Terence Corcoran, Financial Post
To hear the Conservatives tell the story, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion has announced new budget principles that would create a new round of federal deficit spending. The Tory Web site, full of their typical putdowns of Mr. Dion, includes a visual suggesting a Liberal budget would sink Canada into "$62.5-billion in new debt."
It's just partisan gamesmanship. The Tories took a list of Mr. Dion's latest pronouncements on spending and his earlier fiscal comments, added them all together, and came up with a big number. Mr. Dion, and his finance-minister-in-waiting, John McCallum, quickly branded the Tories as thieves and liars, or something like that. Actually, Mr. Dion -- speaking yesterday in Montreal -- used the following phrases against the Tories: deliberate miscalculations, misrepresentations, misinformation, the epitome of desperation, and distortion of the facts.
I'd check the veracity of all this if I weren't already certain the Conservatives had done all of the above, and maybe more.
The Conservatives were too clever for there own good in this instance. A dash of arrogance, mixed with wild exaggeration and dicey math, the whole argument simply reaches to far, it insults the senses. There might be a point to the glossy book, but it gets lost in the bombastic, over the top, rhetoric.
One thing I have noticed, in every interview, in every response, is the confidence with which Liberals defend themselves. It's a stance rarely seen this days, completely dismissive on the one hand, denoting a sense of pride in reminding people of the record on the other. There is actually a "bring it on" posture, almost relishing the chance to point to the Conservatives ridiculous accusations. The best line of all, and one that Canadians can understand, the Liberals understand the challenges of operating with large deficits, the last thing in the world they would endorse is a regiment that would bring us back to that predicament. It is said with sincerity, it highlights a past positive, the Conservative attack brushed off with apparent ease.
These attacks were supposed to put the Liberals on the defensive, introduce the frame that Dion is a reckless spender, "not worth the risk". As this line develops, I would argue the Conservatives have actually presented a gift, an opportunity to point to a positive, which otherwise would have been seen as old news, a nothing reference. It is the Conservatives that increasingly look foolish, the argument is so extreme, it lacks believeability. The Conservative point men keep trying, but it isn't working. In fact if I were a Liberal strategist I would hope the Conservatives maintain the assault, it's actually turning out to be a delicious talking point.