Restraint, but no constraint
When I saw the headline "FRAGILE MINORITY" in bold on the front page of the Toronto Star, I wasn't surprised. Low expectations of anything coming out of that newsroom, and all that.
But Jay Currie is generally more insightful. That's why I'm disappointed to see him write this:
For Harper to govern he is going to have to develop a series of coalitions on particular issues. In effect Harper is in the same position as the Dumpling was. The main difference being that he does not have the baggage.
I think Jay and the Star are both missing an essential point here.
Yes, the Conservatives have less seats now than the Liberals did in the previous Parliament. But there's an essential difference. What kept the Martin government in check was the threat - from Day One with the Throne Speech - that the Opposition would topple his government and force another election.
The Conservatives will suffer no such limitation for at least the first year of their mandate. Their finances are in better shape than any other party. Their main rival has no leader to take them into another election until a successor to Paul Martin is chosen. And having been through two elections in two years, the Canadian public is in no mood for another anytime soon.
The Conservatives know this, and more importantly, so does the Opposition. I hope Harper doesn't push his agenda without making some concessions to the views of the other parties, because I think such tactics would come back to bite him in the long run.
But I don't see how anyone could realistically stop him if he decided to.
He has at least a year, and more likely a year and a half, implement policy without a credible threat of defeat. Let's hope he uses that time wisely.