Not a campaign event, we hope


Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will talk to the media tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. on Parliament Hill about process surrounding meetings with the International Monetary Fund and G7 countries. Something to do with the spot of bother on the stock exchanges. And the banks. And the jobs outlook.

Whatever Flaherty says should be calibrated carefully to make sure the steps the government is taking, in a increasingly grave economic situation, aren’t sold as part of an electioneering calculation. That could be a challenge, since Stephen Harper and his campaign have been struggling for several days to find the right way to talk about the crisis.

In particular, Harper needs to keep clear the fact that the state’s instruments of market action—the Bank of Canada especially, but also the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions—must be viewed as inviolably trustworthy no matter what elected government they serve.

Institutional reliability shouldn’t be portrayed as being linked in some way to his own party remaining in power. At a Victoria campaign stop today, Harper was in full flight on the subject of Conservative economic virtues when he offered this: “If we enter into the markets, as the Bank of Canada did today, it’s done in a way that will stablize the situation, done in a way that will lower interest rates… That’s what we’re advocating.”

By “we” did he mean the Conservatives only, or a Conservative government in concert with the state’s non-partisan institutional arms? Was he suggesting the Bank of Canada might act in some other way if some other party were in power? Is some other party advocating that the BoC act differently?

In a crisis, and we’re in one, it’s important to keep clear the distinction between party politics and the non-partisan branches of the public service that we rely on to do their jobs—answerable to elected leaders, of course, but operating at an essential remove from the democratic fray.

It’s fine to say your economic policies are better than your opponent’s, of course, but not to try to somehow make the Bank of Canada’s actions part of your campaign pitch. Flaherty has a fine line to walk tomorrow.


Not a campaign event, we hope

  1. “Flaherty has a fine line to walk tomorrow.”

    Hey, if there’s one thing the CPoC is known for, it’s walking the fine line with dignity and respect for institutions that have made Canada great.

    Just ask Linda Keen. Or Elections Canada, those ideologically-motivated commies… *grumble*

    Heck, just ask the Province of Ontario, what with the help and “support” of our federal Minister of Finance. Thanks for the “help” Jim, and good luck with the press conference!


  2. It shouldnt be a campaign event…not in the sense of saying that our policy direction to the BoC is this.

    That being said, these insitutions are represented in Parliament by the minister. And he has to answer for them, so he is like the chicken at breakfast and not the pig, both are involved but one is really involved.

    The BoC is a pretty powerful isntitution so I wouldnt worry about them too much. OFSI, well they do take direction, and should, as all monitoring agencies should. Government sets guidelines and tone. I will say again that the minister has to answer for, imagine if the opposite, if OFSI had let capital requirements slip with Bank x or Bank y….dont you think the minister would be rightfully held responsible?

    Tone has to be addressing what Canada can potentially contribute, what our position is and it would be fair game to contrast the fact that we dont apparently have to pledge 33% of our GDP to keep our finanical system solvent and running. If the minister isnt allowed to take some credit for that, when all others apparently have to, then I dont know what he can take credit for.

    Nonetheless it should be a breifing….but Mr Geddes, I ask you to imagine what this would be like if Paul martin was Prime Minister….a breathless run of name dropping, policies and ideas. The lack of drama should be appreciated, it hasnt always been this way.

  3. TJ,

    By the way the debate today in the Ontario legisalture was essentially the Liberal government extolling the virtues of Ontario stability while the rest of the world roils and boils.

    Sounds like another government I know of. Only one is being criticized though.

  4. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I’m trying to understand your point here: first Harper is too uninvolved speaking about the economic “crisis”(ratch it up another notch while you’re at it) and now he must distance himself!

    Short supply of isotopes is saved, the public is upset. Had the short supply of isotopes not been saved the public would have been upset. Round after round we go. Round and round, and round, and round,……

  5. “Short supply of isotopes is saved, the public is upset. Had the short supply of isotopes not been saved the public would have been upset.”

    Isn’t that the price of (political) power, though? You get the credit if the economy takes off (usually unfairly), the blame if it tanks (almost always unfairly); the payoff is that you get to be the Minister.

    In the case of Chalk River they really didn’t look into whether AECL was being properly run. And in their dispute with Keen they were needlessly contemptuous of her quasi-judicial independence. That deserves a good deal of blame, IMHO, above & beyond the usual blame for every unforeseeable problem.

  6. Francien:

    You are missing the point. Actions by the Bank of Canada and by OSFI should not be the arms of government policy of the day. These are very independent institutions which is what gives them such strength.

    So saying Harper should be doing something and saying he should not be doing something using the BoC and OSFI as political footballs is not inconsistent, but wise.

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