Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bringing Down the Harper Government: Not for the Faint of Heart

"There is a tide in the affairs of men.Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries.On such a full sea are we now afloat, And we must take the current when it serves,Or lose our ventures."

The Liberals ought to heed these words as they move forward to topple the Harper government. If, instead, they hesitate and give in to their fears, they will hand Stephen Harper an enormous political victory.
Having committed a grave political blunder last week with its Economic Statement, the Harper government is desperately regrouping to try to regain control of the situation. Apparently they are in full retreat, but no one should be fooled. The concessions being offered---backing away from slashing campaign funding for political parties, dropping the assault on the right of civil servants to strike, and moving forward the date of the budget---are all designed to convince faint hearted Liberals that they should abandon the idea of defeating the government and installing a new ministry in which they will hold the key positions.
If the Conservatives manage to salvage their hold on government, the retribution they will inflict on each of the opposition parties will be a terrible one. Stephen Harper does not deal well with what he interprets as public humiliation. Here’s a guy who can’t even attend the annual Press Gallery dinner in Ottawa because he’d have to lampoon himself and people might laugh at him. Lacking a sense of humour, which means a sense of proportion, he is not well-suited to political life in a democracy where give and take is of the essence.
The only thing this man understands is conquest, which is why even the members of his own party don’t really like him.
If the Liberals decide to let Harper wriggle out of this one, they will have exchanged the substance of victory for a Pyrrhic victory.
Making a coalition work will not be easy for either the Liberals or the NDP. What will unite them though is that they are on the same side of the fence when it comes to the need for a serious stimulus package to cope with the economic crisis. Oddly enough, keeping the Bloc onboard may prove to be not so challenging. The Bloc will claim credit for the portion of the stimulus package that goes to Quebec, and they will be rid of Harper’s noxious agenda on culture, crime, and gun control, an agenda that Quebeckers hate with a passion.
The Liberals, NDP and the Bloc can either hang together or they will hang separately.
They cannot play this game again. If they were to unite to topple the Conservatives further into the mandate of this parliament, Harper would have a much better chance of talking the Governor General into granting him a dissolution and a new election. This is it guys.
If the opposition fails to defeat the government and install a new one, Harper will exercise complete control for the next couple of years. The opposition parties will be stuck with Flaherty’s budget at the end of January, which is virtually certain to fall short of what the country needs in terms of economic stimulus. Do they really want to place the fate of Canadians in the hands of a man whose first plan for coping with the economic crisis included selling the CN Tower?
This may not have been the way the Liberals wanted to return to government. But it’s a good way. If they perform effectively in office for the next two years, the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc will be well positioned for the next election. And, it will be the Conservatives who will fall prey to infighting. If the Conservative government falls, the campaigns to replace Harper as leader will be well underway by Christmas.
The united power of the opposition parties has been demonstrated to great effect over the past few days. They occupy the high ground and the only thing that stands in their way is their own self-doubt.

P.S. I know the speech at the top of this post was delivered by Brutus, who came to a bad end. Shakespeare had a way of having even his doomed characters give voice to enduring truths.


Kelvin said...

Scott Reid came to a similar conclusion at the Globe and Mail.

Jamie Laidlaw said...

Good call James.

It is time for the change we want and it is coming.

Enjoyed meeting you at the Ottawa Writer's Festival.

Keep up the cutting edge!

Jamie Laidlaw

Anonymous said...

Try this one on for size.
Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
If the Libs choke, Harper will make them suffer the death of a thousand cuts.

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