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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Idea Man

If Stephen Harper is the smartest guy in the room...

Conservative MPs will soon be asking their constituents for advice on what to do about the economy.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has sent a letter to the Tory caucus asking each MP to proactively seek out ideas on the next phase of the government's economic action plan.

Cabinet members have been doing consultations since the fall, but Mr. Harper tells MPs he wants a wider range of input.

Since my MP is a Liberal, it looks like I won't be able to contribute to the PM's almost-nation-wide brainstorming session. Thanks to the wonders of the interweb, however, let me instead give my ideas directly to the head honcho himself. For once, I'll be brief: 

Dear Prime Minster,

Please act like a conservative. It's what I - and millions of others - voted for.



Sheer simplicity. This isn't as tall an order as many suppose. I'm not asking for Harper of Leaside to behave like the second coming of George Brown or Wilfrid Laurier. I just want some old fashioned tax cutting, budget balancing conservatism. I can live without private sidewalks. I'll grumble quietly about the drug laws and the nanny state. Please, sir, just slow the juggernaut down a bit. 

The most frequent complaint I get about my writing - aside from the fact that I'm racist, fascist, Muslim loving / hating Nazi - is that I never stop harping about Harper. DON'T YOU KNOW, HE"S ONLY GOT A MINORITY!!!!!!!!!  WTF!!!!!!! While math was never my strong point, I can divide the number of seats in the House of Commons by half, and figure out the number required for a majority government. Currently the Conservatives are about a dozen short. 

The transformation of our parliamentary system, over the last two generations, into a quasi-presidential system, has confused many voters. They seem to think that unless the Prime Minister's party has a majority, all he can do is shrug his shoulders and make jokes about how the Leader of the Opposition is a tourist. Leaving aside that the PM is a "westerner" who has spent about three-fifths of his life in Ontario, Mr Harper's status as a conservative wallflower is largely chosen. He has the power.


When in mid-2010 the Conservatives proposed mandatory minimum sentences for pot users, the problems of minority government seemed to vanish. According to the master strategists in the PMO, a bill abolishing the Canadian Wheat Board was a parliamentary impossibility. Throwing growers of less than a half-dozen pot plants in jail for six months, well that should sail right through. Yet the NDP, the Bloc and the Liberals are far from being hard-core prohibitionists. The nominal parliamentary math is just as bleak for abolishing the CWB as it is for locking up college potheads with a few plants.

While it might be official Liberal policy to oppose dismantling the CWB, the party's base is urban and Central Canadian. It's not a hill that even the Iggy Grits are stupid enough to die on. The people who write the Natural Governing Party's cheques just don't care. After all, did not the Pierre - hallowed be his name - questioned the wisdom of selling farmers' wheat? Sure it was a smart ass response to grumbling farmers, but for PET a thin line separated serious policy and smart ass retorts.

The Liberal base is somewhat friendly to pot smokers. Sure the small town Blue Liberals aren't very keen on drug decriminalization. The corps of Toronto and Montreal lawyers who actually run the party are often - in private - quite keen on the weed. They are also terrified of looking soft on crime because, well, the Liberals have historically been soft on crime. Having failed to be tough on genuine criminals, the Grits are now afraid of opposing the harsher punishing of the "crime" of lighting rolled up bits of a harmless plant.

Is there not room for a deal here? Perhaps only a sordid one. It's Ottawa - Canada's very own Faustian citadel - so not much more can be expected. Let's say the Conservatives agree to push with diminished gusto on the Drug Wars, opting instead to burnish their law and order credentials on less controversial quarry: Tougher sentences for murderers, rapists, pedophiles etc...

In exchange for leaving the pot laws be, the Liberals and Conservatives reach an understanding on the Wheat Board. The Grits will huff and puff, for appearance sake, and about a dozen of their members stay in the parliamentary washrooms when the vote is held. It's been done before, and on bills of far less consequence.

Politics is the art of the possible, so the flacks tell us. What you try to make possible, however, depends on your goals. If you're interested in forwarding a genuinely conservative agenda, focusing on violent criminals makes more sense than fighting low-level pot dealers. If you're hoping for a freer Canada, dismantling an immoral relic like the CWB should be top priority, all the more since it is an issue near and dear to your party's rank and file. 

Let's say, however, you've given up on ideology. You took a long look at Canada and admit that it's just Vermont with more Francophones i.e. freezing cold and bloody left-wing. So why try to change the unchangeable? Better to just manage the status quo in a less insane manner. For the managerial politician the best approach is to play the ends against the middle.

You know your base has no where else to go, so you can keep teasing them with something they want - like abolishing the CWB - and which the other guy's will never give. At the same time you can try to buy your way into the hearts and minds of the mushy middle. Betray your base and bargain with those who might give you a look. Immoral? Absolutely. Politically practical? You bet.

It works for just one simple reason. Whenever someone calls the Conservatives on their betrayal, a legion of partisan faithful repeat in unison that the alternative is worse. The Coalition! Iggy's Hug-a-Thug Crime Policies! Massive Trudeau-style deficits! OK, maybe that last one no longer carries the sting it once did. 

The Harper Tories get away with their betrayal because the party base lets them. The alternative is worse? I can think of few things worse for the future of Canada than having two Liberal Parties. Power without principle is vanity. Blindly supporting a party that no longer represents your values isn't loyalty, it's being played for chumps.


Posted by Richard Anderson on January 11, 2011 | Permalink


None of our polictical parties will end the drug war , to many jobs depend on the continuation of these immoral laws. Judges , lawyers, police officers, prison guards , the whole massive bureaucracy all out of work, these people are all voters.

Posted by: don b | 2011-01-11 9:22:44 AM

Albertans and Canadians are at the cusp of loosing their CPP, Old Age Security Workers Compensation as a fund.

The Western Premiers have formed a consortium with Harper's blessing. It gives them the voting power of 6 provinces by which they can opt out of any Federal Program they want. It would allow any province within this group to separate from Canada through no tool other than mutual support.

The WRP supports all of these things; it is fundamental Conservative doctrine!

Albertans and Canadians are going to have to move away from the Conservative is the only way idea or, we will loose it all!


Posted by: cyberclark | 2011-01-11 1:56:15 PM

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