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Parliament in chaos–just how Harper likes it

Ottawa hasn’t functioned effectively since May, and isn’t likely to start working soon


 

Parliament in chaos– just how Harper likes it

Circle your calendars! Jan. 26 is Back-to-Parliament Day. That’s when your MPs will reconvene in Ottawa for another! Fun! Few! Days! of recrimination and bitter, bitter resentment. There will be a Throne Speech. It will require that all MPs not named Harper sleep on beds of spikes. The opposition will complain. The Prime Minister will protest blandly that the new provisions apply to everyone (“Look, it says ‘Harper’ right there in Article 2”). And right away, the opposition will face an oddly familiar choice among three options, the third a little fresher than the others:

(a) vote against the government and force an election;

(b) humiliating climbdown, followed (in this instance) by a bad case of Spiky Bed Back;

(c) coalition government.

In short, late January will not be significantly different from late December. That’s because these days Back-to-Parliament Day and Truly Weird Parliamentary Crisis Week are falling closer and closer together. Which is why, depending where you start counting, Canada’s Parliament has not functioned as a legislative body since May, and is not likely to start working any time soon.

Everyone will blame somebody different for this state of affairs, but consider our increasingly erratic Prime Minister. In April and May he sent his MPs and his caucus’s committee chairmen into a dozen committee rooms with written instructions for bringing the business of Parliament grinding to a halt. In July he urged Stéphane Dion to “fish or cut bait” in the matter of election timing. By late August he was furious to discover that Parliament was dysfunctional, in the manner of a man who pees on the floor and then complains the carpet is damp. He proceeded to cut Dion’s bait by calling an election in defiance of the plain meaning of his own fixed election-date act. He campaigned on warnings that Dion would run a deficit, then delivered a victory speech full of fond wishes for peace and co-operation. Then he set about explaining why he’d probably have to run a deficit. Before long he was in Peru calling deficits “essential.”

He returned to the hitherto dysfunctional Parliament and, barely a week after the Throne Speech, had his finance minister deliver an economic update in the form of a bed of nails: cuts in public funding for political parties, pre-emptive strikebreaking for public-sector unions that had been bargaining in good faith, the abandonment of wage equity. (No mention of deficits, though!) Two days later, when the opposition showed some teeth, Harper sent his transport minister—true story—to the CBC to announce the government would abandon the party-funding and union-busting provisions.

Then he strode into Parliament and boldly built a consensus that saved us all from an eternal psychodrama. Just kidding! No, he went to Rideau Hall to strangle the fall session in its crib. If the opposition returns in January to announce it has backed off from its coalition gambit, it’s only reasonable to assume Harper will send yet another minister—natural resources? Grains and oilseeds?—to a Petro-Can station or the Lambton Mall or somewhere to reintroduce the poison-pill measures from the fall update. As Andrew Coyne has said, it’s easy to keep your opponents guessing if your actions are determined by random chance.

But is it churlish of me to point out that in the meantime, Canada has no government worth the name?

The whole point of the fall election, we were told, was to give Harper some “open water” to govern without having to worry the opposition would do anything nasty, such as opposing him. The whole point. Certainty vs. chaos. Steady hand vs. the deluge. The voters granted him, for the second time, the awesome gift of power; he used it to steer a straight line away from open water into chaos and deluge, like some mad Ahab of parliamentary mischief.

In short, he’s been a bit of a twit, has our dear leader. It does us no good to have a Prime Minister who flies to Winnipeg and Peru singing Kumbaya if he can’t set foot in Parliament without bringing a blowtorch. He clearly cannot stand the place. That’s a problem because at some point, he’s going to need a functioning Parliament to get anything done.

Well, that’s a problem if he actually wants to do something. Turns out that’s a big “if.” It’s becoming more and more obvious that the impasse in the House of Commons is an expression of the Prime Minister’s own conflicted feelings about the place. He showed on the Afghanistan war that when he wants to he can lead a government that bends and concedes in pursuit of its goals. But that was about soldiers. He cares about soldiers. He has never convinced me he cares about the economy, or believes any government can do anything to affect its course. Build roads? Bail out car companies? Take advice from Jack Layton? He’d sooner cut off the opposition’s allowance, then hit the road to tell more fibs about Stéphane Dion.

