Monday, January 22, 2007

Trying Too Hard

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.


ottlib said...

That is what happens when a minority government is forced to play catch-up.

Looking at the past few weeks of this government I find it is looking more and more like the Martin government during its final death throes in the fall of 2005.

Every announcement is met with scorn and criticism and they are desperately hoping the budget will turn things around, much like the Martin government pinned much of their hopes on Ralph Goodale's economic update in November of 2005.

Unfortunately, like Mr. Martin and the Liberals, Mr. Harper and the Conservatives are going to learn there is no magic bullet that will turn their political fortunes around in just a couple short months.

Steve V said...


I was thinking about the Martin comparison too. No matter what the government did, it seemed like pandering to keep a hold on power. Once you lose your credibility, which Harper has clearly done on the environment file, every move is viewed with a critical eye. Harper looks like Martin did with the "tough on crime" angle.

Anonymous said...

Have to think that people really aren't so much into fixing things-environmental, as they are into getting 'their guys' back into power.

Until we make these MPs, the whole friggin bunch of them, work together, and get this going, we deserve what we get.

Many reasonable people have had it up to here with it all.

Steve V said...


Can't really disagree. What happens in this committee will be quite telling.

Anonymous said...

It did seem a little strange, that there was a mild panic to get all these items out and photographed before parliament returned. Overlapping announcements maybe was meant to dampen criticism of the lack of innovative thought involved. Yes, now they can point to a piece of paper and say 'We're on it!' and give hints of how they'll meet the challenges ahead. But this party's been out of its envelope for a few years now, this file has been growing slowly in importance (perhaps exponentially in 2006) for a while. The image is that Harpor doesn't care remains fairly imbedded at least on the surface.
And that he deemed it important to peel each item off in quick order makes me believe that he is going to bring in a budget that he doesn't expect can pass. Why pretend you're cozying up to the NdP when you know you won't do the kyoto thing, instead just hang out a few ol' burmashave ads to say how great things will be. And again, in this weekend's Province, he was spouting the Steven Seagal line about an election and how he's ready for mean ol' Dion... As Bugs would say, What a moroon!

Steve V said...

"It did seem a little strange, that there was a mild panic to get all these items out and photographed before parliament returned"


That's a good point about making all these announcements before parliament returned. You would have to conclude that this was by design, maybe because they didn't want QP to be dominated by these issues?

Anonymous said...

"maybe because they didn't want QP to be dominated by these issues?"
Good! Lots more time to talk about the 100+ appointments Harper made before his "Accountability Act" took effect.
More time to talk about the Income Trust flip-flop. More time to talk about patient wait times, and to talk about how the Sick Kids will benefit from a cash infusion for more study, and talk about where are the 50,000 daycare spaces, that sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

Loved the last line of your post, Steve. I've said more than once that these kids just won't do their homework, and seem to think it's OK to pull an all-nighter cramming for the final, then freak when they get a D.

But you framed it all (and better) in just eight short words. Bravo.