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Wednesday, February 28 2024 @ 01:15 MST

Harper – Economic update - ??

Jason ramblingFor those of you unfamiliar with chess notation, the double question mark “??” indicates a blunder. A blunder in chess is a hideous move that is likely to cost a player the game. That is what has happened to Harper and his government this week. In a cynical attempt to destroy the opposition and institute what could only be described as a thousand year Reich of Tory rule, Harper handed the opposition a chance to form the government. So much for the master tactician.

It all started when, in the spirit of ignoring everything he said during the election, Stephen Harper introduced a fiscal update designed with the sole purpose of bankrupting the opposition. This of course had the opposition parties notably upset. If that was all Harper did in the update, he would probably have weathered the storm, as many people have issues with public funding of political parties. Harper couldn't leave well enough alone though, not only did he attack the opposition parties financially, he also attempted to push through a hard right agenda, removing the right to strike from civil servants and a laissez-faire approach to the crumbling economy. This allowed the opposition to latch on to these aspects of the financial update and use them as an excuse to vote the Tories down.

The opposition parties were livid. Their anger and frustration was so large it overcame their political differences and pushed them into coalition talks which succeeded in an agreement between the three opposition parties to form a coalition should the Harper government fall. This gives Harper the dubious honour of being the man who not only unified the right, a process that took 15 years, but also the left, a process that took four days.

Not that Harper and his merry band of Tories could be blamed for thinking they could get away with anything. In the last parliament, the opposition, primarily the Liberals, let the Tories act like they had a majority. Since the election, things have changed, and changed as fast as Harper lost his sweater vest. Suddenly the opposition has done what needs to be done to a band of bullies like the Tories, stand up to them. The moment that happened, the Tories went into complete disarray. First Harper hardened his position, resolved to push through whatever and threaten another election if he didn't get his way. So when the opposition called his bluff and started coalition talks, the Tories soiled themselves and began to backtrack so fast it made the collective heads of Canadians spin.

So the Tories, shocked their gambit didn't work put their spin machine on overdrive. The Tory spin machine has been spinning so fast the past couple of days that its in danger of seizing a bearing. In fact the Globe and Mail even published the spin plan along with the talking points that loyal Tory sheep were to use on call in shows and in blog comments. This had the effect of most people immediately discounting any Tory supporter showing up with anything even close to one of the talking points, and since it would seem that most Tory supporters either aren't allowed to come up with their own ideas or aren't able to, there has been little in counter argument when the talking points have been shot down.

The first talking point to hit the dust was the whole “undemocraticness” of the process. Harper and his supporters have been screeching how dare parties that achieved over 60% of the vote form a government when it's clear that his party that barely eked out 37% of the vote is the obvious choice. Further, Harper's letter to the Governor General from 2004 when he was leader of the opposition completely contradicts what he's saying now as Prime Minister. Harper and the Tories have been trying to play the whole thing up as a “coup-de-etat” with a massive media blitz and banner headlines in Conservative friendly papers. Naturally the Tory faithful, showing themselves to be uneducated rubes, have bought this hook, line and sinker; a damning indictment of the Canadian education system, but I digress.

So at this point we have Harper doing everything he can to delay the inevitable. He's postponed the vote to the 8th of December from the 1st. It's very likely that he will prorogue parliament till January to delay things even more. This would allow the Tory spin machine more time to lie it's way out of the mess the Tory leader has created. It is really only delaying the inevitable and shows the depth of Harper's desperation to hang on to power. The Tories have even shown that they are spying on the other parties. What truly amazes me is that Tory supporters have no problems with any of this. It's as if Tory supporters hate democracy unless it's working in their favour.

So what does all this mean for Harper? Will his iron grip on the Conservative party remain? If he loses power will the party be willing to have him at the helm, especially after this blunder? I suspect it will be difficult for the Tories to rid themselves of Harper than most other parties' leaders. Harper has set himself up as a cult of personality (or lack of personality as the case may be) and put loyal supporters into key positions in the party apparatus. Getting rid of Harper would require getting rid of those people who are politically beholden to him first, not an easy task. That being said, there are rumblings in the right wingnutosphere about his leadership. Editorials in the Tory media have also questioned his leadership over this event, though it would appear that phone calls were made and many of these same editorial writers have now changed their tune with respect to the Maximum Leader. So even if the Tories go down to defeat in the House of Commons, or even at the polls, it may be a while for them to drop Harper.

If the opposition is successful at convincing the Governor General to let them form a government, the question is how long can the hyper partisans of both the Liberals and the NDP hold their noses and work with each other. Agreement or not, there will be considerable cleavages within both parties that will tend to cause the coalition to break down. Though a coalition would provide a moderating influence on government by forcing policy to the centre. Which is what minority government is all about, something Harper and his supporters fail to realize.

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