The Shotgun Blog
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Stephen Harper is the chicken
Stephen Harper knew he was taking a risk when he proposed to remove government funding for political parties as part of the fiscal update, he knew the opposition parties would be howling, but he figured that one of them would back down when it actually came to a non-confidence vote which would topple the government mere weeks after an election. It was the right thing to do, but as Western Standard publisher Matthew Johnston has argued, not the right way to do it; he should have also allowed parties to more easily raise money privately by eliminating contribution limits as well.
Harper didn't think the opposition parties would be able to hobble together a coalition (and it's still not at all clear that they can) and he didn't think the Liberals were going to risk facing another election or a weak and unstable coalition government, but he entered a game of chicken and waited for one of the other parties to give in.
When he realized that he had miscalculated, he started to back off, by separating the party funding vote from the rest of the fiscal update and delaying the vote by a week. Now, in this game of chicken, it's Harper and the Conservatives who have dodged first. The Canadian Press reports:
OTTAWA - The opposition refused to back down from plans to form a Liberal-NDP coalition government on Saturday, even as the governing Conservatives announced they will withdraw their controversial proposal to end public subsidies for political parties.
As part of an economic update tabled this week, the government proposed eliminating the roughly $28 million in public subsidies that political parties receive for each vote they garner in federal elections.
But in a stunning reversal, the government said Saturday it will shelve the proposal, which had infuriated the opposition and threatened to topple the government.
"We don't think it's in the interests of Canadians to have an election over this issue," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief spokesman, Kory Teneycke, adding the government will release further details this weekend on how it will withdraw the measure.
Harper took a calculated risk based on principle and political advantage, but he's gotten scared and backed off from his decision.
If Harper had stood strong and survived this challenge, he would have destroyed the confidence of the Liberals and would have the equivalent of the majority mandate he sought and failed to achieve in the October election. Now he's only served to undercut his position and he's still facing three opposition parties who are vowing to vote against his fiscal update when it comes up because it doesn't include "stimulus" for the economy.
The opposition parties only found the gall to threaten to defeat the government because their financial life-line was being threatened. Their opposition to the fiscal update's lack of "stimulus" would not have been sufficient to get us to the point we are now. Early reports even suggest that Harper may be considering a suspension of Parliament until the new year.
Nothing has been gained for Stephen Harper by proposing the elimination of public party funding and then withdrawing it, but his security as Prime Minister of Canada has certainly been weakened.
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Good analysis. He blinked.
If he had pressed forward, it may have been the nail-in-the-coffin for the opposition parties. I was looking forward to seeing what the Canadian Confederation would have become.
My prediction: After a brief interlude of Conservative Party dominance, the party splits into blue tory and red tory factions. However, Canadian politics are thereafter realigned in a right-libertarian direction.
If only Canada would be what we Americans need it to be: a refuge for freedom as we embark on our post-9/11 totalitarian experiment.
Posted by: Mike Vine | 2008-11-30 12:15:39 AM
I disagree that Harper blinking is what will sink the Conservative government.
Yes, of course, it was the political subsidies that got the ball rolling, but once Jack Layton and Stephane Dion (two men who will never have another chance at this kind of power) realized they could form government, there was nothing Harper could do to stop it.
It wouldn't matter at this point if Harper was pledging to cut all political subsidies or if he was promising to implement a green shift carbon tax and the NDP platform - Layton and Dion are going to do everything in their power to make this happen. We just have to wait and see how successful they'll be.
That said, Harper shouldn't have backed down. This issue had broad support outside of the parties on the dole. Besides, the political capital he burned through to propose it can't be recovered and he's only burning through more by withdrawing it.
Posted by: Janet | 2008-11-30 1:00:44 AM
Good post and I agree with Janet. They are similar to hungry wolves having tasted blood, or in their case power, so it is unlikely that reason will prevail.
Posted by: Alain | 2008-11-30 1:11:52 AM
Yawn. If I wanted to read anti-Harper hate written by crypto-Marxists I'd pick up the paper.
