Thursday, January 15, 2009

Waiting Out The Economy

Last week, I laid out a possible theory to explain the "new" Harper, this latest installment conciliatory and non-confrontational. Harper's latest statement reaffirms my belief, that the Conservative strategy is to avoid an election, essentially wait out the economy:
Ivison: Talking about a more bi-partisan Parliament, what steps are you personally going to take to ensure that? For example, during the election, the idea that the justice package was a matter of confidence — are you in a position now to say that only money bills are measures of confidence, given your focus on the economy?

Harper: I wouldn’t go that far. Obviously the economy is everyone’s number one priority. It would be unwise for a prime minister to say he would narrow the range of confidence measures unilaterally, if the opposition parties would not be prepared to do exactly the same thing. I don’t want to be in a position where I would say only one or two or three things would be confidence while they would get up and say: “we reserve the right to bring forward a motion of confidence on every thing.” I think if we could get together and agree that a narrow range of things would be confidence — that would be useful to the functioning of this Parliament. I haven’t had that kind of discussion with Mr. Ignatieff and that would be a judgment he would have to make. But I do think that Canadians want to see Parliament work. We’ve had three elections in four years.

Not only is Harper offering to stop the flurry of confidence votes, Harper goes further this time, asking for assurance from the opposition. Why? Some believe it's all a ruse, Harper is just trying to look "bi-partisan", but will strike at the first opportunity. I believe that to be true in the long term, but clearly the Conservatives have decided they need to avoid an election until the economy starts to turn around. It really is pretty simple and stark when you think about it- no sitting government wants to go to the people, while the economic news is disasterous, a utter recipe for potential disaster, you don't control the agenda, you're vulnerable. The snap election call last fall supports the same rationale, head to the polls before it gets worse and you pay a political price. This latest "offer" to the opposition is completely consistent, Harper now wants to ride out the economic storm and is prepared to play "nice", if it achieves his goal.

Operating on the assumption that the government doesn't want an election, it provides the opposition with full knowledge. The Liberals SHOULD NOT agree to Harper's declared set of possible confidence matters, they should REFUSE any overture which boxes them in. Let Harper make "unilateral" declarations, the onus is on the government to make Parliament work, they're the one's who have failed, almost universal sentiment of their unseemly role in dysfunction. The Liberals should state clearly that we reserve the right to bring forth a confidence motion whenever we see fit, if the government wants to avoid that development, all they need to do is act responsibly, no need for "formal" declarations. Harper is merely trying to take the hammer away, once the budget passes, remove any opportunity to upset his plans.

The above quote from Harper is entirely transparent, no need to prescribe the hidden meanings or alterior motives. The Conservatives desperately don't want an election, and they will do what is required to avoid one. Not making legislation a matter of confidence isn't a way to show Canadians you have a desire to work together, it's a tactic to run out the economic clock. Lay low, don't piss in the pool, and see what happens. When old Harper returns, you know the economy is turning the corner. The trick for the Liberals, quickly get into readiness mode, then take Harper out at the knees, before the economic numbers improve. Above that, NEVER agree to a narrow range of confidence motions, keep the hammer.


bigcitylib said...

"'s a tactic to run out the economic clock."

Lotsa time on that clock left, I'm afraid. 2010 at the latest, economists say, just to hit bottom.

Steve V said...


Some think we hit bottom later this year, and while 2010 won't be much better, there will be glimmers. My personal opinion, he wants to survive until at least the 2010 budget, and they'll reaccess things in the lead up. Whatever, right now it's survival mode, just keep this Parliament together, do whatever it takes.

Greg said...

If you look at his answers to the tax cut questions, it looks to me like he is trying to bait Iggy with the old "support this popular tax cut or else" routine. Same old same old.

Joyce said...

Does anyone think the Harpies will become more accountable,
responsible, less prone to paranoia
and that we will come out of this storm smoothly? How many more diligent civil servants will be fired and independent institutions demeaned and ignored?
Ignatieff has a vision of how we weather this storm, Harper doesn't. If we have to take responsibility either way, then, at least, let's have some authority.

Steve V said...

Tax cuts to the middle class, as a poison pill. Hardly to provocative, or any impetus for an election call.

Anonymous said...

"The trick for the Liberals, quickly get into readiness mode"

I would love to take down Harper and announce that the budget is dead on arrival come late January. However, there is this major consideration that make me decide to let Harper live until the summer.

First, the Ontario heartland is crying out for a stimulus package. These voters are now swinging to Iggy. I have no doubt that Dalton is telling the federal Grits to do what it takes to help the Ontario economy. A 30 to 40 billion dollar deficit based on financial aid to ailing industries and a tax cut to middle to low income earners is what most economists offer. It would be stupid to play political games or go for the tax-the-rich, income distribution policies as of yet. You can make the case in the second budget when the Grits can use the fiscal responsibility hammer to hit Harper hard.