I don’t want to make too much fun of the Allies-on-Juno-beach tone with which the Globe covers Stephen Harper’s Davos speech…
After five years of minority governments, Stephen Harper finally has the freedom to act.
He’s no longer looking at the limited horizon of the next budget or the next election. He’s planning on transforming Canada for a generation or more. This is Stephen Harper’s blueprint for reform.
..Because I’ve been arguing for weeks that at least as far as Harper’s concerned, Harper is up to something big. But in the interest of perspective, it’s worth reminding everyone that in almost every particular, the Davos Blueprint (shots of men in black suits and Ray-Bans handing a steel briefcase from hand to hand) consists of things that were in the works during his five years of minority governments.
“Overhaul the immigration system?” The Action Plan for Faster Immigration, designed to “assess new applications according to Canada’s labour market needs,” dates from 2008. Broader reforms are said to be on the way, but the direction’s been set for a while.
“Aggressively pursue free trade in India and Europe”? That started in 2010 with India, in 2007 — really the end of 2006 with exploratory discussions — with Europe.
“Change how Canadians finance their retirement”? Research on the finances of Canada’s retirement system began in May, 2009 at the political level; I’m here to tell you the Finance department has had analyses of the challenges and working papers on reform options available for much longer than that. It’s what Finance does.
That leaves “make oil and gas exports to Asia a ‘national priority,’” which is more recent, but then the Gateway project took until recently to get off the drawing board and into a place where it needed government attention.
Taken together, this is a workable governing agenda, and a ready reply to anyone who wonders how this prime minister intends to govern. But it’s not something he pulled out of the Davos air this morning.