From a springtime of committee chaos to a summer of ultimatums to a fall election, a December crisis, a tasty prorogue-y holiday feast, and the near certainty of another New Year psychodrama. I could swear there was a pattern in there. Blame the opposition if you like, but what olive branch did the PM hold out that they refused? Stephen Harper spent his whole adult life complaining that the state was no good for anything. Now, under him, it is so. Consistency at last.


 

Parliament in chaos–just how Harper likes it

  1. Gosh, when you put all these random acts down on paper in chronological order, it kinda looks like a pattern of flip-flopping and reckless inconsistency. Hmm. I wonder what the opposition and/or Canadian voters will make of that.

  2. this is written fantastically!

  3. Well done– you’ve nicely illustrated exactly why I can’t stand Harper. (That, and his condescending tone and ever-present smirk. Oh, and his overuse of an exasperated, “Let’s be clear…” But now I’m just being petty.) (Hey, look, I have something in common with him!)

  4. I think that the opposition parties should just narrate this piece for an ad. If they had any money.

    Get the Canadian version of James Earl Jones (Gordon Pinsent? Ron Maclean? Red Green?) to do the voiceover.

  5. Why not just say that you would rather have a government of lefties and separatists that only represent a small portion of Canada east of Manitoba than a responsible government that puts taxpayers first.

    • ROFL

      But not taxpayer’s grandchildren first, apparently.

  6. Very effective and seemingly accurate assessment of where our democracy sits Paul. I love the tone and the analysis. This is serious on a number of fronts which you highlight. Especislly disconcerting is how rapidly we are jumping from there being the appearance of a way out to complete arrest and how few options out. Assuming Harper is Harper and not about to change, an election is untenable for the opposition parties and that the opposition acquiescing at every opportunity is still not desirable, what, if any options beyond the coalition can change these dynamics?

  7. “He has never convinced me he cares about the economy, or believes any government can do anything to affect its course.”

    Isn’t this more about that he doesn’t believe government should do anything to affect the course of the economy and that by shutting down parliament so that government can’t do anything he is effectively meeting this objective? That’s completely different than trying to make the argument that he doesn’t care what government does with respect to the economy (which is actually a pretty weak conclusion given that Harper has a background in economics). If creating a political crisis gives him cover for delaying action, possibly creating a situation where he may not be forced to act as much as he may otherwise would if he acted now (if the auto bailout is killed or reduced in the US for example), is that not a victory for the Harper economic agenda?

  8. Kim! Could you point me towards this responsible government that puts taxpayers first? It has me quite excited! Is it hanging out in PEI or something?

  9. Terrific piece.

  10. You’re in fine form, Mr. Wells. And I’m relieved to see you’ve been paying attention, something that can be uncertain when one is following the gossip that the whole process is supported by.

    My only regret is that I’ve seen this drama before. As P.J O’Rourke stated long ago (to paraphrase): Conservatives claim constantly that government doesn’t work. And then get elected to prove it.

  11. For the record, I most strenuously object to Macleans parachuting Stephen Taylor into this mix, especially in light of Taylor’s most obvious hyper partisan bias, demonstrated prior to his joining Macleans.

    Thank you Paul for your accurate and factual piece … actual & factual to the point that it is irrefutable … despite the keen willingness of inflammaTORIES to deliberately mislead Canadians on everything (including mission critical facts) that suits their unconscionable self serving agenda.

  12. Finally, a serious journalist writing on a serious topic. I’m so tired of having to read about every twitch of the Liberal party. It’s about time a writer with some merit actually remembered we have a Prime Minister who ran away from parliament to duck a fight he started.

  13. Paul, to have government do “as much nothing as possible” is a defensible position to take and defend, in that it limits the damage that governments can do. As a fan of limited government, I have no quarrel with such a strategy.

    It’s just too bad that the current government seems unwilling (incapable?) of articulating and defending such a position. Limited government achieved by stealth, misrepresentation and distraction (rather than deliberate policy choice) is unfortunate.