In light of the Mumbai attacks where white people were specifically targeted I'm wondering if some, maybe a lot, of the hate directed toward the Anglo Harper from some quarters, such as our friend Kalim, has to do with his mitochondrial DNA.
You should be criticizing the economists and left wing politicians who are pressuring Harper to adopt Keynesian style tax and spend policies. Several Canadian bank economists say we need tens of billions in new spending to "stimulate" the economy and no criticism from the so-called libertarians here? It's easy to be pro-business I suppose if one always turns a blind eye toward their statist agitation.
"This issue had broad support outside of the parties on the dole. "
If by broad support you mean has generated near unanimous opposition from the press, who unduly influence the people, then yes. Fact: Stephen Harper just ran on the most libertarian election platform of any major party in Canadian history. His haters are Marxists, and not very well concealed Marxists either.
Posted by: Mayonnaise Mmmm Mmmm | 2008-11-30 1:16:57 AM
Wow, mayonnaise, when you say "most libertarian" do you mean all the climate change stuff, or are you just admitting to being a complete (fucking) idiot?
Posted by: Paul H. Teer | 2008-11-30 1:47:23 AM
Harper was more than just becoming the chicken he next becomes likley a dead duck..
Harper miscalculated an lost the last election and did not become a majority government even again but now he made it all worse by showing us all what he is really like still too.. I had already written immediately after the last federal lection too that "And all persons are merely dreaming that the new Parliament will next usher in an era of co-operation between both the governing party and its opponents as long as Stephen Harper is around. That is not his style for he clearly and wrongfully loves to be a bully, to body check others. And Harper now will clearly have to endure the successes and failures of minority government again by his own poor contributions to it ."As Canadians face the most difficult economic times in 80 years this was, is Not a time to play politics. It was, is Bad time to play political games So the Chess-loving PM was body checked by opponents. Opposition parties threaten to bring down minority government altogether or replace it.
“Just weeks ago Harper spoke of the need for a more nonpartisan approach to governing in the financial crisis. This week’s events prove that was mere lip service. Harper is more concerned about crippling political opponents and is willing to do so on the backs of Canadians frightened for their very future. It’s shameful. ” He clearly is a demon obsessed with getting more power.
Economic crisis is no time for political games What is wrong with Stephen Harper? Days after talking about the need to put partisanship aside to deal with the economic crisis, the prime minister unleashes an undemocratic — even thuggish — attack on the opposition parties. His actions come at the expense of Canadians, introducing more uncertainty, including the threat of an election, at the most damaging time. And it is oddly self-destructive. At a point when many moderate voters were prepared to give the Conservatives a chance to demonstrate their ability to govern in the interests of all Canadians, Harper acted as a partisan bully, reinforcing concerns about his judgment. The classic way for a government to stimulate a flagging economy is to pump money into infrastructure. Road-building and government-funded construction can create jobs through one-time projects that increase spending on local materials and provide the country with something it actually needs, without creating a long-term spending problem. That’s the way Ottawa should go, economists say. In its Throne Speech a few weeks ago, the government promised infrastructure spending to pump money into the economy. It would appear that Minister Flaherty has forgotten that promise. What planet do Canada’s Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty and Prime Minister Harper live on?
FOR SOME CONSERVATIVES, WHO FALSELY, UNREALISTICALLY ONLY CAN SEE AS ALL OF THE OPPOSITION PARTIES AS AN ENEMY TO BE KILLED, THEIR NOW WINNING AT ANY COSTS STILL IS THE MAIN ISSUE FOR THEM TOO.
