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Don’t say you weren’t warned


 

An irredeemably evil thought from my extra-diabolical piece in the next issue…

Yet the reality is the coalition is dead. Much as Ignatieff might like to hold it in reserve — “coalition if necessary, but not necessarily coalition” — as a deterrent to future Conservative adventurism, the threat lacks credibility. The public’s reaction has seen to that. When, therefore, the Tories bring down their budget on January 27, there can be only two possible outcomes. Either the budget will pass, or the House will be dissolved, and an election called. And as the Liberals cannot possibly face an election at this time — Ignatieff has reportedly been brutally frank about this in caucus — far the greater likelihood is that the budget will pass.

Unless… Unless the Tories can find some way to make it impossible for the Liberals to accept it. They have to be careful: they don’t want to lose the public. But suppose they were to spend the next several weeks advertising their willingness to work with the opposition — especially the Liberals. And suppose they were to take on board many of the opposition demands: a massive bailout for Big Auto. Billions more in infrastructure spending, complete with “shovels in the ground” photo-ops. A feel-good meeting with the premiers in mid-January, ending in some sort of agreement to “work together” on the economy. All wrapped up in a budget whose every second word is “stimulus.” And now suppose, having given the Liberals just about everything they could ask for, they also include the party financing proposal.

Bundle up, Grits. It’s going to be a long winter.


 

Don’t say you weren’t warned

  1. Coyne! No!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This is awful news, not only is it totally ridiculous but very likely.

    Bah, I hope to god you’re not right.

  2. Since you only posted an excerpt, I’ll give you credit for also anticipating Iggy attack ads 24×7 from New Years onward.

    Not sure it will be the party financing ‘stick-in-the-eye’, but you are dead on that there will be some poison to swallow for Iggy.

    Harper just can’t resist. Sad for him and for the rest of us.

  3. “But suppose they were to spend the next several weeks advertising their willingness to work with the opposition”

    You mean like they did before this previous ‘session’ of parliament, and then brought in the most partisan update possible? Nah, couldn’t happen twice in a row, right?

  4. Isn’t it horrible to think that critical government decisions may ultimately rely upon the abilities of one political party to finance an election campaign? Is this what it comes down to, once again? Money?

    And while I can certainly appreciate why people may not like the idea of the vote financing, the above is one (big) reason why those mechanisms are important. For once, just once, it would be nice to have something important that is not directly tied to money and wealth.

  5. And imagine, over the next several weeks, the Liberals using their time to advertise their complete shock at a Prime Minister who would close down parliament to prevent the elected members from being able to vote, linking this behavior and the resurgance of the sovereigntists in Quebec’s provincial parliament to the behavior of King Charles I which eventually lead to civil war.

    In short, the Liberals need to make it clear that Canada is not safe with this man at the helm, who will abuse the processes of power to his own ends, no matter what it does to the country as a whole, and that the only way for it to be not necessarily coalition is for Mr. Harper to be removed.

    It’s a risky tactic, but not as much as the alternative.

    It should always be remembered that Harper doesn’t seek to defeat the opposition, he seeks to destroy their ability to compete.

  6. But then legislation has to be introduced and go to committee. Libs and NDP could publicly declare that they will make it a better bill in committee, and then either kill it or make it something the Tories will want to kill.

    Simple.

  7. Andrew…. good overview from Garth Turner…. perhaps his words echo most Canadians in our time of need…. Andrew you have to see one hard working women leaving an office with tears in her eyes and know this crisis is bigger than PM Harper & Co fully realalize…. and there are thousands and more to come….

    Nine days ago Stephane Dion was poised to be prime minister. Four days ago he was toast. Thirteen days ago Jim Flaherty was holding all the cards as he prepared to brief the nation. Three days later his legs were cut off. Seven days ago Parliament was sitting and the country had a government. Today the Commons is locked. The government brushed eclipse.

    Nine weeks ago voters were told Canada is not the US, the banks are strong and there will be neither a deficit nor a recession in the land. This week we have mounting unemployment, bailed-out banks, a federal deficit and a recession. The central bank cut interest rates to the lowest point since the 1950s in a desperate bid to stop the slide.

    Today citizens are jaded, cynical, hostile and worried. Events of the past weeks have left them with a bitter taste when it comes to the political class. Stephen Harper screwed up unimaginably when faced with an economic crisis. The Coalition was a dumb idea. Libs looked hapless when it came to replacing Stephane Dion, and the Conservatives proved once again to be extreme.

    Amid this, you are now the leader of the Official Opposition, next occupant of a mansion in Rockcliffe, and the man who has an historic opportunity, or maybe a death wish.

    In any case, a few words of unsolicited advice.