  14. A good description of the events, although saying that Harper has been a “bit of a twit” is a charitable act. You should apply for a tax deduction.

    Anyway, if a miracle could happen, and we are certainly due for one, here’s what I’d hope for. Harper brings in a reasonable budget (yes, I know it probably won’t happen) one that offers a moderate amount of stiumlus, including infrastructure upgrades, and some help for those of us at the bottom, like reducing the income tax rate for those in the lowest taxable income bracket The opposition then manages to help pass it (blue flu ensures that it does). Then the rest of the session carries on as it would have if things were back to normal.

    Okay, I’ve sent my wish to Santa.

  15. Great to have you back, Paul. Great (but disturbing) piece!

  16. Boo-ya!!!

    welcome back

  17. How come he lets Mansbridge interview him and not Wells? Life isn’t fair.

  18. Because Mansbridge is CBC. Thus, no matter how bad Harper’s performance is, the base can write it off as being a hatchet job by the socialist media.

    Wells, unfortunately, has written a book about Mr. Harper previously which does not villify the man. What’s more, he’s selling it.. thus showing his capitalist credentials. Were the interview conducted with Wells, it would cause some uncomfortable cognitive dissonance in the less indoctrinated, and that might threaten their conditioning.

  19. I, on the other hand, have been saying this since day one (minus the litany of nastiness, but I knew that would come)…

  20. The strange thing is that Harper has ripped the collective head off the mainstream media in Canada and laid a 4 foot double coiler down its skinny little neck (Harper’s a bit of a hog in the eating department).

    And the media seem castrated in a kind of ho-hum we’re-just-chumps-doing-our-job kind of way. As if to respond with venom would be to justify the whining about left-wing media bias.

    And when Harper grants a rare interview, the lucky individual acts gracious and respectful.

    Odd stuff.

    However, kudos to Wells for painting an accurate picture of Harper. Wells has come a long way in terms of seeing the light regarding Harper.

  21. Paul
    Is it safe to assume you are now officially off of Steve’s christmas card list. unless you happen to be ethnic.

  22. I like the Lambton Mall reference. Do Bright’s Grove next!

  23. Ah Paul,

    Welcome back, we’ve missed you.

    Loved this line in particular: “By late August he was furious to discover that Parliament was dysfunctional, in the manner of a man who pees on the floor and then complains the carpet is damp.”

    Now can the “Coalition is dead” crowd explain to me why getting kicked in the nuts by Harper for the next six months, is somehow preferable to having to work with Jack and his Pack for 30 months? (Ok, I can see where it is a bit of a saw-off but still a change is a change.)

  24. The Ahab bit was great. I have a follow up question which is only slightly related, and which has been troubling me.

    A few days ago headlines said that the Conservatives might create stimuli programs before parliament resumes. Is this possible without a money bill in pariliament? Can ministers reallocate existing budgetary allowances or use contingency money (is there any contingency money?) Were we meant to understand they would only announce the details of such a plan? I am confusified.

  25. Great column, Mr. Wells. I agree with the Harper = twit bit. But, and I could be wrong, isn’t quite a bunch of CA’s economic situation almost unreasonably intertwined with US? If it is I can understand an administration’s – excuse me – government’s desire for a little time to see how things work out with their southern cousins before taking steps on their own. But that just might be me.

    It looks like the next 45 days will be “very interesting”. Cheers from the Monterey Bay

  26. Hey Wells? Weren’t all the above posters hanging you in effigy for your supposed Conservativelyness “TM” just a few months ago. I thought Macleans was a right-wing rag. This offering of varied and interesting opinion just won’t do. We live in Canada, after all.

  27. I think it was the Conservatives themselves who have told us that the Conservative Party has accomplished more in 2 years than the Liberals did in 13 years. Paul has shown us how that is so.

    And from CalgaryGrit yesterday:

    How the Grinch Prorogued Parliament

    Every MP on the Hill liked Voting a lot…
    But the Grinch, who lived just north of the Hill, did NOT!

    The Grinch hated Voting! The whole Voting season!
    Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
    It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
    It could be his new sweater vest was too tight.
    But I think that the most likely reason of all, may have been that his caucus was twelve seats too small.

