Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Excellent Point

I'll try and make this my last word on the whole Emerson-Fortier thing. I'll just say that I agree entirely with BCer in TO:
How many seats would the Conservatives have won if Canadians knew the following about Stephen Harper:

1) He dodged questioning by the ethics commissioner.
2) He would lure a Liberal across the floor with a cabinet post.
3) He would appoint his campaign co-chair to the Senate and give him an important cabinet post.
4) He would ignore the spirit of his lobbying reform package by appointing a former defence industry lobbyist as his Minister of National Defence.

The CPC perpetrated a fraud upon the people of Canada. I suspect if all this was known before e-day we may have seen the swearing-in of another minority Liberal cabinet today under Paul Martin. You know, when I think of it that way thanks for being so dishonest Stephen, we needed a time-out. And with the way you’re going so far, it won’t last too long.
I'm beginning to think that perhaps Harper may have shot himself in the foot with this Senate appointment. Or rather, the appointment of a Senator to the cabinet. Aside from the horrible (HORRIBLE!) optics, there's also that fact that this makes the Senate relevant again.

Fortier won't be able to answer questions in the Commons, so it will fall to the Liberals and NDP in the Senate to question him. This will necessarily bring media attention to the Senate for the first time since... 1988?

So far, I haven't heard of any Tory talking about a by-election, so we've got however long this government lasts of journalists having to pay attention to the proceedings of the Senate. This is obviously going to affect how the Senate conducts its business. If the media is actually watching, I imagine the Senate Liberals will actually make a fight of things.

Harper would have been much, much smarter to simply appoint Fortier but find an actual MP to take Public Works. The optics would still be bad - given Harper's stated views on the Senate - but not as bad.

As it stands now, Harper may very well have done the one thing that could cut his government short - woken the Senate.

Open question for the crowd: Is this possible? If possible, is it deliberate?

3 comments:

CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

Harper hubris, or Does Harper have a tin ear?

The conventional wisdom now seems to be that Stephen Harper is a political genius, of the same ilk as Napoleon, or Churchill, or – pick your favourite. But what if Harper’s cabinet-making is not a politically astute move by at all, but simply a sign that he has a political tin ear?

After all, sometimes the past is predicator of the future: in 2004 he misread the electorate with some of his comments about the Liberals – especially Martin – and his premature triumph speeches about the West taking over. And in Parliament he has sounded a bit screechy and overly self-righteous. Then there are those stories about him being a one-man-band, who does not need a mentor because, one observer says he said, he never met anyone as smart as he is ....

So, perhaps this was just Harper being Harper, and marching to his own discordant band?

If so, wait until the second Act: gonna be a lot of fun for Libs and NDP, and a lot of buyer’s remorse by many voters in Ontario ....

And meanwhile, the Bloc will crouch in the wings, nursing its wounds, and waiting for the right time to take Harper down – when he is under a cloud of intolerance or stupidity, but before he cements himself into Quebec as Mulroney Junior. Best get rid of him soon, before he becomes a real threat to the Bloc ...

So wait for the right moment, and the ganging up by the three parties who each have good reasons for taking him out of his new digs at Sussex, and who – between them – hold the balance of power.

After all, Harper arranged a mob-lynching of Martin with all three parties deciding to put in the knife on that particular Ides of May. Having shown the way, I wonder if Harper fears that this time the other three parties will cooperate to bring him down?

Better than even chance, I think; and probably before summer ends, too.....

Maybe Harper should let those renovations take place at Sussex Drive before he moves in: might save him having to move twice, eh?

LeoPetr said...

But if the Senate Liberals make a fight for it, won't it support Harper's case for Senate elections? Bah.

CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

Harper’s One-Man-Band, and Pretzel Tories.

So, a little time has passed, and Harper’s daring moves to impress the electorate with his political acumen have now sunk in a bit. Reaction across the country to his cabinet appointments – and abandonment of principles espoused during the election – have varied from sheer disbelief, to shock, to amusement. Never has a Canadian politician fallen so far so fast. Usually it takes time for power to corrupt, but Mr. Harper is a man in a hurry.