    This is a chance to show Canadians you get it. The economy is a yawning black hole, swallowing jobs, hopes and pride. Fixate on that, not social justice, political party funding, the environment or Omar Khadr.

    If this means shaking hands with the devil, do it. You can negotiate with Harper from a position of strength, since he must be seen to compromise after the cowardly act of shutting Parliament. It’s not in the interests of the economy, the country or the future to defeat the government and force an election. It certainly is not in yours, either. Harper may be unable to stop himself from prodding, goading, tempting and daring, but don’t bite. People will see. They’ll know.

    Insist families get a break, and that means an income tax cut. And how about cutting capital gains taxes, and making RESPs tax-deductible? Increased spending on infrastructure and bailouts is one thing, but true recovery will not come until average citizens feel they are getting a leg up on adversity. With home values falling and jobs scarce, the best remedy is increasing family cash flow.

    Last, get the hell out of Ottawa. The hurt right now is in the suburbs, the small cities and the places where they used to make car parts. Give the wars on the Hill a break, and come see the raw conflict taking place every day as mall retailers fight for survival, homebuilders sink and small factories shutter. Behind each of these are employees and employers with families, mortgages and debts no bank rate cut will ease.

    You have a special chance – a unique man in a needful time. Go. Make a difference.

    posted by Garth Turner on 12.09.08 @ 11:02 pm

    Poatscript;

    Should I foget; A very Merry Christmas to you, your family and the hard working profressioan staff at Macleans……

  8. “And now suppose, having given the Liberals just about everything they could ask for, they also include the party financing proposal.”

    I have been thinking along similar lines Andrew. I was thinking the Cons could reduce public service salaries by 10/20%, eliminate party financing but over the course of 18 months or so, and sell it as an austerity package.

    Ordinary Canadians are hurting, why should public service and political parties be protected when they are already making 40% more in salaries/benefits than private sector.

  9. Alan, did you even read the FU? Did ya? I think most people (no matter what party) thought that it was a political low point for the Conservatives. If they really wanted to cooperate, they would have at least put the party financing in their platform or given a reducing scale of funding over a duration of time to wean parties of government money.

    Quit towing your party line and actually pay attention….

  10. “Either the budget will pass, or the House will be dissolved, and an election called.”

    and when another minority is formed…?

    try to do better than two moves ahead.

  11. The public’s reaction has seen to that.

    Funny how that rush of opinion polls (of dubious value at the best of times) at the height of public outrage and confusion (from a public that is now widely understood to be ignorant of how Parliament works) is now being used as a foundation of quite of bit of our news media’s carefully crafted narrative?

    Oh, well. If they’re completely off-base, they’ll acknowledge that, I’m sure.

  12. Good point, bigcitylib. Funny they didn’t do that this time…

  13. If only Ignatieff had been able to commit to the message that Harper had to go. That Harper had lost the confidence of parliament. That there was nothing that Harper could do to restore it. Ignatieff could have forced a division in the Conservative party. He could have helped sustain the political momentum behind removing Harper from power come the end of January.

    All is lost. The ball slowly wobbles back to Harper…

  14. The unstated assumption of every pro-Conservative/anti-Liberal (Coyne is the latter) commentator out there is that in any upcoming election, due to the Liberal’s funding woes, the conservatives would be swept to a majority.

    Sadly, I’m not sure that they’re mistaken. Certainly, they’ll lose a few seats in Quebec over this latest brouhaha, but there are a few in Western Canada they may well pick up, as well as probably a couple out in the Atlantic Provinces.

    I know from previous elections that I tend to over-estimate the public as a whole’s attention span and so tend to think that Harper will get worse results than he does. And so when I’m sitting here thinking it could be a hair’s breadth of a majority, that makes me worried that it will be one.

    Then again, that could be the best thing that could happen to Canada right now. Put him in a majority position during a bad economic downturn and forever dispell the notion that conservatives have any friggin’ clue how to handle an economy.

  15. Well, since the Coaltion apparently had EVERYTHING to do with the lack of economic stimulus and nothing whatsoever with taking the opposition’s dirty dimes, I’m sure they’ll have no objections.

    Right?

  16. Andrew C.: The reason they didn’t do that last time is, I think, strictly because of the NDP. The NDP and Bloc were ready with a solution that may have put them into power.. they dangled it in front of the Liberals and the Liberals jumped. With Ignatieff at the helm, and a much harder argument to make against the Budget from the Throne as you describe, that option won’t be there, so they’ll look for the other options as bcl implies.

  17. Andrew,

    I floated the idea with a few Lib bloggers and people seemed to feel that under the circumstances it would have been too humiliating, esp. since there was nothing positive in the economic update.

