Wednesday, February 03, 2010

"Direct Challenge"? Try Capitulation

Oh, I just love the characterization of the Conservatives SAVE FACE move in the Globe and Mail piece. First the teaser says:
Government sets trap for opposition, who must approve request to cancel two break weeks once House resumes sitting

Then Jane Taber calls it a "direct challenge to the opposition". Oh jeez, I'm sure the opposition parties are scurrying around Ottawa, wondering how they can possibly deal with this gauntlet laid down by those clever Conservatives:
Facing an outpouring of anger and criticism over prorogation, the Conservatives are cancelling March break on Parliament Hill and one other off week scheduled for mid-April.

First off, this is a complete no brainer for the opposition. I can think of a million soundbite responses that say YES, we will be in Ottawa working, just like we were when you guys weren't- a veritable smorgasbord of material available. The opposition comes on side in a heartbeat, end of story.

What I find particularly fascinating, this maneouvre amounts to capitulation by the Conservatives. Now, suddenly, we need more time to deal with government business. It's an admission of their failed public relations strategy, it's DAMAGE CONTROL and it's actually DUMB when you think about it.

These two weeks, spaced separately, will be known as the prorogue replacement weeks, acting as reminders of what the Conservatives did. I don't mean to overstate, but instead of naturally moving on, as was bound to happen when Parliament returned, the Conservatives have purposely interjected the issue into the spring session. How that helps their cause escapes me, and it allows for mild poking from the opposition.

In addition, the more Parliament sits, the more it tends to work against the government. Isn't that why Harper prorogued in the FIRST place? Okay, okay, if you want to give us two more weeks of grilling you, UNCLE then.

There is no upside for the government, that I can tell. This view assumes a certainty, the opposition will show up for work on the weeks requested. A shrewd retort comes out tomorrow morning with formal acceptance, completely negating any potential public relations play by the Conservatives. Then, the issue is dead, all that is left is a sense of a desperate Conservative strategy to regain some credibility. Let that waft around, it dies down, then we have spectre of actual "votes" in Parliament to extend, once again bringing Ottawa back to the prorogue issue, a LOSER everytime for the government.

Thanks for the "challenge" and the "trap" you Kasparov-like PMO. A bigger softball has never been pitched.


Dylan said...

Kudos Steve!

You're correct in your analysis. This "trap" is akin to placing a single banana peel on the 401 and waiting for the cars to swerve.

Steve V said...

Another bonus, Harper will HAVE to show up for QP those weeks, because the optics would be horrible.

The more I think about this, it's the gift that just keeps on giving. The PMO is a mess right now. The media are mocking their manufactured working photo ops, Harper is flailing all over trying to re-invent himself, further alienating Quebec, and this brainstorm idea.

bigcitylib said...

Agreed. Lotta unforced errors out of these guys lately.

Steve V said...

They can't freelance, when things go off script, they react like amateurs.

Skinny Dipper said...

I hope the opposition doesn't acquiesce to Harper's demands. Harper created the prorogation mess. He can deal with it.

Steve V said...

I think that's the reaction they hope for, which is why agreeing is the best retort. Ask for the documents in return.

Ted Betts said...

Double plus bonus: how happy do you think backbench MPs are going to be with Harper over this latest PMO machination?

They were not told about prorogation or even given a heads up about it and were even assuring Canadians not to worry about them skipping out on the Afghanistan committee because they would be back in January.

So then there is an eruption and they are told to get out and speak with constituents where they get an earful and mockery for weak talking points. Some try to explain it, dig themselves deeper ("elitists", "need to watch the Olympics", "only shutting down democracy for a little while", etc.) and get an earful from the PMO.

Then they see their 15% lead evaporate.

Then they are commanded to come to Ottawa for a mandatory surprise and quickly invented caucus meeting before being told to get immediately back to their ridings.

Having to deal with changing prorogation talking points every day.

Some who might have expected a cabinet or sub-cabinet position finding out they got bumpkis again.

And now the PMO tells them all that, even though we never let you speak and we treat you like crap, we aren't going to let you go back to your families for normal holidays because we have to clean up the mess we created.

Oh, and we have to put on the double-shut-the-f**k-up muzzles on you because they figured out what we were doing with NGOs and agency appointments so abortion is back on the radar screen.

Tell me, do you think they're happy campers right about now?

Anonymous said...

What would be surprising is if the Cons even survive a confidence vote before March once parliament resumes.

Ted Betts said...

Comment from over at Maclean's:

"Well, he is basically asking for a do-over, isn't he?"

DL said...

Yup, I really don't see what exactly is the "trap" from the opposition's point of view. All the Liberals and NDP have to do is say "YES". What's not to like - its more in the opposition interest than the government's to have the House sitting as much as possible. There is no down side at all t letting parliament sit more.

I suspect that the Liberals and NDP will say Yes instantly - I don't know if we can count on the BQ.

Northern PoV said...

Of course the opposition will agree to the changes. But they should extract a price:
* committee restart minus the sabotage manual and tatics
* gov't complies with House order for info on detainees
* some contrition re prorogation (vague promise not to do it again would suffice)

meet the bullying arrogance with appropriately targeted and reasonable demands that will further expose these aspiring autocrats for what they are

RuralSandi said...

Proof that Harper is not a leader. Remember way back when the Cons had absolutely no policy on the environment and the polls trashed them for it, bingo, bango, Harper appoints Rona Ambrose to handle the environment issue?

Harper, in his thurst for power, can be manipulated. The Canadians were angry so he bows.

Talk about weak.

Also, I think the opposition MP's would absolutely love to have that time to go at them.

Next item for Facebook, etc. perhaps could be Harper's demeaning tactics, like the 10 percenters/support of troops. Harper hiding behind the troops.

Steve V said...

I agree that the opposition should try and extract some concession for agreeing. What about demanding an all party committee to deal with prorogue reforms? That would be a shrewd move, and if they refused, then they look obstructionist, the opposition off the hook.

Steve V said...

Goodale today:

"This is truly a sad and pathetic scramble by the Conservatives to save face after the backlash against them for shutting down Parliament. Their demand for more time in the House now directly contradicts their argument for prorogation. Liberals are here in Ottawa, today - just as we have been every day since January 25th - doing what Canadians elected us to do. It's the Conservatives who have been taking an extended holiday. Liberals will always be ready to work, including in March and April. The flip flop by the Conservatives will not camouflage their illegitimate padlocking of parliament since December."