    But, whatever the reason, his caucus or vest,
    He stood on Voting eve, thumping his chest.
    Staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown,
    At the warm lighted windows below in the town.
    For he knew every MP on the Hill beneath
    Was busy now, preparing a victory wreath.

    “And they’ve finished their plot!” he snarled with a sneer,
    “Next Monday’s the vote! It’s practically here!”
    Then he growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming,
    “I MUST find some way to stop Monday from coming!”

    More here.

  28. I’m sorry that I don’t have anything pithy or brilliant to say in reply to Paul’s article and many of the bloggers’ comments… but would like to say, nevertheless, that I like Stephen Harper, and feel he is doing and has done a fine job as Prime Minister in very difficult circumstances. Obviously, in Canada, I am not alone in this opinion. Anyone remember the election 2 short months ago?

    Also, a reply to Dennis H. who said, “For the record, I most strenuously object to Macleans parachuting Stephen Taylor into this mix, especially in light of Taylor’s most obvious hyper partisan bias, demonstrated prior to his joining Macleans.”

    Dennis thinks it’s an aberation to have one (count it, one) Conservative voice ‘in this mix’. It goes to show how very unbalanced this ‘mix’ is, and has been, if outrage is felt over opinions being expressed that many, many Canadians agree with, maybe even a majority. Suck it up, Dennis, your opinions and biases are not the only ones worthy or being aired or discussed.

  29. Bettie: You miss the point about Stephen Taylor.

    First of all, he is most certainly not the only conservative. Andrew Coyne jumps to mind. Depending on the issue a lot of others too. They all seemed pretty “conservative” to Liberals when Martin was in government. Government will always get the brunt of criticism by media types, as it should.

    Second, even if you want to argue Maclean’s is chock full of liberals, what none of them are are Liberals or Conservatives. I can’t think of one of these blogging journalists who has not criticized, “attacked”, mocked, ridiculed, or praised both Dion and Harper. So while they may have their personal slants or preferences, they are not partisans and there is more than just a little bit of independence in their opinions, if not that rare trait in politics genuine objectivity.

    Stephen Taylor, however, is clearly not just a Conservative Party advocate/apologist but part of their communications team. Just have a look at his own blog and see if you can find a criticism of the government or Harper anywhere. He is clearly a partisan through and through and not the “citizen journalist” he claims to be.

    So I kinda ask, what the heck is he doing here? And if there is a good reason, then why not invite an equally partisan Liberal blogger? In fact, to leave him there alone, kinda leaves the impression that Maclean’s thinks Bettie is right: there was a need to balance out the blogging commentary with “the other side”.

  30. Great Column! Very well written and interesting. Good Job Mr. Wells!

  31. Steve Kaldestad? Where are you, Steve? I haven’t heard you play in ages.

  32. Teaching at Capilano University, apparently, and looking forward to lots of teaching and playing opportunities in the new year. He’s also looking forward to releasing his first CD as a leader in the early part of 2009. So I hear.

  33. “He has never convinced me he cares about the economy, or believes any government can do anything to affect its course. Build roads? Bail out car companies? Take advice from Jack Layton? He’d sooner cut off the opposition’s allowance, then hit the road to tell more fibs about Stéphane Dion.”

    Funny, I think the rush to bail out favored corporate entities convinces me that one is not serious about the economy.

  34. Harper really only has one agenda, himself, and he’s failing at that: in two elections now the majority of Canadians made it clear they do not trust him, do not like him, and think his policies are wrong. Period. He has no majority mandate. In fact, all his mandate consists of is to work on the economy with the majority of MP’s from the other parties who were elected by Canadians. But he is personally incapable of such comprehension. As for Steven Taylor, his disgraceful attack on Elizabeth May over the “Canadian’s are stupid” lie that he manufactured by removing the video footage that made clear what she was actually saying, should have discredited Taylor from ever being offered a podium in MacLean’s. The man is malicious, and cares nothing for the truth, or the facts.