    Under changed circumstances, who knows. There are a few Libs who might even agree with having public finanacing unwound in a rational manner, esp. if there was also an end to contribution limits. But certainly, if necessary, any legislation could simply be made to disappear.

  18. jwl: Interesting idea re: public service salaries, but I think political staffers (i.e. Ministers’ Chiefs of Staff, etc.) salaries have to be reduced too, if you’re going to do that. The Cons gave some of them a real nice pay increase when they became the government in 2006.

  19. jwl,

    “Ordinary Canadians are hurting, why should public service and political parties be protected when they are already making 40% more in salaries/benefits than private sector.”

    Where did that 40% come from? No parlour tricks with stats please.

    I admit not being current in my understanding of public service compensation — I do recall though, once upon a time in Ontario, only the lowest classification positions (largely female incidentally, justifying the differential) made higher salaries than their private sector counterparts. In fact, the remainder were paid considerably less than people in equivalent private sector positions. The difference was explained away by citing generous benefits.

  20. bigcitylib,

    “Under changed circumstances, who knows. There are a few Libs who might even agree with having public finanacing [sic] unwound in a rational manner, esp. if there was also an end to contribution limits. “

    Agreed. Harper’s move was a form of gerrymandering, in my opinion. He tried the same thing in relation to seat distribution in Ontario — and it’s my opinion that if left to his devices, he will not only destroy his opponents, he will destroy democracy as well. A despot-in-waiting.

  21. archangel

    Not playing parlour tricks on you or anyone else. The 40% stat comes from Terence Corcoran article in Financial Post. I didn’t want to post link because my comments always seem to get held up in moderation when I include links.

    Anyways, Corcoran wrote:

    “Through the fog of the past week’s political wars, nobody paid any attention to an explosive statistical report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. The gist of the CFIB report is easy to grasp. It shows public sector workers, at all levels of government, earning wages and benefits that are as much as 40% above private sector workers.

    The CFIB numbers put the federal civil service issue in context. A dig through census data shows that workers in the same occupations working for the federal government earn on average 17.3% more than in the private sector. With pension and other benefits, the full-time earnings in the public sector are 41.7% higher that in the private sector.” Financial Post, Dec 6, ’08

    ———–
    Sleepy In Ottawa

    I agree that everyone should take a hit if Cons are serious are about trying to make party financing into something more than a short-term tactic to hurt oppo parties.

  22. Public opinion is maleable, Andrew.

    Yes, the coalition failed to win the support of Canadians according to a single poll. So what?

    First, Canadians don’t like radical surprises. Give them time to think it over — even a couple of months’ time would help to steady the nerves.

    Second, one of the main reasons Canadians didn’t like this particular surprise was because of the prospect of a Prime Minister Stephane Dion. Change the potential Prime Minister and the whole equation changes.

    Third, everyone understands that Dion did a lousy job selling the idea: both in his TV address and in the House of Commons, where Stephen Harper manhandled him. A better salesman could go a long way toward shifting public support.

    Meantime, before Stephen Harper tries anything provocative, he has to consider (a) the damage he has done to himself in Quebec by railing against separatists; and (b) the damage he has done to himself nationally by the undemocratic step of proroguing Parliament in order to avoid a non-confidence vote he knew he was going to lose.

    I don’t consider you to be hyperpartisan. But I don’t know how else you can read the tea leaves of these past couple of weeks and see anything for Conservatives to feel good about.

  23. “Under changed circumstances, who knows. There are a few Libs who might even agree with having public finanacing [sic] unwound in a rational manner, esp. if there was also an end to contribution limits.”

    Funny how the Libs want to get rid of the contribution limits. I mean, aren’t the Cons the party of the “Rich”? How could getting rid of the limits possibly help the Liberals, champions of the downtrodden that they are. It’s not like the poor can contribute more when apparently the Libs are already raising almost nothing. I mean, is BCL implying that the Liberals can’t fundraise from grassroots members but can raise money among very wealthy Canadians? Why, oh why would these wealthy Canadians contribute to the Liberal party when we all know the party of the wealthy is the CPC? What could possibly be in it for these wealthy people to contribute to the LPC? What, oh what would motivate these rich, rich bastards to contribute to the lily-white LPC?

  24. Andrew, you’ve just gotten yourself on the wrong side of the ‘brilliant strategist’ – everyone, including you, was supposed to believe him when he said that he wanted to co-operate with the Opposition. Hope you realize this puts you on his hit list.

  25. the rat

    Funny how the Libs want to get rid of the contribution limits. I mean, aren’t the Cons the party of the “Rich”? How could getting rid of the limits possibly help the Liberals, champions of the downtrodden that they are.

