Monday, January 26, 2009

The Conservative Strategy

If you review all the budget leaks to date, they not so coincidentally speak to many of the opposition demands, while simultaneously, the potential contentious initiatives are being held for tomorrow.

Today's infrastructure announcement, announced by Baird. Money for social housing, retro-fits, forestry, mining, agriculture, re-training the unemployed, aboriginals. It would appear, that the government is trying very hard to speak to the opposition demands first, merit of initiatives aside, effectively taking all the issues off the table, prior to the other shoe dropping.

It is no accident, that we still have heard very little on the tax cut front, the issue with the greatest potential for conflict. In many ways, we are getting the finishes touches on the opposition budget today, and tomorrow will be more of the Conservative variety. I admit a little trepidation, that something unforeseen (rumors of a GST holiday making the rounds) is coming, because this strategy is clearly aimed at appeasing the opposition first, which suggest less palatable items are purposely being held back. Funny, that on a host of issues we have some specificity, while the only musing on tax cuts have been beyond vague. There is plenty of money still on the table (remember, today's infrastructure expenditure is over TWO years), if the math is accurate, and one has to wonder if tomorrow will bring a few surprises, any tax cuts larger than assumed. The Conservative strategy to date, seems to be about building support in the lead up, addressing demands, but it's the omissions that are particularly intriguing.


Scott Tribe said...

I have no trepidation at all. If they do some silly stunt like that, (such as a a "permanent" Bush-like tax cut stunt), that gives the Liberals plenty of reason to vote the Budget down, defeat the government, and let the chips fall where they may on the Coalition or a new election.

Steve V said...

It's not really a stunt, it's their portion of the budget, their philosophy. All the things released to date are decidedly "Liberal" in approach, again MERIT notwithstanding (the infrastructure money isn't exactly massive, 3.5 billion a year). Ignatieff has already said one particular issue won't be enough to bring it down, so the Cons may be calculating that they can get away with pushing their ideas on the tax front. I suspect we will see the low income stuff Ignatieff has demanded, and that will also cloud an easy up or down opinion.

In many ways, it's pure political suicide to vote against, based on a single issue (whether we agree or not), because then Harper can say, we gave them this, Ignatieff wanted that, what about this demand here, and still... It's not as easy as you suggest Scott, you have to factor in the optics, even if that calculation is unpleasant in a pure sense.

Anonymous said...

I generally agree with you, Steve. But in this case I think it would be best to just wait for the full budget to finally (and mercifully) to be revealed.

I'm just not willing to call it "political suicide" to vote against it before it is even revealed, anymore than I would call to vote against it weeks before it was even announced (ala NDP).

I genuinely expect Ignatieff and the Liberals to see what the final produce is and make their intentions clear on Wednesday, as they've said all along.

But if they decide an "80% budget" also has 20% poison pills they can't live with, I expect them to state that and be ready to defend the decision.

I just think Canadians are more willing to respect a well-presented dissent than you are. I don't buy the political suicide language. If we were going strictly on things that could be regarded as "political suicide," then Harper would have been long buried after his behaviour and language and neck breaking reversals in the past 2 months.

It isn't political suicide to take a stance against a budget that you cannot support for whatever reasons. A fair amout of Canadians might actually applaud a move they regard as long overdue (and I'm not talking about hardcore supporters).

Having said all of that, if the decision is made to support a budget because the Liberals accept it as an acceptable compromise even if they staunchly disagree on some specific elements, I think that is acceptable as well. If the conditional support is expressed clearly and completely, and not seen as a continuation of past feeble theatrics - "token" rejection votes, etc - I think the Liberals can use it to successfully define themselves squarely in the "new center" as well.

Dame said...

I Think they were gradually releasing the infrastructure part to see how far they can go with their most Cherished goal " max-tax-cut" .and permanent..... / and eventually make the Government role completely Broken ...
in accordance with the "useful crisis' theory...
I Think it will be stinking neocon . budget..
Harper last act of deceit...

Besides of all it Doesn’t mean a thing what he puts in the Budget he reverse his words at any moment at any situation on a whim.. he ALONE !!!!
This Chameleon guy has To go .

The Mound of Sound said...

If they try to push through a tax cut, Iggy has to vote it down. Every buck in revenue the government foregoes is money not available for investment in infrastructure.

Steve V said...


I agree, that's sort of what I mean by trepidation. Are they releasing all the opposition demands first, so it's easier to swallow a more than expected tax cut regime?


I'm sure that will be enough, but it will depend on the extent of the taxcuts. People are simply not clammering for taxcuts, which is odd, because the public ALWAYS supports lower taxes. That fact speaks to a mature attitude about our fiscal state, let's see if the government gets it.


Chameleon is right, just not sure if he's left justification at this point.