  35. Who needs Parliament when you have a dictator running the country.

    The Conservative minority government is letting people take advantage of some tax measures in its fall economic statement, despite the fact the Tory fiscal plan hasn’t been passed by Parliament.

    • What gave it away for you that we have a dictator running the country?

      WAS IT:

      #1. When he broke his own election law of having fixed election dates and called the election anyway?

      Because he thought he could win a majority!

      OR

      #2. When he shut down parliament just 2 weeks into a new session WHEN HE knew he was about to lose a confidence vote and lose power?

      I still say the Coalition was way too fair to Harper by laying their cards on the table and letting everybody know they had formed a Coalition! They could have done this the Conservative way {behind closed doors} voted down the government THEN presented the signed Coalition to the G.G. for her approval!

      NOBODY IN THE MEDIA TALKS ABOUT THIS! Did you notice that? THE COALITION COULD HAVE BEEN USED DIFFERENTLY. But no they did it right out in the open on national T.V. for all Canadians to see!!!

      My guess is the Conservatives would not have been this honest about it!

  36. Boiled down to its essence, isn’t the critique here that Harper is… conservative? “He cares about soldiers. He has never convinced me he cares about the economy, or believes any government can do anything to affect its course. Build roads? Bail out car companies? Take advice from Jack Layton?” But can’t one “care about the economy” even if one doesn’t “believe[] any government can do anything to affect its course”? Indeed, isn’t the core premise of free-market conservatism that because government can’t really affect the economy’s course, those who really care about it should simply leave it alone?

    Or consider the mean-spirited, conniving, unacceptable proposal to cut public funding for political parties. Put aside the fact that a majority of Canadians support the measure – making them just as much a bunch of evil jerks as the Prime Minister, apparently. Whatever the merits or demerits of the proposal, can there be any doubt that it really is ideologically conservative? Asked to flagellate himself before Government House, Harper begged the gathered media to recognize that cutting public funding was not (or at least not only) a dirty trick; it was a policy that he, and his party, believed in.

    Maybe Harper’s a jerk. But to prove the point definitively, it seems to me you have to construe the facts in the light most favorable to him. In other words, it may be that Harper’s sin is failing to recognize that his brand of conservatism is destined to cause divisions that, in a minority parliament (or a dysfunctional confederation) are bound to be fatal.

    But I haven’t seen any good faith effort to construe facts in Harper’s best light; instead, with the lonely (and predictable) exception of the National Post editorial page, the national news media have spouted the same conventional wisdom: Harper is a mean jerk, and everything he’s doing is leading our nation to ruin. It’s Harper Derangement Syndrome.

    It’s also boring, uninspired, and – when it issues from certain quarters, in particular – disappointing.

  37. Yes, PM Harper has made the Canadian state utterly dysfunctional. After all, this is what revolutionaries do when they want to carry out a revolutionary transformation of the central state in a federation. PM Harper denounces the coalition/accord as a revolutionary coup by hair-brained socialists and secessionists. Harper, Canada’s first populist, Republican Prime Minister is the only true revolutionary politician in Canada at the moment and he has control of the Canadian state!
    It is PM Harper Canadians should be worried about rather than Duceppe and his motley bunch of Utopian separatists who have no access to the Canadian state and would not get access to the Canadian state in any coalition since they do pose a theoretical threat to national security. This is why the coalition will not survive after the vote on the budget. There will be another general election, not a coalition government since such a government would not be stable enough to hold the confidence of the House. Harper need not have panicked. He could already be in an election, one that he wanted very desperately.
    Harper’s flip flop on Senate appointments is a clear indication that he wants to continue his agenda of downsizing the Canadian state and the federal government from within.
    All the newly appointed Conservative Senators will swear to leave in eight years after they, along with other Conservative Senators appointed by Harper in 2009, 2010, and 2011, vote for either of two options: abolition of the Senate, or election of the Senate based on provincial boundaries and carried out be Election’s Canada at the expense of Canadian and not provincial governments.
    Harper’s long term agenda is the creation of a highly circumscribed state backed by a socially conservative and economically laissez-faire society resembling the societies of the United States’ Republican Red States.
    Finance Minister Flaherty is getting set to undermine the federal government’s constitutional right to tax by any and all means and to spend for the ‘peace, order and good government’ of Canadians. He will do so by cutting the GST by one or two more points. No future Canadian government will be able to increase the GST given that more and more Canadians are embracing the American political culture, one that despises all forms of taxation and every conceivable government program. Canadian public institutions associated with education, health, social welfare, municipal affairs, culture, broadcasting, etc etc. will go the way of American public institutions which are badly underfunded and totally dysfunctional.
    This situation has forced middle class Americans to turn to private institutions to serve the urgent and shared needs of the community. The same phenomenon will take place in Canada as middle class Canadians will abandon publicly funded institutions, demand lower taxes, and seek services from privately run corporations for all the necessary public services.
    The real problem is that Canada is not a wealthy as the United States and most members of Canada’s struggling middle class will not be able to afford to buy private education, health, social welfare, and other services. Canada’s middle class will shrink and the increasingly poor and marginalized working class, as in the United States, will expand.

