Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Meet the new boss...

Well, it certainly didn't take long for Stephen Harpers cloak of 'principles' to get cast off now that it's no longer needed. I always assumed that Harpers biggest problem would be keeping the crazies of the party in check long enough for the Canadian people to 'really get the know' the new party, now we know that his biggest problem is that he is full of shit - his second biggest problem will be keeping the crazies in check.

Allow me to run down a quick list of our new Prime Ministers first acts in office;

1) Appointing David Emerson as a cabinet minister only days after Emerson was elected as a Liberal. How long was this little deal in the works? Days? Before the election? Emerson must be feeling rather smug, knowing that he had a plum post regardless of whom was elected to the party in power.

Crossing party lines is an accepted fact of life - however the brazen act of doing it mere days after the election is an entirely new level of cynical. The Liberal riding association for Vancouver Kingsway has already asked for his $100,000 in campaign funds to be returned. They have every civil right to ask for this, and if there is any evidence that Emerson had contact or dealings with Harper before the election, I figure they have a criminal case as well. Gomery is about done with his current investigations, perhaps it would be fun (and by fun, I mean ironic) to sic him on this one.

2) Appointing Michael Fortier to be in charge of Public Works and Government services. Hey remember PWGSC? The department that is responsible for the oversight of government contracts? You know, the area that was lax in the Adscam affair? Oh yeah, we're going to appoint an unelected person to be in charge of that. And oh yes, Mr. Fortier is also going to be a Senator, despite the fact that the Conservative party campaigned on the idea on an elected Senate. Fortier hasn't been elected to fuck all and already he's got his fingers pretty deep into the workings of power.

3) Appointing Gord O'Conner as Defence Minister. I suppose this shouldn't come as a surprise, given that he was a General in the Canadian Forces - however the fact that he was a lobbyist for years afterwards taints him in a very, how shall I put this - "American" way? I think the revolving door of lobbyists and government is one of the biggest threats to democracy south of the border, and now we have it at home. Yippee.

Interestingly, Hill and Knowlton - the lobbying firm O'Conner worked for is quite upbeat about the prospects of a new government: "Canada has a new federal government! While we are still facing a minority Parliament, the Tories, under Stephen Harper, will drive a new agenda. Do you need help understanding it all and its impact on your business?" 'Cause we got an in! Give us some cash and Mr. Harper and company will roll over and let you rub their belly. You know Cheney and Halliburton - that us now! Ain't it great!

Stand up for Canada? More like 'Meet the new boss, same as the old boss'. Thank god the Canadian electorate saw fit to give Harper a short leash to work with because I think the government will fall even quicker than I predicted, if that is even possible. Most people gave Harper a chance to prove that he is different than the Liberals, while not being as scary as they portray him to be. In his first day, he has proven to be no different - and it will only be a matter of time before his facade of being a centrist falls to pieces as well. Rick Mercer, our favourite political comedian has a nice little article on the nutcase element of the party which I'm sure we'll be seeing more of.


Anonymous 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.

LOLA said...

i'm actually suprised that it didn't happen faster, thought i suppose he had to wait. i can just see him asking his people "can i do it now.... now...."

as for the choices that he's made, well, that's not really a suprise at all. the countdown for another election has started.