Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Beginning of the End for John and Pierre

I read in the Globe and Mail yesterday that the government is considering going after the Public Service pension plans as a way to reduce the deficit. This, of course, is only the beginning.

This is a common tactic of Conservative governments when their gross mismanagement of the public purse finally catches up to them.

The Mulroney government found themselves in the same situation in the 1990s and they went after the Public Service pay and benefits.

The result was Ottawa became a Liberal bastion for three straight elections.

Now we are seeing the beginning of the same thing again in 2010. The Public Service is still the biggest employer in the National Capital Region and many of those folks live in Nepean, Barrhaven and Orlean, suburban ridings currently held by Conservatives. However, pissed off Public Servants could tip the balance back to the Liberals again. As well, the 416, 417 highways have caused many of them to live further out of town which could cause problems for Conservatives in the broader Eastern Ontario Region.

It is nice to know that Conservative ideology does not make allowances for past mistakes. I am really looking forward to the National Capital Region and Eastern Ontario being painted red again.

Deep breath everybody

Stephen Harper has prorogued Parliament to escape a Speakers Warrant being issued in the new year for the Afghan detainee documents.

This is not surprising and it is certainly an outrageous affront to our democracy but let's not get too excited.

This is not permanent. He has not put troops into the streets. He has not otherwise done real harm to our institutions. He has merely taken a longstanding Parliamentary practice and abused it. Like I said not very surprising with this guy as we all know ideologues like him always believe that the end justifies the means.

Besides pointing out this abuse to Canadians, Liberals should be quietly ensuring that their own leadership would not do the same thing in the future. Mr. Harper's diminishing of Canadian democracy will only become permanent if his Liberal successor does the same thing, given similar circumstance. That may seem like an odd statement but politicians, when in power, always do what has been proven to be successful in the past regardless of their rhetoric when they were not in power. If Stephen Harper does indeed get away with this then some of his successors may decide to take similar actions as him if they find themselves in a little bit of political trouble. This may be particularly true in another minority government situation.

If Liberals believe otherwise about their leadership our democracy really is in danger from Mr. Harper's actions.

As an aside to Conservatives do not think for a moment that Canadians will not notice Mr. Harper's actions. You may be correct that it will have no immediate impact on Conservative fortunes and it is obvious that Mr. Harper and his advisors are only thinking of the immediate but his actions reek of arrogance and cynicism and these are always the downfall of governments. Canadians recognise them and do not like them in their politicians and eventually punish them for it.

To Liberals, provided that a Liberal government does not pull a similar stunt in the future, there is a silver lining to what Mr. Harper has done. The level or arrogance we are seeing from this government is usually followed by a big fall. Think Mulroney, Harris or Trudeau. Mr. Harper has bought himself three months but it could cost the Conservatives four or more years soon afterwards.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What a dumb political move by the Conservatives

I have been watching the Conservatives' reaction to the detainee scandal with a critical eye since Mr. Colvin made his first statements in front of a Parliamentary Committee. Since that time they have had failed strategy after failed strategy and they have forgotten one of the axioms of politics.

It is not the crime that will get you it is the cover up.

I happen to agree with the Conservatives to a certain extent that Canadians will not get too worked up if it is proven that Canadian troops handed over Afghan detainees for potential torture. You see, Canadian are reasonable people who do not believe the troops or the government are evil or condone torture. The Conservatives should have realized that early on and came right out and admitted that the original agreement regarding Afghan detainees was woefully inadequate which probably lead to some Afghans being handed over to Afghan authorities who might have tortured or abused them. With a large dollop of mea culpa they could have admitted they dropped the ball on this file but they did eventually get around to fixing it.

Certainly the usual suspects would have condemned the government but that could have easily been dismissed as partisan politics and all of the revelations that we have been seeing in the last few weeks would have had less of an impact as Canadians would already have known that the government made mistakes.

Instead of course, the Conservatives have lied, obfuscated, smeared and otherwise did the opposite of what I suggested above. The result, weeks of bad press. Being placed in the position of being seen to defy the will of Parliament and being forced to consider Proroguing Parliament once again.

What a mess for the Conservatives.

The Conservatives made the mistake of making this whole scandal about what they are covering up and the lengths they are willing to go to cover whatever it is they are covering. That has the potential to be extremely damaging to the Conservatives and perversely their efforts have reached a point where the honest course is no longer viable. They are going to have to continue trying to cover up their actions and each day, week and month that they do so is like an acid dripping on their credibility.

It is ironic, if the Conservatives would have made this scandal exclusively about torture it would have probably gone away by now or at least been less toxic. Instead it has become about their credibility and it will not be going away any time soon, regardless of whether we have a new Parliament in the New Year or not.

As an aside, if Mr. Harper does Prorogue Parliament in the New Year he will get away with it in the short-term. It will be up to the Opposition to try to make it harm them in the medium to long-term.