Wednesday, April 19, 2006

President Harper

Here's a lovely little opinion piece in The Star today by my favourite-ever professor Arthur Haberman from York University (thanks to my Dad for finding it and sending me the link). True to Arthur's classroom style, this succinct op-ed frames the issue at hand in a very lucid and persuasive manner ... and puts its finger on my general unease about Harper's performance so far and clarifies a host of concerns. President Harper indeed.

Two thoughts on our current goverment: first, I'm starting to think of this as a faux-minority, a minority numerically but not practically. Serendipitously, a few minutes after reading Arthur's piece I heard a report on CBC radio about the recent bit of daycare legislation. Harper's "bring it on" attitude, i.e. his determination to open this up to a non-confidence vote, makes it fairly obvious he is slavering to have this government brought down and a new election called. He's been very smart: keeping things low-key, lowering the media profile of the government, and basically staying as far away from hot-button topics as possible. In other words, he hasn't given the country any excuse to toss him out in a new election, and with the Liberals in a leadership vacuum, he could only consolidate his party's hold -- possibly getting a majority. And of course the Liberals are aware of this, and I'm sure the last thing they want between now and establishing their new leader is an election. So they'll likely have to eat the daycare legislation, and pretty much anything else Harper wants to put through in the short term. As long as he doesn't try anything that would mobilize people seriously against him, he can theoretically get an awful lot of legislation through this way.

The other thing is that we're seeing the Liberals' "hidden agenda" campaign strategy biting them in the ass. Harper has gained steadily in polls since the election, largely, I would argue, because he is in fact being low-key. That's the problem with demonizing someone to such an extent: when the time comes, if he doesn't actually show his fangs, he actually seems like a pretty good guy in comparison to what had been predicted. Arthur's argument that Harper is trying to carve our executive-style power for himself is, I think, spot-on and pretty disturbing; but in the absence of him actually beating Dickensian orphans with a cudgel on the lawn of 24 Sussex and throwing Molotov cocktails at gay bars, a significant amount of those in the political center are currently thinking, "Hey, he isn't so bad after all."


Lesley said...

This is so what I have been talking about for months. It's so scary but people don't get it. Harper is basically putting it out there in front of everyone but because he's not being too overly frightening about it, he's safe. Especially the comment from his Director of Communications which was a VEILED INSULT about how the everyday Canadian doesn't care about government activities. I mean, come on Canada, AREN'T YOU LISTENING? I got into this argument with my sister, twice about this, before the election she was all CONSERVATIVE CONSERVATIVE CONSERVATIVE, I'm tired of the Liberals stealing from me and giving to the poor. Then, a couple of weeks ago I told her about how the Conservatives are going to repeal the tax cuts the Liberals introduced to save money for the day care. Which she supported before the election. So now her family is going to lose double the money because of it. I just wish Canadians would wake up and realize the fast one being pulled on them. Sigh...

star*mora said...

we survived the mulroney years, i think we can survive a wheezy-vest wearing-hockey historian wannabe-p.m.

what i dislike about harper is his inability to respect those he interacts with...i have seen him at ottawa airport with an attitude that screamed i don't need to be screened at the security points (and this was before his current reign), and would not lift a finger to pick up any of his luggage (his assistant, dressed in a nicer suit than harper did).

the unfortunate part of it is that here in ottawa, the liberals had become corrupted by years of power and had behaved as if they were above the law. many within the public service just wanted change. i was away in thailand until just before the election and was of course shocked at the sudden change in the polls.

but i can say from having been a page in the house of commons it shocked me when i saw members of the different political parties crossing over the floor and chatting with their supposed foes, or in the anti-chambers making "deals". all of the parties did it. all of them.

what is sad is that despite the supposed differences between the parties, anything can be negotiated. i tend towards looking at the leader of the party instead of the affiliation to assess what may happen when a party comes to power. i have never voted conservative, probably never will, but was deeply disturbed when i came back from asia and heard rumblings about a vote for the ndp is a vote wasted. the arrogance of the liberal party continued even as they were sinking so why not try and suck down another party with them.

i have had the opportunity to meet 8 prime ministers of canada, and the one who sticks out for me is joe clark. he sat and chatted with me in the government antichamber for over half an hour during one of the long, drawn out debates about the gst, and would often stop and chat. if you could vote for someone based on nice-ness it would be him - unfortunately history has certainly proved that nice-ness cannot be equated with effectiveness of a leader.