Our National Hangover Begins

Originally posted from August 27, 2008


This morning, when I woke up and realized where I was (for the record: not La-La-land, though you can’t be too sure these days), I decided to go down to the nearest Tim Horton’s and listen in on the conversations. I had a chuckle comparing the titles of the national newspapers found in their boxes enroute:

Toronto Star: “RHINOS WIN!!” (in two-inch font typically reserved for headlines like WAR DECLARED! Even when Bob Rae won in 1990, the headline NEW DEMOCRATS WIN! was only one inch tall.

Mind you, if they had put that headline in two-inch font, they’d have had to widen the newspaper, or print half of the headline on the other side. Wouldn’t have stopped them from using “NDP WIN”, though.

Globe and Mail: “Rhinos Secure Majority!” (In typical reserved Globe and Mail style)

National Post: “SURPRISE!” with the subhead: “Canadians Deliver All-Party Drubbing” (ain’t that the truth!)

Toronto Sun: “WHAT THE F———?!!?” (Spelled out in full, too. I caught sight of a mother catching sight of the headline and clapping her hands over the eyes of her toddler before hauling him away. Any other day, I suspect somebody would be fired as a result of that headline, but if I were among the Sun editorial board today, I’d be inclined to be lenient.)

The currency is now ten cents lower. In one morning. And the Governor of the Bank of Canada has announced a quarter-point increase in interest rates, which seem to have stabilized things, for now. The Toronto Stock Exchange has lost 300 points. And the American networks are still giving us live coverage, even though the protesters/celebrants have gone home.

On the other hand, things were surprisingly calm at Tim Horton’s, though I think there were more people than usual sitting at all the tables. Not surprisingly, the name Brian Salmi came up a lot in conversation. If I had to assess the attitude, I would say it was “wait and see”, as more than one person said something akin to, “why not? They couldn’t screw up the country more than the old politicos did.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle at one conversation, though, between a young couple.

Woman: So, what does this guy stand for?

Man: I dunno.

Woman: You voted for him and you didn’t know what he stood for?

Man: So?

Woman: So? Don’t you know a thing about them? They’re a joke!

Man: Is that any different from who we’ve been voting for in the past?

Woman (exasperated): No, I mean they’re a real joke.

Man: And I say again…

Maybe I’m too much of a political junkie, but I have to wonder what sort of conversation these people will be having once we’ve had a week or so of Rhino government. I mean, there’s cynicism, and then there’s cynicism. We can get frustrated by politicians breaking promises or making deals behind our backs, but they actually do run the country. And the fact that we have the ability to complain about the stupid things our government does suggest to me that, for the most part, they actually run the country quite well.

Case in point are the actions taken by the various ministries to almost “lock down” their activities, ostensibly until the new government takes over, like when Parks Canada announced that their parks would remain open, and that it was still illegal to demolish the Rocky Mountains. You know that governments have changed before, and while there is a brief period where our civil service basically holds the fort until the new government takes over, I don’t recall them making so many public statements to that effect. The message is, rather unsubtly, “nothing radical is going to change. You can continue to do business with us. We’re not rocking the boat until new management takes over.” This is probably both to soothe wary investors, but also should be taken as a message to our comedian government: don’t rock the boat yourselves.

What powers do the new Rhinoceros government possess, really? Yes, they have a majority in the House, but they have absolutely no representation in the Senate, and the Senate certainly has the ability to block legislation they see as particularly problematic for the country — with the exception of money bills, unfortunately. But as Stephen Harper showed, there are still things the prime minister can do given the powers of his office. So, Brian Salmi had better not rock the boat too much.

The swearing-in ceremony (inauguration?) will be held in Rideau Hall at 4 p.m., and Newsworld says it’s going to be carrying it live. Should be interesting.

Do you remember how Bob Rae sat down before a piano at Convocation Hall when his miraculous NDP majority government was sworn in, and then led everybody on a rousing rendition of “Oh, we ain’t got a barrel of money” from the Depression? Rather too prophetic, I should think, given the years that followed. This inauguration could well signal what’s to come from the new folks. I’ll be paying attention at 4 p.m. to see what we can see.

I feel for you, Northern BC Dipper, I really do. Still, what a night, huh?

At an emergency caucus meeting this morning, Conservative MPs picked (or possibly pushed forward, kicking and screaming?) James Moore as their interim leader and leader of the opposition. It’s a bit ironic, since despite being considered by many to be a frontrunner for Stephen Harper’s cabinet, the most he has been in government was parliamentary secretaries to Michael Fortier and David Emerson. Some reward for all his hard work, eh?

Still, the reason why he was considered a frontrunner was due to his performance in opposition. He’s a good choice to face Salmi as the Conservative party takes itself apart and puts itself back together. Harper, however good a politician he can be, doesn’t have the credibility after such a defeat. Remember how Paul Martin resigned on election night in 2006? Same scenario. Imagine for a moment what Question Period would be like if he’d stayed on to face Harper as Leader of the Opposition. “Hey Martin! Where’s your 200 seat majority? Or was that supposed to be spread over two elections?” Dion, being just a former Opposition Leader, isn’t as damaged and is out of the spotlight. He can hold his party together in the interim.

What I wonder now is what the lines of communication are, if any, between Moore and Dion. Can they keep Salmi on a tight leash? Because it looks like the Rhinos intend to move fast.

The NDP have announced they’ll meet early tomorrow to settle upon their interim leader. Rumour has it that Libby Davis might get the nod, while Olivia Chow and Pat Martin go at it for the real job at the next leadership convention.

And the word from the Bloc Quebecois is…. absolutely nothing. No meetings, no interim leader discussion, nothing. Are they going to end up sitting as nineteen independents?

(Update: 4:58 p.m.): Mimes and jugglers. They had mimes and jugglers at the swearing in ceremony!

The Tim Horton’s photograph is by Flickr photographer Fortinbras.

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