  38. Ho hum.

    So Harper’s a free marketeer who doesn’t like the state sticking its nose into various new sectors — tell me something we don’t know.

    Actually, the way it was put here, I gained a new respect for the PM I was starting to see as a great big squish on these things.

  39. Very well written, ya gotta love some good cutting wit!

  40. Wow. This is brilliant, incendiary stuff. You got your mojo back in Afghanistan, Paul!

  41. BTW, I just tried sharing this on Facebook. When I tried the link on my Facebook page, the Maclean’s site said the page did not exist. Too bad, because I really think this needs to be seen and read.

  42. Conbot Kim Morton says: “Why not just say that you would rather have a government of lefties and separatists that only represent a small portion of Canada east of Manitoba than a responsible government that puts taxpayers first.”

    Ah, yes. “A small portion of Canada.” That tiny 64% minority who didn’t vote for the right-wing oil cowboys…

  43. He’s rather Nixonian isn’t he – Harper that is. Interesting that the Nixon tapes come out when all this is going on, Harper taping the NDP, etc.

  44. Interesting article…..seems like people are both surprised and disappointed that Harper’s agenda involves reducing the size, scope and influence of government. I am not surprised by this approach…he has articulated it many times throughout his career as a belief for him, and I am also not disappointed as evidenced by Canada’s relatively strong economy. Would you rather be in France today?? I think not.

    Bring on more individual accountability, responsibility, and pursuit of happiness. Let’s put an end to the mediocrity of the trough mob mentality, sucking the teat of the country and it’s citizen’s dry by bailing out failing and archaic industries, over compensating an under performing and over sized civil service, and creating a generation of Canadians hamstrung by entitlement.

  45. “Would you rather be in France today??”

    I think Paul tried that. Something about it taking 6 weeks to get internet service….

  46. Once again we hear about the Incompetence of the government and their workers.

    Lets try to compare – Bank of Canada or Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Citigroup, Washington Mutual…

    The healthcare sector in Canada vs the Full healthcare sector in the US. Hands down win in total cost as % of GDP, plus all our folks have a shot at getting treatment.

    Seems to me that the biggest trouble in government is the handouts that they dole out to the so-called private sector. And just why are the boards and executives for the major US banks still in charge. Like what have they done to earn that perk? Its called risk managment and if the system actually rewarded and punished as advertised, maybe we would get some.

    BL – Keeping Harper in power only extends the rule of a hypocrite.

  47. Bemused:

    I largely agree with you regarding the execs at the bailed out banks…they should be gone and their golden safety nets cut. There are now 10’s of thousands of laid off bank workers who are paying the price for a bloated, greedy, and mismanaged business. Accountability is largely but not completely at work.

    What bemuses me is the complete lack of accountability in both our civil service and our fully accessible yet pathetically unusable healthcare system .(good friend now waiting 11 months for a pelvic MRI…told to suck it up by his doctor since the pain well severe is not life threatening) How come no one can hold up a scorecard for these two areas without being accused to be un-Canadian or worse yet…..thinking like an “American” I’m sick and tired of accepting 2nd best in our country. When was the last time we considered structural changes in these areas….never!!!