Many Tories have had to swallow their tongues and bend themselves into pretzels defending the indefensible. Some MPs have said they fear going back to their ridings because they will have to explain to their supporters how the Harper crew did a sudden U-turn on the accountability issue, which, after all, was the Tory strong point in the election. Harper ran as Mr. Clean, and painted Martin as Mr. Corruption at every opportunity he had.

Even the rightwing press is stunned and disappointed.

Examples of press reaction:


The Vancouver Sun:

“"I expected some of the superficial criticism I've seen," Mr. Harper told The Vancouver Sun in an interview. "But I think once people sit back and reflect, they'll understand that this is in the best interests of not just British Columbia but frankly of good government." Mr. Harper referred to his statements on Monday, when he said he recruited Mr. Emerson to Cabinet to give Vancouver -- which didn't elect a Tory MP in five city ridings -- a voice in Cabinet. He used the same rationale to explain why he appointed Tory national campaign co-chairman Michael Fortier, a Montreal businessman, to the Senate and as Minister of Public Works. Montreal, like Vancouver, did not elect a government MP. "I think I was clear what I did and why I did it," Mr. Harper said yesterday.

The Calgary Sun – Roy Clancy:

“Stephen Harper must be breathing a sigh of relief today. Just minutes after being sworn in as prime minister, he relieved himself of one of the biggest burdens he had carried into the job. No longer must he live up to the impossible standard of political purity and ethical integrity saddled upon him by a naive electorate. ...But as widespread moans of anger illustrate, many Canadians took Harper seriously when he promised Monday to "begin a new chapter for Canada." No wonder they were disappointed when they learned within moments that this new chapter looks a lot like the old one. ...Harper's pragmatic moves may not have violated the letter of his promises to change the way government is run, but they shattered the spirit. .... Monday's manoeuvres quickly lowered the bar when it comes to public expectations of this new regime.“

The Calgary Sun - Rick Bell:

“See the Tories wriggle. Wriggle, Tories, wriggle. Ah yes, one party's turncoat is another party's principled politician. No anger now. No demands to step down and face the voters now. No nasty name-calling now. No sympathy for the poor electors of the riding of the quisling now. ... The trouble with talking about the moral high ground is you actually have to walk on it or, like the kid standing by the broken window after throwing the snowball, insist without shame you've done nothing wrong. ... So the rationalizations flow, the lame explanations are exhaled into the hot air and only those who have drunk the Conservative Kool-Aid will follow as good old ideological ants.”

So, what lessons can be taken from Harper’s first exercise of Prime Ministerial power? Here are a few for you to ponder:

• Just as it is unfair to accuse every Republican of having the same moral vacuity that President Bush has displayed, so too is it unfair to say that all Conservatives – and all voters who voted for the Tories – lack good moral and political judgment. It is very clear that there are a lot of people who voted Tory because they sincerely believed that it was time for the Liberals to mend their house, and for another party to bring in some anti-corruption measures. These people still have high standards; they are as bewildered by the events of this week as others are.

• Harper obviously believes he is above trifling things like having to take the feelings of others into consideration. This exercise of Prime Ministerial power shows that he will think things through – apparently mostly on his own – and then decide on the best way forward. If he explains his thought process, it is obvious to him that voters will then understand why he is right, and fall into line. There is a word for this: paternalism. Harper shows clear signs of seeing himself as the Big Wise Daddy of Canadian politics. His use of the word “superficial” to describe the reaction of others to his crass abandonment of some of the major planks of his election platform illustrates this very clearly.

• Harper is focused on winning a majority in the next election, to happen within 18 months. Everything he will do or say is geared to that. If lesser mortals within his own party do not understand this, that is their problem. They must suck it up and stay in line. Big Daddy knows best.

• Harper does not believe in a democratic party for the Tory government. It is his way or the highway (witness Stronach). This is perhaps the most worrisome aspect for many Tories: did they realize they were electing a dictator rather than the leader of a parliamentary party fashioned along the lines of a Westminster democracy? How many more decisions will be made by The Leader, and rammed down the throats of the caucus? And how can Canadians expect such decisions to be the best, if they are not tested by vigorous debate within the governing party before being made?

If Harper continues in the same vein for the next 12 months, expect him to join the ranks of the Clarks, Campbells and Martins as a short-lived blip on the Canadian political firmament.