Harper's interview with the CBC last night was instructive for a number of reasons, primarily because it reveals the core talking points the Conservatives want to convey. When asked about achievements of his government, Harper stressed the Economic Action Plan, that was the central economic argument to portray himself as able manager. Much of other other arguments stem from the EAP, it was the catalyst that led Canada through the recession, in a relatively enviable way.
I must say, the Liberals don't seem to have much of a coherent response to the EAP arguments, and this odd void partially contributes to the huge gap the Conservatives enjoy on the economy. During the economic storm, the government reacted and steered Canada through the choppy seas, blah, blah, blah- but it works! Why is it that Harper so easily re-writes history and turns a clear failing into a grand achievement? Canadians might be surprised to realize that it was the LIBERALS that DEMANDED an economic stimulus package, this is the OPPOSITION'S baby, the chronology is clear, precise and entirely irrefutable. And yet, Harper claims ownership, enjoys the "other side" and we get no credit whatsoever??
I remember Flaherty's economic update in the fall of 2008, it was universally panned farce that showed no understanding of the gravity, offered NOTHING in terms of stimulus to deal with the maelstrom. I also remember the opposition demanding a stimulus package as essential to deal with the economic meltdown. I also remember the Liberals using the stimulus as the key consideration to allow the 2009 budget to pass, Harper cling to power. As I recall, you can trace all the "success" of the Economic Action Plan back to an opposition demand, the Conservatives only came on board to save their hide and survive!
Why is it exactly then, that we Liberals have ceded this ground and allowed Harper to adopt the EAP as his crowning economic achievement? Are we afraid that this brings up the coalition, is that the root of apprehension? Hardly a rationale, because the coalition is coming up whether we prefer or not, so rather than take a passive barrage, why not turn the whole discussion on its head! The Liberals rejected the coalition, only because the stimulus was included in the budget, their chief demand, their line in the sand for support, the economy came first. Of course, there was more to be considered, but apparently you can write whatever story you choose, so where is our loosely based non-fiction account? Apparently, we have no attention span in Ottawa, people can revise history at will, so let's partake shall we, particularly when the FACTS are on our side.
The Economic Action Plan is clearly a key Conservative thrust to sell their economic manager narrative. The Liberals have a powerful counter readily available to at least dent this perception and/or highlight their own economic philosophy. Nobody seems prepared to call the Prime Minister on his fictional memory, so it is up to us to make the case. Maybe we are effective, maybe it is all for not, but at the very least an effort is required, as opposed to this unilateral avoidance which basically says "uncle" on a core file and all the arguments that stem from this central distortion.