Stephen Harper, the supposedly competent political strategist, who still could not even unwisely foresee twice that he would only get a minority government, from the start of his election as PM, now desperately still again wants to achieve and to get have political power, clearly figures his Conservative party based on the past received political donations alone has enough cash reserves for another future election that he intends to shortly force on us, wants to put the opposition parties at an economic, political disadvantage for the next foreseeable federal election. Sadly too Many Conservatives had been gleefully supportive of the “poison pill” the Conservative plan to slash $30 billion in taxpayer subsidies for political parties. The slash in a dictatorial, undemocratic, poorly calculated approach for any minority government especially now. And as political fallout expands , Harper’s move is rightfully widely seen as a terrible political miscalculation putting Canada’s Conservative government is in peril, just five weeks after the last federal election, and Canada’s stability, in jeopardy at a time of economic crisis. “A Conservative government source said yesterday the idea was Harper’s. Sources said “most” of the Conservative caucus is perplexed why the government moved to put such controversial measures in now. “It makes no sense,” said one. To date, Harper has been a partial master at dividing and conquering his opponents but now he Harper rather has succeed instead rather uniting them predictable even. ” by moving to end the subsidy to all political parties, he has given the three opposition parties unity and purpose. It is a rare strategic blunder for Harper and a miscalculation not seen since (former PC prime minister Joe) Clark toppled himself in 1979. Wiser Conservative insiders across the country are flabbergasted.” Thus this Conservative government next will clearly fall without even them even being reassured of a re-election majority again. it would be constitutionally correct for the federal opposition parties to topple the Conservatives too. Harper as a result is now scrambling to retain his political power against the coalition government.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper called an election to secure a majority, and failed to get one. Continues with his one step forward two step backyards leadership approach too. Mr. Harper now and all of us should reflect on where his cynical, bullying, combative, unChristlike approach has gotten him, the Conservative government’s apparent death wish , and how it has further destabilized our country during uncertain times. ” Thursday’s economic statement was an economic lame duck and a political boner. It revealed, among other things, the kind of Conservative Party that all but its core supporters suspected would eventually be outed: a group of ideologues, led by a Prime Minister who discarded his campaign sweater to reveal an economist with a tin heart and a politician who looks everywhere for political advantage. “
Stephen Harper has to wear this political mess himself now too. He had thought he had set a deadly trap for his opponents but he himself undeniably fell into it now. That is what a Bully, ego manic deserves. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s clearly SELF CENTERED, SELFISH, crude political brinksmanship has taken an now finally admitted Canadian economic crisis and made it into a political crisis. The substance of the VALID opposition claims that is that the Conservative government had wrongfully failed to recognize the seriousness of Canada’s present economic situation and so to date it has not credibly presented a plan to stimulate the economy. Rather it has played indecent, dirty party politics instead, the Conservatives fearlessly and foolishly approach to try to bait their opponents has made all of the matters worse, for the Conservatives even had directly poked the opposition in the eye with a proposal to end public subsidies to political parties by trying to cut of funding to the opposition parties.
So how stupid was the government in doing this. The cause of all this lunacy is the Conservatives themselves now too, and “the Conservatives never once mentioned cutting political subsidies during last month’s election campaign; the Prime Minister never raised it during his consultations with rival party leaders three weeks ago”. What were they now falsely thinking the political parties would take this false abuse lying down in a democracy? Rightfully the opposition’s reaction has ranged from outrage to a positive reaction. This is a political mess solely of Mr. Harper’s own making. Canada’s minority Conservative government, re-elected less than two months ago, could be toppled in the next few days .Two of the three Canadian opposition parties are seriously now negotiating to form a coalition government, which the third has agreed to support, if the government is defeated in a confidence vote in the House of Commons on the government’s updated budget forecast, which the opposition parties said doesn’t address the financial crisis. If the opposition effort is successful, it will mark the first time in Canadian history that a formal coalition has taken power from a sitting government.
