Monday, February 06, 2006

Disappointing Effort Mr. Harper

Ye gods and little fishes! I thought I'd be writing the praises of the new Conservative government today, heralding the swearing in of Canada's 22nd Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. It was supposed to herald a different way of governing this delusional Dominion and a departure from cynicism and cronyism.

What is this all about then? Mr. Harper has begun his term as Prime Minister with two absolutely appalling decisions which undercut the hopes and aspirations of Conservatives like me who prayed for an small respite from the nonsense of the Liberal government.

In choosing his first Cabinet Mr. Harper selects a man as international trade minister who two weeks ago was elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament, and who sat in the previous Liberal Cabinet of Paul Martin as industry minister. The Honourable Paul Emerson said on the radio (I was commuting home) tonight that he was not switching parties because of the opportunity to continue in power (no, no, of course not), but because he wanted to serve his constituents in the best possible manner (sound of trumpets). I only regret that it was radio so I couldn't actually see his nose grow.

Secondly, but no less appalling was the appointment of Montreal resident Michael Fortier, the Conservative campaign manager during the election to the unelected Senate and hence to the Cabinet as the Minister of Public Works (it certainly works for him) and Government Services. Why run for office when it can be granted as a gift by Prime Ministerial fiat.

I don't fault the new ministers anywhere near as much as I fault the guy we just swore in as Prime Minister. What crap! If this is a harbinger of things to come, this government will not do well.


At 11:22 am, February 07, 2006 , Anonymous CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

Stephen Who?

On his very first day as PM, Stephen Harper showed clear signs of following in the footsteps of the bungling Joe Clark, who not only lost his luggage but succeeded in losing his bearings in Parliament as well. Like Joe, Harper seems to have forgotten that his is a minority government, not a majority one, and seems to have assumed ? at great risk to his fledgling government ? that the Liberals, NDP and Bloc will not oppose him and force another election for 12 to 18 months.

We shall see if that assumption is valid.

If an election is held soon, the Tories will start off with egg on their faces, due to Holier-than-thou Harper?s baffling judgment on Day One.

Why on earth did Harper harpoon his own left foot?

He did it once, with his turncoat-conversion and the Liberal into the cabinet before anyone can see it sleight of hand.

He did it twice, with his appointment of ? among others ? Stockwell Day to his cabinet, instead of more women, and more women it important posts. Does the other half of the population ? women ? not count in Stephen Who?s world?

He did it thrice, with his U-turn on an elected senate. Principles dumped for expediency?

He did it fourthly, with his appointment of a former lobbyist ? and then breathtakingly wants to legislate against others being allowed to do the same.

He did it fifthly, with his introduction into Canada of the Karl Rovian doublespeak. Thanks to Stephen Who, Canadians can now also spend delightful hours parsing the speeches of politicians, to decipher just how they are being bamboozled.

What a beginning!

I wonder if he will last as long as Joe Who....

At 11:56 am, February 07, 2006 , Blogger John the Mad said...

You make some good points. If you mean, however, "by appointing a former lobbyist," the Honourable Gordon O'Connor, our new Minister of National Defence, you are off base.

Gordon O'Connor served this country as an officer of the armoured corps for 33 years and retired with the rank of brigadier general. Describing him merely as a lobbyist, as though that were his primary career is plain silly.

At least General O'Connor knows where Dieppe is and what happened there. He is a seasoned combat arms soldier. He is, therefore, a so a good choice to have in charge now that the Canadian Forces are deploying in large numbers, in harm's way, around Kandahar, Afhganistan.

As for having to parse the words of politicians to see where we are being bamboozled, have citizens not been doing this in democracies everywhere ever since ancient Athens?

I don't think he harpooned his left foot; it was definitely his right.

At 2:25 pm, February 07, 2006 , Anonymous CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

Thanks for the correction, John The Mad: my complaint was not against the man, but the breach of principle ....

At 5:18 pm, February 07, 2006 , Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Although with O'Connor having lobbied for Airbus up until 23FEB04, and now being in a position to direct the tactical airlift bid, I'm sure you'll admit the optics are bad.

At 7:17 pm, February 07, 2006 , Blogger John the Mad said...


I believe we stand together on principle. Not a bad place to stand.


You make a good point. I suppose Harper could have appointed Laurie Hawn who, as you know, is a retired fighter squadron CO.

Still, I'd not write off General O'Connor quite yet.

At 7:25 pm, February 07, 2006 , Blogger The Brigadier, Red Ensign Brigade said...

> At least General O'Connor knows
> where Dieppe is

Isn't that the place just up the road from Vichy Ridge?

Joking aside, I have to agree with Damian: the O'Connor is less than an ideal choice for potential conflict of interest reasons. Of course, perhaps that's why Harper chose Emerson as a minister . . . to take attention away from other things.

At 9:49 pm, February 07, 2006 , Blogger John the Mad said...

Mon Brigadier:

I always thought you general officers stuck together. Sound like I'm outflanked on this one.

At 1:28 pm, February 08, 2006 , Anonymous 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.


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