Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Harper Interview

Maclean's has posted the first one on one interview with Stephen Harper. Harper makes some interesting comments on how he intends to govern. I find these statements somewhat troubling:

On that point, there is no way of knowing how long this minority government will last. Does that mean you are now campaigning as much as you are governing?

I've made no secret of the fact that when you are in a minority, in a sense you are always in a campaign. But it's probably not a bad thing to remember when you have a majority too. It doesn't mean that everything you do has to be popular. But everything you are doing has to be serving the public interest. And you'll have to, in due course, justify it to the population. I've been attacked so much in the past few years it doesn't really matter to me. I always ask myself what will the public's reaction be to such-and-such a decision or such-and-such a move by the time we get to the next election, when the public actually makes a judgment. So the temporary reaction of a columnist or whatever today doesn't really mean anything. You have to ask yourself, "How is this going to look to the public in due course?" And that should always guide you. And sometimes, you'll proceed with things that are apparently unpopular because you know in due course they will be easy to justify. But if in a year, or two, or three down the course you still won't be able to justify it, then that's a wrong decision.

Of course it is a good thing to take the public view into consideration when formulating policy. However, Harper's approach seems to place undue emphasis on appearances. There are times where government has to make decisions which invariably alienate people. Government shouldn't enact legislation based on how it will be received in a coming election. If the goal is a majority, and policy is seen through this lens, it may make for decisions that aren't in the long term interest of the country, but merely in the Conservatives best interest. I would offer Harper's overtures to Quebec, an elected Senate and the GST cut as policies that are more pander than sound vision. If every decision is rooted in a political calculus, it begs the question, are you operating on a set of core beliefs or simple appearance?

Harper made some comments with regard to Emerson:

Well then, let me be blunt: was it stupid to appoint Emerson?

No. I was absolutely aware of what the criticism would be. But I want the best people in my cabinet. And I want to broaden the base of our party beyond those who voted for it. And so that decision was made full well knowing what the criticism would be, and it was made without hesitation.

You say that, but did you really understand how angry your core constituents would be?

Most of the anger has not come from there. Most of it has come from the Liberal party, the opposition parties, and elements of the media. And this is where we expected the bulk of the criticism to come from.

It sounds like Harper and Emerson have co-ordinated their erroneous talking points. In defining the outrage as nothing more than partisan motivations, it belittles the genuine frustration of ordinary voters. Harper's comments reveal an arrogance that is striking for a man who claims to represent a government that believes in openness and transparency.


Anonymous said...

The Fathers of Canada’s Deconfederation ...

Do yourself a favour: dig out the Robert Harris painting of the 37 Fathers of Confederation. Now place before you photos of Stephen Harper and each Premier.

These are the new Founding Fathers of Canadian Deconfederation. Some artist should start work on a painting similar to that of Harris, to record for posterity the faces of these new Fathers.

Why? Because these men are now busily and stealthily engaged in the constructive deconfederation of Canada, under the guise of Harper’s “New Federalism” and “fiscal imbalance.”

They are avoiding open discussion in Parliament and their respective Provincial legislatures, because they know that there would be an outcry from citizens should it become apparent – through such debate – that these men are trying to do in private rooms, that which could not survive in the light of day. They are agreeing – without mandates from their respective voters – to change the nature of our confederation in such a way as to significantly weaken the bonds that bind this country together.

You don’t believe me? Then google fiscal imbalance harper. Read the commentaries you will find referred to there. Read Sinclair Stevens. Read Andrew Coyne.

Listen to the modern Canadian Paul Revere’s, riding furiously to warn citizens, crying One if by open debate, two if by stealth.

And then do your part as a citizen of Canada: Light two lamps, to signal to the body politic that their Confederation is being stolen from them by stealth.

Steve V said...

"You don’t believe me?"

Actually I do. Thanks for the comment.

Banquos ghost said...

Ah well, if it comes down to Canadians caring...I don't know anymore. Truly, I don't.

Maybe they do, we do, maybe the signals are just confused. Maybe I'm just not very good at reading them anymore. But I'm just not certain anymore that there is a, what?...core committment to Canada as a single nation that supercedes provincialism?...heartfelt certainty that the effort is worth the prize?

For certain, majorities of Canadians right across the board rather easily become tired and bored with the conversations about unity, constitutional issues and so on that are actually vital to the ongoing well being of the joint. The most visible manifestation is the declining election turnouts but there are others as well. You can read some of them in blogs, letters to editors and so on. They're often couched in the language of economics but beneath that is the revelation of a kind of mean spirited me firstism that is almost always eventually toxic to the maintenance of a nation state.

Maybe it's just a sort of po-mo dissatisfaction with the tasks of democratic citizenship. Of course the ultimate outcome of that dissatisfaction is disinvolvement which has the same outcome as not caring much about the country so the difference becomes moot.

On my bad days I think we're destined to fragment into 3 or 4 small balkanlike little nation states. On the really bad days I think we'll just become the 53rd, 54th, 55th, 56th and 57th states of the USA.

On my good days I think we'll keep plowing along year after year, 40% of us voting, then 35%, and down from there. Some kind of loose federation organized around international trade but mostly disconnected from one another except for inter-regional tourism.

Ah well. Time to feed the dogs.

Steve V said...


I like the Jimmy Buffett line:

"Is it ignorance or apathy? Hey, I don't know and I don't care."