Naively Mr. Harper next still sounded unrealistic, and characteristically indifferent, in his televised address even attacking his his valid opposition opponents and falsely pronouncing that a coalition government is not an option. It is a realistic, real option in any democracy for Stephen Hamper’s present government is not a majority one but only a Minority one still and as EVEN STEPHEN HARPER KNOWS AND THIS IS WHY HE STARTED TO FLINCH. Evident by Stephen Harper new time out to hopefully give his government another week to avert the full blown self doing crisis with his new submissive plan to push back the confidence motion a week, until Dec. 8, which he naively thinks next will buy him time to clean his own mess. But his juvenile partisan games has been reveled, and shows to all how untrustworthy now he still really is, not any kind of competent, mature, or serious politician too. He also now should shift his focus to a serious plan to stimulate the Canadian economy if he hopes to wishfully survive even when he in arrogance had a choice between responsible governance and partisan warfare, he chose the latter. That’s a betrayal of public trust, plain and simple. And much more…
“The PMO office even falsely issued detailed marching orders to Conservative MPs for a weekend MANIPULATIVE blitz to ATTEMPT TO shift public opinion FAILED RIGHTFULLY AS WELL. The decision to attempt to strangle the three opposition parties by removing public financing of parties has obviously backfired. The Harper government has now withdrawed the idea. But is it now too late to stop the consequences? It was and is the Prime Minister Harper himself who is the main insult to democracy. And who can believe a too often lying, manipulative, deceptive Conservative anymore anyway?
Kick him still rightfully out of office.
Posted by: thenonconformer | 2008-11-30 2:54:33 AM
"Yawn. If I wanted to read anti-Harper hate written by crypto-Marxists I'd pick up the paper.
In light of the Mumbai attacks where white people were specifically targeted I'm wondering if some, maybe a lot, of the hate directed toward the Anglo Harper from some quarters, such as our friend Kalim, has to do with his mitochondrial DNA.
You should be criticizing the economists and left wing politicians who are pressuring Harper to adopt Keynesian style tax and spend policies. Several Canadian bank economists say we need tens of billions in new spending to "stimulate" the economy and no criticism from the so-called libertarians here? It's easy to be pro-business I suppose if one always turns a blind eye toward their statist agitation."
Posted by: Mayonnaise Mmmm Mmmm | 30-Nov-08 1:16:57 AM
I'm really not sure whether my mitochondrial DNA has any bearing on my thoughts towards PM SH. I like to think that I arrive at my opinions through reason, but surely genetic and environmental factors have been elements shaping my worldview. I do doubt that my DNA is in any way determinative of my political views since mine are extremely rare among my ethnic community, most of whom have unyielding loyalty to the Liberal Party of Canada, the church of environmentalism, multiculturalism and the rest.
I have, and hope to continue to, criticize the Conservative Party when they follow the advice of discredited Keynesian economics. I criticize the left wing politicians as well, but I take particular umbrage when it's the supposedly fiscal conservative CPC who behave in the same way. Take a look at my most recent post on the CPC's attempted nationalization of the banking industry: http://westernstandard.blogs.com/shotgun/2008/11/conservatives-1.html
I don't understand why you think a libertarian should be blindly partisan in favour of Stephen Harper and the CPC. Though I certainly wouldn't want the NDP or Liberals in charge, the Conservatives have done nothing but spend like madmen ever since they got elected. They may have run on libertarian-sounding rhetoric, but their actions do not match their words.
Are the good folks at the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation simply revealing their crypto-Marxist biases when they criticize Harper for presiding over the largest Federal Government in Canadian History and increasing spending more in their first term than Paul Martin's Liberals? What an absurd and misinformed charge.
Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-11-30 3:40:18 AM
"I don't understand why you think a libertarian should be blindly partisan in favour of Stephen Harper and the CPC."
And I don't understand why *you* feel threatened by a man and a woman in a loving relationship. :-). See, two can play that game; Please identify the passage in my post where I suggest a libertarian "should be blindly partisan in favour of Stephen Harper and the CPC."
"presiding over the largest Federal Government in Canadian History"
This has repeatedly been debunked by commenters right here at the Shotgun. It's the largest government in no small part due to having the highest immigration rate, over 1% of the population arrive every year. Add inflation and an aging populace and Harper's spending increases become more palatable.
