves why, despite the Liberal free-fall, they are still short of the combined vote of the Alliance and the PCs. They should be asking themselves why, with the Liberal government as corrupt and tired as it is, the latest polls still show the party in contention.

Maybe it’s because the Conservatives give off a stench of wanting power too much. Canadians know that scent well, having sniffed it all over Paul Martin for the past seven years.

And we know how well that went.

A Complaint

Having shopped around at thrift stores, I have to ask: are those baby sack carriers designed to be intelligence tests for prospective parents? Erin and I have tried two, so far, and we can make neither head nor tails of them. It’s clear where the baby goes, but less clear on how you’re supposed to strap these over your shoulders. Do you slip into them like a harness?

Indeed, I think we narrowly avoided major entanglement issues.

Oh, well.

The Great James Bow G-Mail Giveaway

Well, lots of people are doing it, so why shouldn’t I? I apparently have fifty (forty-nine, now) G-mail invites available to give out to friends and family. However, I don’t have that many friends and family who are online (and I don’t know who already has a G-mail account), so I turn to you.

Do you want a G-mail account? There is a lot to recommend the service. The interface is cleaner and loads faster than Hotmail and Yahoo, and there are fewer intrusive ads. Best of all, you get a full-featured online e-mail account with 2 Gigabytes of space. This is why G-mail has Hotmail and Yahoo running scared.

If you’re interested, drop me an e-mail with your current e-mail address, and I’ll send you an invite. First come, first served!

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