“Imitation is the sincerest form of Flaherty,” the Finance Minister joked with reporters, pointing out that the Liberal and Conservative deficit-reduction plans were essentially identical.
The above is an unintended compliment to the Liberals. There is one remaining trump card for the Conservatives, that of good fiscal managers. The Liberals, to date, have been nowhere on the economic file, the Conservatives enjoy a healthy lead on any question relating to this issue. That Flaherty posits the Liberals have a plan "essentially identical" to the government, represents a net positive.
If the Liberals can successfully neutralize the deficit "slayer" issue, position themselves on relatively equal terms as the Conservatives, then the last government firewall has been breached. Liberals don't need to "win" this issue, they merely need to look a credible alternative. If the two plans are virtually inseparable, in terms of numbers, then voters are left with a blurred picture and we move into the details of each plans. You can see how this type of development should worry the Conservatives. Armed with expensive examples, whatever is thrown at the Liberals on the "reckless" front can be returned in concrete terms. The Liberal commitments overlap the Conservative expenditures, providing fiscal cover.
Flaherty claims "imitation", which represents decidedly poor optics. The Liberals will never own the issue, Conservatives have an inherent credibility (which has no real historical backing, but...) on the fiscal front. However, anywhere near a draw on this file is a massive win from the Liberal perspective, because we then move to other facets which are far more favorable, far more attractive, on our natural terrain. This government can't offer Canadians anything, because they are handicapped by corporate tax cuts, planes, prisons- they've blown the wad, anything more and they look "reckless". The Liberals have certain latitude, should they put out a reasonable fiscal plan that compares favourably to the government, Conservatives should be concerned. "Imitation" essentially eliminates a perceived vulnerability, as well as nullifying the opponent's supposed trump card. Things are finally getting interesting...