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Friday, February 10, 2006

Harper's 'horrible' week

The Canadian press sizes up Harper's first week, and deems it "horrible."

Posted by Terry O'Neill on February 10, 2006 in Canadian Politics | Permalink


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Horrible seems like a pretty accurate summation to me.

Posted by: Mike Jenkinson | 2006-02-10 4:03:17 PM

I wouldn't deem Harper's first week as horrible......It may have been a little more intense than what he'd anticipated but hey it's been a mild winter and Canadians aren't quite as lothargic as one would expect; what with a mid-winter election to rock their hibernatorial patterns and a little political moralism and outrage to get their collective juices flowing! As usual the Canadian mainstream media pulls our G-string and we as Canadians mindlessly grab at our crotch in reactionary stupor like some big old grizzly who just to a load of buckshot in ......well.....you know where!....we as conservatives dilligently stood behind Mr Harper when he and his party were running for office......now we're all too quick to want to criticize the man..... Come on Conservatives and Bloggers alike......get some backbone and stand up for Canada......cause that's what this is really all about!..... Remember if we don't do this then we only have ourselves to blame for failure of the Conservative movement in Canada not Steven Harper..... If we don't stand united then we stand for nothing.....

Posted by: simon | 2006-02-10 4:12:00 PM

I believe Harper made a big mistake with the appointments of Emerson and Fortier. Harper's government was elected because people wanted to clean up politics and have "accountability." And the first thing he does is appoint a floor crossing Liberal to his Cabinet who is on record as saying: "I am going to be Stephen Harper's worst enemy." What a blunder! Did he think this through or is he getting bad advice? Or is he just plain stupid? He then appoints Fortier as a Senator!! A guy who did not want to run in the election, all to appease Quebec. Harper has "succeeded" in destroying his own credibility and caused bad feelings amongst his own MPs and Party members. It's a disaster.

Posted by: Stephen Gray | 2006-02-10 4:15:01 PM

I don't believe it's a disaster Stephen.....keep in mind people that this government probably only has a two year shelf life at most......Fortier's appointment is only 'till the NEXT ELECTION so why question it at this time?.....As for David Emerson......well he just may turn out to be Harper's worst nightmare but for future reasons and certainly not for his present appointment......Harper has a job to do and he's also been given a mandate to do it......He also has the power to ask for a minister's resignation should he so choose.....I predict next week will be even better than this one!

Posted by: simon | 2006-02-10 4:39:49 PM

Hey, what happened to the horrible 12.3 years we just had with the Liberals? Doesn't that count for anything?

The firefighters have just entered the towering inferno, let's see if they can put out the fire before we worry too much about who's wearing the uniforms.

Posted by: peter o'donnell | 2006-02-10 4:45:20 PM

It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't great: for Canada.

It was valuable to me, in terms of completing the evidence I needed to convince me that far too many Canadians are a juvenile and petty bunch of wishful thinkers at best.

I wish I could send every man, woman, and child in Canada a free copy of Yes Prime Minister. To make up for the failings of our comprehensive education system, if I may paraphrase Hacker.

Thank god most of you people aren't responsible for anything important, like running a country or a large corporation. If you were doctors, you would let a patient bleed to death from a severed artery because, in principle, you didn't have the "best" instruments at hand to save the patient.

Put a cork in it. The bleeding artery, I mean.

Many people are arguing about Mr. Harper's "ethics" without even knowing what the word means. They think "unethical" means "something I don't like". It doesn't. If you're actually interested in making Canada work, you can get a clue for free at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethics

I've not seen any principles get sacked. I've not seen anything unethical. I've seen no corruption. All I've seen is some peoples' naive expectations being adjusted.

One of the steps on the path to experience is the first time one overinvests in an abstraction and it turns out to actually be an honest human, limited, but both principled *and* pragmatic. One of the other steps is the first time one overinvests in an abstraction and it turns out to actually be fradulent. I remember those experiences, and they're not the same thing.

While the moral of the story is to not overinvest, it remains the case that it's better to invest in the honest limited human than in the known fraud.

No laws were broken by Mr. Harper. He violated no parliamentary tradition, unlike the situation involving the Stronach purchase.

But why should that matter? When laws are broken by the Liberals some people say it doesn't matter, and excuse them. When laws aren't broken by the Conservative, some people say it doesn't matter, and accuse them. Apparently some people don't care about the rule of law.

Well, you know how it is, the time from the appointment of a new government's cabinet until the first sitting of the house tends to be a "slow news" time for the federal political junkies, so they make up all kinds of story lines. Then the fraud artists start up their three-card monte games, and the junkettes swallow the bait hook, line, and sinker. Canada loses.