    Remove public financing at all levels; direct vote subsidy, tax write-offs for election expenses, and tax-deductible party contributions. Given the activities over the past few days, the last thing we Canadians should be doing is encouraging *any* of them.

    Give them a soap-box in the city square and a bullhorn and make all of them earn our votes, one MP at a time.

  26. Harpers calculus underpinning the entire strategy from the outset remains intact: the opposition is powerless; they can still manage a hail-mary pass, they can still hit a four-seamer aimed directly at their heads, they can still manage a breakaway on a loose puck while tied up in their zone but these are anomalies to their desperate game of defense. The conservatives have the initiative. The poli-party funding issue is great to campaign on, especially if the grits are trying to justify an election on that one; either way the grits are facing a paradox.

  27. Why only the two choices? Canadian started howling largely because they don’t like really quick change. And there’s always howling whenever there is the threat of the NDP getting near government, but people forget that the NDP have had many successful government out West (and still have one in Manitoba). Anyway, I think once a coalition was in place and things settled down for a few months most Canadians would be okay. The ones who aren’t okay are the extremely vocal right wing types who wouldn’t care if Harper led them into Iraq, they would still be marching right behind him.

  28. dots … connect … dots BOOM !!

    ” And now suppose, having given the Liberals just about everything they could ask for, they also include the party financing proposal.”

    And why would this be so explosive ?

    Because Canadians want it canned. Overwhelmingly.

    Why ?

    Because most politicians rate lower even than used car salesmen.

    Taxpayers do not want their money directed by Politicians to Politicians.

    Except for the latte, chattering class. Why them ?

    Because the Intellectuals would have a hard time earning a (cushy) living if they lost the ‘Political Industry’.

    A Political Industry centered around Media, gov’t aid, NGOs, Universities. Iggy’s resume. (no coincidence)

    So why does a relatively small group have such a large voice ?

    They have to be vocal . They could not survive without help from the industrious types. They also have the time to be vocal – in your face.

    Their voice is disproportionally large mostly because of the Media. How often do you see University Professors being interviewed ? Ever see a Carpenter ? Or a small business owner ?

    Which one is more likely to support subsidies for Political Parties ?

    The MSM may not be reporting on it, but the most significant revelation the last few weeks is ?

    Canadians are now aware of the $1.95. And they are mad about it.

    Perhaps the Liberal’s own donors we’re the first ones to be mad – saw the damaged goods.

  29. University professors will get interviewed as long Liberals keep appointing them as party leaders.

  30. Or, Andrew, he could just not be a douchebag and decide not to inject the federal budget with political landmines. Seriously, is it too much to ask that he just do his job without trying to sabatage his political opponents with government leverage?

    But in any regard there are several thing that could be done,

    A: Like BCL pointed out just amend the hell out of it in committee,
    B: Claim that what they offered up is either insufficiant or excessive (depending on what part of the political spectrum they’re trying to appeal to) and we’ll find ourselves in the same situation we were in a week ago.

    I highly doubt that Harper wants to have a redo of the last couple of weeks and I seriously hope after the last two weeks he doesn’t think that he can just bully people into having his way anymore.

  31. Killing the subsidy is a landmine only in the minds of latte liberalism.

    To all other Canadians it is the correct thing to do.

    Of course Liberals don’t get it. Been on the public teat too long. Child. Candy.

    Bully his way into having his way – and most of Canadians way.

    Perspective is a great thing.

    Realizing that Politicians do not create wealth and standards of living for the people is another.

    Politios just redistribute it – after taking a cut. aka Adscam.

  32. ron in kelowna
    Dec 10, 2008 15:52
    Report Abuse

    Killing the subsidy is a landmine only in the minds of latte liberalism.

    To all other Canadians it is the correct thing to do.

    If you pressured Canadians I’d think you’d find that there was public opposition to *all* forms of public subsidy to political parties. The vote subsidy is just one; tax write-offs for political contributions is another. Why would I indirectly subsidize your political contribution? If you feel so strongly for a political party, support it, no strings attached.

    Get rid of all the subsidies.

  33. Yes that would be a bit devious. Perhaps the Cons will try a different tack, such as spending the next few months persuading Cdns that stimulus of the old school Infrastructure bridges and roads type, Can take many years to actually have an impact. Ever heard of environmental impact. RFQ for qualified bidders followed by an RFP for budgets. Compilation of specifications designs and schedules, permits, hearings and approvals.

    I think there will be some of the but to show he is a man of goodwill, he will propose cutting the party subsidy to $0.99

  34. AC is always pushing for cutting off of public subsidy, but apparently not all subsidies. Any particular reason??

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