Olaf at Prairiewrangler has a rather smug entry criticizing my characterization of Harper as political motivated. Obviously, all politicians pander to curry favor, it is an institutional tenet of democracy, even if unattractive at times. I would never argue that the Harper government is unique in developing certain policies to help its fortunes. Afterall, anyone who watched Paul Martin's transparent panderfest during the last election or Jack Layton's embarrassing debate performances, can't reasonably claim that the other parties operate differently. All parties respond to public sentiment, and often times good legislation isn't the result of conviction, but rather political expediency.
However, our current government has taken the debate to another level, as I like to say, the birth of hyper-politicism. At the core of almost every decision is a calculation based on vote potential. Too often, the agenda is predicated on maximization, operating like a private enterprise rolling out a new marketing strategy, rather than a consideration of the greater good.
Flashback to when this government first took office. Most new governments are pre-occupied with getting their act together and acclimatization. However, the Harper team was immediately investing precious energy on developing a better organization for the party in Quebec. We had just completed an election, but the priority was preparing for the next battle. A small point in the grand scheme, but I think this focus shows the core motivations.
Developing policy, based on public opinion isn't necessarily wrong, although it can be dangerous if appeasement is the main end goal. There is a tension between the public will and the greater good that governments must confront. The issue of taxes is an excellent example. What is alarming about the Harper government, they take irresponsible positions, such as the fiscal imbalance mirage and try to score points with a desired constituent. Flaherty has been forced to admit that the fiscal imbalance has been over-stated, but Harper's flippant embrace has raised expectations in Quebec, wherein no action will now be seen as an affront. Playing politics, with sensitive issues, for your own ends, represents a concerning trend and Harper's mischief is unprecedented.
It all boils down to a question of degree. All governments are political, all parties pander. The Harper government, however, represents a new animal that incorporates foreign ideas (see Australia or Republican strategists) to gain control and places a premium on maintaining that control. This government is a corporation. Corporations respond to public demand, they do what they must to maintain marketshare. Products are packaged, incentives are offered to entice. We don't have a PM, we have a CEO.