When Mr. Harper planked the GST cut into his platform, there seemed to be general agreement that it was good politics but bad policy. When Mr. Harper selected Mr. Emerson as a minister, there seemed to be general agreement that it was good policy but bad politics. Mr. Harper is a balanced man.

On the other hand, "Socrates openly objected to the democracy that ran Athens during his adult life. It was not only Athenian democracy: Socrates objected to any form of government that did not conform to his ideal of a perfect republic led by philosophers, and Athenian government was far from that." [Wikipedia]

Notice that Socrates didn't actually have to run a government.

Meanwhile, of course, all the real action is going on at the interface between the new cabinet and the permanent civil service. I'd love to be a fly on the wall of the Privy Council Office right now.

Remember this: the Liberals promises and behaviour always sounded too good to be true, and they were. Mr. Harper's promises and behaviour don't sound too good to be true. Maybe that's because they aren't. Maybe they're just good enough to be true.

Oh, never mind, I see the line up at the three-card monte table is getting longer. Suckers. There's one born every minute.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-02-10 5:06:23 PM

Nice bit of writing (for a lapsed libertarian). Only a couple of quibbles. First, when you campaign as the snowy white alternative to your filthy black opponents, people are going to notice the smudges that show up. And while the appointment of Emerson and Fortier aren't the end of teh world, they are smudges.
Second, contrary to your assertion that the period from cabinet-making to the first Question Period is a time for new junkies to "make up all kinds of story lines", this is traditionally the honeymoon period. If it was cut short, it was because Harper decided to expend political capital early (and perhaps unwisely) and because, as you point out, his followers had unrealistic expectations and started howling louder than all the Liberal in Vancouver-Kingsway combined.

Posted by: truewest | 2006-02-10 5:16:27 PM

Vitruvius - excellent analysis. And, as you suggest, there is a pragmatic intention to Harper's appointments. Harper has a blueprint, unlike the Liberals - and - his focus is on developing that blueprint.

He required certain skills, which were not available in his elected representatives. It would be interesting to examine how other parliamentary systems, .e.g., in Australia, UK, etc..deal with such a situation. Does it always leave the gov't without such skills, or, are there 'ways and means' to achieve them? The key focus is - how does a gov't acquire skills and provide authority to those skills? Only by elections? Can an appointed member fit this position? How?....and so on.

The MSM and others aren't willing or able to explore the structure of governance, and ask questions about how such a structure meets certain needs.

My only quibble with your otherwise excellent post, is the Socrates example. Whoever wrote that outline in Wikepedia was obviously writing it from a Platonic perspective, i.e., from Plato's Republic. Now- that was a totalitarian regime..But, many scholars think that the totalitarian regime outlined by Plato, using Socrates as his voice, was...just Plato. And that the real Socrates would never have supported such a regime.

Posted by: ET | 2006-02-10 5:33:31 PM

Tjis looks like the media is being treated like the media in the US, the ruling class know that the media is the biggest supporter that the Opsition has so just go over their heads and talk directly to the voter.
Right now the only ones complaining are the uninformed media, and that's a good thing, they have no creditability with the voting public so let them bleet away. Soon they will discover their bellybutton and forget what they are talking about. That or there will be a dog story that they have to follow, something the public will listen to them about

Posted by: Barrie | 2006-02-10 5:33:39 PM

Thanks for weighing in from the shell-game table, TrueWest. Honeymoon? Get serious. The only prime ministers in modern Canada who get honeymoons are wealthy lawyers from Quebec with close ties to the Demaris family.

I'm not buying into that racket. Canadians' chains are being yanked by the old-power oligarchy again, and, as usual, they're blithely jerking along.

While Mr. Harper's trying to figure out how to do something reasonable with Canada's state protection rackets and ponzi schemes, half the electorate is playing pin the tail on the donkey, the other half doesn't care, and the rest of us try to drown our frustration in logic and Peggy Lee:

Is that all there is, is that all there is?
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing.
Let's break out the booze and have a ball.

(Thank god I'm so clever and happy or I'd be terribly depressed ;-)

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-02-10 5:50:52 PM

Let me be clear, ET, at best I know something of the principles of the classics; of the details I know close to nothing. I was using the Socrates quote as a carricature, a cartoon if you like (I say, look out, there are greek classicists burning down embassys).

For the record, what I meant was, there was this guy Hoser who openly objected to the democracy that ran Canada during his adult life. It was not only Canadian democracy: Hoser objected to any form of government that did not conform to his ideal of a perfect republic led by philosophers, and Canadian government was far from that. Notice that Hoser didn't actually have to run a government.

(My apologies to everyone named Hoser.)

