Conventional wisdom generally says Stephen Harper is a master political tactician. Watching how the Conservatives rolled out their package of environmental initiatives this past week, I would suggest that meme is overstated. Can anyone remember the last time a government spent billions and received so little mileage? The overall impression, the Tories appear to be trying too hard and have really offered nothing new.
Harper calculated that an environmental blitzkrieg would give him the credibility he so desperately needed. Harper's error, rushing announcements that lacked any originality, which in turn left obvious criticisms for detractors. Why did Harper find it necessary to put out so many initiatives in such a short order? Yesterday, what might have been the best announcement, Baird's pledge of 30 million to protect coastal rainforest, was lost within the Energuide II announcement. If you want maximum political exposure, it strikes me as stupidity to have dueling announcements on the same day. As a matter of fact, the whole week is a blur, instead of allowing a reasonable digestion of each announcement, the whole process melds into one.
Harper the cool, political character, comes across as Harper the desperate manager in damage control. What we witnessed this past week was complete overkill, and the media has responded accordingly. There is a disingenious tone to the barrage, that demands the media not look hoodwinked. I can't remember one article I have read this week that was entirely positive, all, including the right-wing media, were negative leaning. You stole from the Liberals, nothing to see here, re-hash, trying to re-shape their image, a general sense that last week had little to do with the environment and much to do with re-election. In other words, last week was a relative failure, which is astounding given the expenditure.
I don't mean to suggest the Tories get nothing from this past week. The Conservatives can now try and frame themselves as the "doers", juxtaposed with the Liberal theoretical. Harper can now point to a list of "accomplishments" and at least have some ammunition to fire back at detractors. However, the general thesis of the past week, that has gelled in the media, is hardly flattering and still leaves the lingering questions. The opposition doesn't seem to be on the defensive, in fact they appear emboldened, with a whole new list of effective talking points. Clearly, the result of the past week isn't what Harper was hoping for, but then again he is essentially getting what he deserves. Little thought, little effort, little splash, little credit.