I think it was helpful when the Shotgun posters revealed who they supported in the American election, and it would be helpful for context if you all revealed who you voted for and supported financially in the last Canadian election.
Two thirds of Canadians are statist, and some days I'm not so sure about the other third. The media is seven blocks left of left, so are the corporations, having been "mau-mau"-ed by the special interest groups. We've got numerous *bank econonomists* in the paper demanding Keynesian stimulus packages of over $15 billion: still think corporations are cool?
It is damn near a miracle that we have Harper as PM all things considered. The alternatives are a longtime Marxist party member (Duceppe), a professor who did his thesis on Marxism (Dion) - and the labour guy (Layton).
To the extent that Harper and his government have not rolled back the state it is largely because he lives in an extremely, extremely left wing country. You should be criticizing the two thirds of Canadians who are statist, and the special interest groups, and the corporations who roll over for political correctness, and the banks calling for Keynesian intervention, not the one elected leader who isn't affiliated with Marxism in one form or another.
It's not so much that Harper doesn't deserve criticism, it is the 100% lack of criticism of everyone else who genuinely deserve it more than Harper does that forces me to conclude this place is, in fact, a Marxist front operation. No, I am not kidding.
Posted by: Mayonnaise Mmm Mmm | 2008-11-30 4:43:05 AM
"Please identify the passage in my post where I suggest a libertarian "should be blindly partisan in favour of Stephen Harper and the CPC.""
You didn't explicitly suggest that, but I thought the implication flowed throughout your comment. If you insist that's not what you meant then I must have misinterpreted you.
"This has repeatedly been debunked by commenters right here at the Shotgun. It's the largest government in no small part due to having the highest immigration rate, over 1% of the population arrive every year. Add inflation and an aging populace and Harper's spending increases become more palatable."
You haven't "debunked" this factual claim, you have merely excused it away and attempted to make it "more palatable".
"I think it was helpful when the Shotgun posters revealed who they supported in the American election, and it would be helpful for context if you all revealed who you voted for and supported financially in the last Canadian election."
I'm happy to oblige. I didn't vote in the last Federal election and did not support any party financially during the campaign. However, within the last year I have paid membership dues to the Conservative Party of Canada and the Libertarian Party of Canada.
"It is damn near a miracle that we have Harper as PM all things considered. The alternatives are a longtime Marxist party member (Duceppe), a professor who did his thesis on Marxism (Dion) - and the labour guy (Layton)."
You're probably right that Harper is the "lesser of evils," but it would be kind of nice if he behaved like he at least had some small-c conservative principles. There was a time when he was with the NCC and in opposition that he did. Oh yeah, his "lesser of evils" policies are nonetheless evil and socialist, hence my criticism of them. I wish I were able to shower Harper with praise and compliments, but his actions seldom warrant it.
"You should be criticizing the two thirds of Canadians who are statist, and the special interest groups, and the corporations who roll over for political correctness, and the banks calling for Keynesian intervention, not the one elected leader who isn't affiliated with Marxism in one form or another."
For all the time I've been blogging here, Stephen Harper has been the Prime Minister. You're right, I should be criticizing corporations and special interests that suck up to mommy government as well as the enforcers of political correctness, and sometimes I do. But the reason I don't spend as much time criticizing the bone-headed ideas coming out of the opposition benches as I do the actions of the government is because the liberticidal actions of the government actually have an effect on me, my fellow Canadians, and the innocent Afghanis we're complicit in bombing.
"It's not so much that Harper doesn't deserve criticism, it is the 100% lack of criticism of everyone else who genuinely deserve it more than Harper does that forces me to conclude this place is, in fact, a Marxist front operation. No, I am not kidding."
Hmm, that must explain all the anti-communist stuff we talk about on this blog.
Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-11-30 5:15:03 AM
In case there's any confusion, I think the country would be worse off under a Liberal-NDP coalition government than in the present situation. I'm unhappy that Jim Flaherty et al think a "stimulus" is necessary, but pleased that they haven't had one yet. I'm also overjoyed that the Conservatives are seriously talking about selling Crown Assets.