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-02-10 6:04:10 PM

You should try gin. Goes better with Peggy Lee. Goes pretty well with vermouth too, but you have to be careful of the latter.
As for your only Quebec lawyers w/ Demarais connections get honeymoons theory - depending on the how you define "modern", the honeymoonless would include Campbell (not elected) Turner (likewise) and Joe (who even Tories say - actually, especially Tories say -- was hapless) Not much of a sample.

Posted by: truewest | 2006-02-10 6:16:19 PM

Oh goodie, now the shell-game table is trying to tell me what to drink. No sir, I've been drinking pilsner, burgandy, and port for 35 years, I'm not about to submit to some statist distilled spirits regime at my age. These are the kind of people who think I should switch my pipe tobacco from a classic english blend to some sort of fruity oriental mixture. Piss off ;-)

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-02-10 6:28:43 PM

Shurly, you mean "burgundy". Unless you also drink bo-jalais (Fine wine from the American south).

Posted by: truewest | 2006-02-10 6:36:39 PM

I mean purple.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-02-10 6:41:56 PM

If they Liberals really don't like what Harper was doing wiht Emerson, then the next sitting of Parliament would be an opportune time for them to reform they system now, wouldn't it?

To ensure that there will no crossing of the floor without a byelecton, they will be sure to get enough support from disenchanted Conservatives and NDP for a private members bill agaisnt such practices.

On the other hand, since it was Liberals that stood in the way of such legislation thelast time, there will be little likelihood of them initiating anything this time either.

Hoepfully, there will be enough reform-minded MP's in the new Conservative party who do not like doing business in the old way to call the Liberals bluff on this.

But if the Liberals really do see floor-crossing as unethical, or appointing senators as unethical, this just would not be a bad thing in terms of reforming the system.

Those of us who support the Triple-E would love nothing better than for them to bring it on.
This could well be a fight that Conservatives may just want to lose.

With the public now so animatedly against such practices, Harper and the Conservatives have just been given the golden opportunity to bring through their reforms.

Otherwise, their ought to be no reason for the Conservative party to play under a different set of rules than the public has always allowed the Liberals to play under.

The public has always allowed the Liberals such actions.If they are now demanding a higher standard for the Conservatives, opportunity knocks!

Posted by: Darryl | 2006-02-10 7:08:28 PM

Stephen Harper and his team had a GREAT week, the MSM had a BAD week. The MSM and the Liberano/Dipper voter are looking dumb and dumber by the day. When the Liberano last gleaming light bails out to join the Conservatives, whern the MSM is sulking because the gument is not playing their little games and the loss is the MSMs, when the luxury hotel scam for good little liberals hits the air-waves - THAT is a GOOD week. There is a new outfit in charge now , get used to it and that new kid on the block has some new ideas - good ideas- the "dark Ages' are over. Celebrate if you love Freedom. And if you need a 'wake - up' call think of what today would be like if the Liberanos had won the last election.

Posted by: jema54j | 2006-02-10 7:42:38 PM

Come on - let’s call a spade a spade - Harper had a crappy week! It should have and could have been a great week even with the controversial appointments which I firmly believe were done for the best of reasons. But the initial optics were undeniably bad and the Conservative team’s defense was somewhere between non-existent and god-awful. Let’s face it, media pundits Ian MacDonald and Robert Fife are essentially right - Tory communications were lousy (hell, even Michael Fortier criticized Emerson’s defection.) The controversy was predictable and there was no apparent plan to manage it, no coherent message from the Conservatives team.

They could still pull it out of the fire if they can get their act together fast enough. I hope they do and that Emerson doesn’t decide to give it all up this weekend which would make a messy situation even messier.

Posted by: JR | 2006-02-10 7:51:29 PM

What a hoot vitruvius. You nailed it. I suspect that Mr. Harper expected the kind of reaction that he got given the Liberal owned media..... So what will happen when the public finds out just how wrong the media's oppinion has been. How much trust will they have lost.....So what will the media say when Mr. Emerson gives his reasons for crossing the floor? Think about it.

We have been tickled by the Softwood revelations and getting stuck in traffic just gave the media more time to show how wrong the get things.

I am looking forward to hear what Emerson says when it is his turn to cutloose and rip a new one.

Posted by: truthsayer | 2006-02-10 8:12:24 PM

Harper's government can only improve at this stage. He was certainly off to a "great" start on DAY 1 with his hypocritical cabinet appointments which pissed off half of his caucus. Then came Mackay's idiotic statement about the Mohammed cartoons. I tend to agree that it's been a disaster but thankfully there's plenty of time to make things right.

Posted by: Howard Roark | 2006-02-10 9:38:56 PM

I agree with jema54j, this was a bad week for the MSM. Harper didn't meet the expectations that they projected onto his government. What followed was the most blatant moral relativism I have ever seen. The MSM has come clean, and it isn't pretty.

Posted by: potato | 2006-02-11 7:43:13 AM

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