Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Restraint, but no constraint

Babble on.

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.

Babble off.

12 Comments:

At 4:28 PM, Blogger Chris Taylor said...

I am a little curious about which campaign promises will get dumped. The top five CPC campaign priorities look solid enough to garner multiparty support and will probably pass without significant wrangling and watering-down.

I'm a little less sanguine about the minor priorities, like DND spending. Bet you a beer the 3-bird strat-lift program gets cut within the first 8 months. And another beer that the deep water arctic port and icebreakers get cut within 12. I expect tac-lift to stay (there's no other sane option) along with the relatively cheap and quick arctic SOSUS net.

 
At 4:33 PM, Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

You could well be depressingly right, Chris.

I think the true unknown is how far Harper is willing to push his agenda unilaterally, and how far he can push it before the other parties reluctantly pull the trigger before they can really afford to.

Defence is on the bubble, no doubt about it.

 
At 4:33 PM, Blogger Chris Taylor said...

Oh and can someone explain to me how the Rt. Hon. Paul Martin, Jr. got the appelation "Dumpling"?

 
At 9:16 PM, Blogger Paul Kimball said...

I disagree about Defence - increased spending was part of the Liberal platform as well (albeit in different ways), and the Tories made a fairly big deal about it. Also, with troops in harm's way in Afghanistan, they would risk coming across as negligent if they don't do something significant. Finally, they need to win a seat or two in Halifax, Atlantic Canada's largest urban center, and the military is very popular here (and a significant contributor to the economy). Any move to strengthen defence will help improve Tory fortunes here.

Paul Kimball

 
At 10:18 PM, Blogger Sara said...

Choice for childcare will be stopped,, Liberals, NDP and Bloc are against it... hmmm that's giving me an idea..

 
At 10:39 PM, Blogger The Tiger said...

Dumpling -- or rather, "the Holy Dumpling" -- is a Currieism.

About there being no credible threat of defeat, well, that's what Joe Clark thought. Because that's the situation we were in -- a Liberal leadership convention on the horizon, no leader -- and yet they still pulled the trigger.

Harper knows that quite well.

 
At 10:48 PM, Blogger GenX at 40 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 10:51 PM, Blogger GenX at 40 said...

Don't forget the right the Tories reserve to themselves to turn day to night, to in fight and to open a yap that never needed opening. This is also a time for any party in from the wilderness of debt payment and one really does not know how that plays out and who gets slighted well beyond their clight importance. It all depends on whether Harper can keep ahold of the reins.

 
At 9:25 AM, Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Clark deserved defeat. He was trying to foist a gas tax he hadn't campaigned on onto the Canadian public. It was hugely unpopular, which is why the Liberals took the chance.

If Harper tries to impose a new tax he didn't have in his platform, I hope the opposition does take him down.

But I don't see that happening. And I'm not sure what other issue they could justify taking him down over in the first year or so. GST reduction? Accountability? They might try to push on childcare, but I think that's a dangerous issue upon which to bring down a government.

I still believe Harper's team has some time.

 
At 11:34 AM, Blogger Ghost of a flea said...

The Liberals are rudderless, the Bloc only stands to lose in Quebec and the NDP can only lose to any Liberal tide. If this government falls in the first year it will only be because the CPC thinks it has a window for a majority. Though I suppose it is always possible Mr. Harper is not as bright as he has thusfar proven himself to be.

I agree defense is a likely victim of the current arrangement though I was never convinced the new CPC had any firm commitment to a the robust foreign policy such investment might enable in the medium to long run. That applies not only to helping enforce the United Nations mandate in Iraq but to concrete action against Iran or standing up in any way to the government of mainland China. This disappointment with the CPC is why I fell back on abortion and SSM as my next line of litmus tests. I cannot see the CPC touching the abortion issue without a solid majority though I fully expect the Bloc, mindful of its rural ridings, and a contingent of "Liberals" to side with the overwhelming majority of CPC MPs on SSM in a free vote. That one is going to be close and, not being a money bill, is one Mr. Harper can afford to lose regardless.

 
At 1:04 PM, Blogger Paul W. said...

I'd think that whatever they do over the course of the next year or so, they will be building towards the next election. That includes setting up what will be the cause of their defeat and subsequent return to the polls.

A majority beckons...

 
At 3:29 PM, Blogger AwaWiYe said...

Choice for childcare is easy, as is anything else which basically involves giving up federal tax revenues. Legislate the federal tax break and inform the provinces they are free to tax back the difference. Quebec is free to tax the money and plow it into their established child care programes.

 

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