If I were less of a realist or a little less disillusioned with Harper (and politicians in general), I might be engaging in wishful thinking like Kevin Gaudet:
"Harper's Subsidy Gambit a Pawn for Bigger Savings
Pundits of all persuasion are condemning the PM for his move to end $30 million in annual subsidies to political parties. They believe that we may be forced to suffer through another election or worse yet, have Dion as PM as a PM. There are other possible scenarios they have failed to consider.
Notice how the PM announced a suspension of the right to strike and limiting public service wages? Remember he said he will undertake a program review of $25 billion? In the past such actions with large financial impacts would generate great gnashing of teeth by the opposition.
Instead of being attacked by the BQ, Liberals, and NDP from the left on his spending restraint measures they and the media are helping instead to focus public attention on a $30 million cut to a political party perk.
This provides good cover for Harper to undertake the other necessary right-sizing of government. He may choose to sacrifice this $30 million to gain a check-mate on the other restraint measures he needs passed. If so, it is a relatively small concession for him to get the other elements approved. While a good symbolic move to cut politicians' access and use of taxpayer cash, it may need to be sacrificed for now.
If it is, Harper will always be able to point the finger at the three other parties who refuses to get their snouts out the trough on this one."
Fortunately, I've been disabused of the idea that Harper is some sort of incrementalist grand strategist crypto-libertarian and I've come to the realization that he's just another politician who likes ruling over other people, but boy would I love to be proven wrong.
Stephen Harper, if you're reading this, please please prove me wrong. Survive the next few weeks of opposition shenanigans and then start slashing spending, cutting taxes, privatizing Crown Corporations etc. Oh yeah, and don't forget to make sure Marc Emery doesn't go to the slammer for life.
In your heart you know it's right.
Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-11-30 5:48:45 AM
I agree with Janet and Alain.
Harper has displayed to Canadians the corrupt self serving nature of the ND's and Liberals, willing to deal with the separatist /communist Bloc to attain power.
Power at any cost!
Put their own political desires ahead of the Nations best interest.
And Canadian MSM has yet to recognize the irony, the public is way ahead of MSM.
They are as corrupt as the proposed axis of greed a coalition of the three socialist partys is.
And yes Kalim, I hope Harper takes your advice from your last post.
Posted by: Joe Molnar | 2008-11-30 7:48:00 AM
We are certainly going to look ridiculous in the eyes of the rest of the world. The U.S. look stupid enough lately but our lovely politicians want to give them some competition.
Posted by: Antonio | 2008-11-30 8:13:28 AM
Canadian Press: As part of an economic update tabled this week, the government proposed eliminating the roughly $28 million in public subsidies that political parties receive for each vote they garner in federal elections.
$28 million for each vote? Surely the parties don't receive that much!
Posted by: George Dance | 2008-11-30 8:22:41 AM
Kalim Kassam. Your post at 5:48 gives one a new insight to the possible thinkings of the Conservatives.It is a good post thank you.
Posted by: Norm Ouston in Mexico | 2008-11-30 9:34:56 AM
We are in serious economic times. Probably worse than the last depression. This is not a time for political instability. So far, under the Conservative government, Canada is doing better than the other G7. This is not the time to rock the boat. If the opposition really cared about canada and canadians instead of their own personal agenda, they would agree to tighten their belts and wait for the storm to pass. Then they could go back to playing their usual political games.
At a time when most canadians fear about their retirement fund, jobs, and if they will afford a place to live, it is not the time for the socialist to get in a huff because their budget is deminished, or if they lose their free shoe shines and free hair cuts and free dining room priviliges, just to mention a few things the rest of us are paying for. I say tis is a time for more cuts to the political perks not a time for a fake tax (the carbon tax) in order to fill the empty coffers
Posted by: [email protected] | 2008-11-30 11:00:15 AM
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