    We have many many world greatest elements in Canada however, government and the delivery of the public service in an economical and quality manner is not one of them (including it’s leadership…well I can tolerate Harper as he is better than the rest….I admit he lacks in many areas .. in particular engagement and vision). It’s time to stop settling and take more control in our hands….erego…making government less important in the living of our daily lives.

  48. “Teaching at Capilano University, apparently, and looking forward to lots of teaching and playing opportunities in the new year. He’s also looking forward to releasing his first CD as a leader in the early part of 2009. So I hear.”

    Hi Paul. Ted pretty much covered it there. Kevin Dean and Andre White are coming out here in May to record with me at the Cellar, which I’m pretty excited about. (Careful when you google Kevin Dean there, Ted. I’m talking about the world-class trumpeter from Montreal, not the other one.)

    I just heard that I’ll be playing at the NAC on April 30th with Jodi Proznick’s quartet. Let’s grab a drink.

    That’s right, folks. If you want jazz with your politics, Paul’s your man.

  49. Alas the usual overly partisan drivel.

    Surely we bloggers can do much better.

    Read Maclean’s Inside a crisis that shook the nation and then try a little harder to offer insightful comments.

    Premier Robert Bourassa once said of Bernard Landry: “He is occasionally brilliant but rarely intelligent.”

    Alas, the same can be said for most bloggers here and elsewhere on the vast net.

  50. Harper’s problems with truth telling and consistency go back many years and could be chronicled endlessly. But aside from Wells, the Press Gallery seems happy to overlook Harper’s ability to say anything he thinks will gain a momentary partisan advantage. When you add it all up it’s a dismal record of deception.
    It goes beyond normal political hyberbole. The tribute to Shaughnessy by Chretien you recently reprinted on the site could not be spoken or even read verbatim by Harper. When a Chretien or Mulroney attacked there was always a glint of mischief not malice in the eye and voice.
    Harper’s disfunctional Parliament quotes are great, but the Taliban one is a classic, and the separatist stuff from the last go around is priceless.
    But the gallery just seems to work from day to day with no memory and no interest in taking the long view. The Senate issue is another great one.

  51. Paul Wells skims over the surface and we should consider that reasonable reporting? Give me a break!

    I dare Paul to answer this question:

    Why should the Canadian taxpayer subsidize a political party, the BQ, separatist in nature, provincial in nature completely, to compete within federal elections against leaders of parties who actually set out to become PM of our country?

    Harper is asking us these sorts of questions, yet most pundits, if not all, shy away from considering the question in any way shape or form. Why is that?

    Some hints for coming to conclusions: Duceppe never has, and never will be runing to become PM of this country. Period. Does he deserve to be subsidized for these serial none-attempts?

  52. Francien, “Why should the Canadian taxpayer subsidize a political party, the BQ, separatist in nature, . . .”

    Francien, this really steams you, huh? So, tell me. How come you don’t mind that every time a BQ supporter donates money to that party, the Canadian Taxpayer–not the BQ supporter–pays 75% of the tab? If I were a BQ supporter, and I paid $1,100 to support the BQ, I would get back on my tax return $591.67. That’s $591.67 you and I pay, Francien, not the BQ supporter.

    Why is that okay with you?

  53. Lambton Mall? I would just go to the WalMart SuperCentre, there is more square footage of shopping there anyway.

    • How did obscure Lambton Mall, in Sarnia , Ontario get included in the article?

  54. Hey Greg, individual accountability, maybe, but don’t associate it with Harper. The guy doesn’t believe in it, at least when there’s a mirror in the room or 143 nodding fritters at his beck-and-call. But hey, insighting the idea of mob rule, stirring up the well-dormant separatist movement (in two parts of the country, no less!) while still being tied down to the fact that he couldn’t get a majority against the most addled and put-upon leader of the opposition in history!
    Never mind the lack of a moral code — with all these things flying, no one has really had to touch base on the fact that the guy has no shame to go from election night promise to post-election menopausal fire-breathing, taping others caucus meetings et al, aiming to cripple democratically elected opposition… well, the list of his ethical decay could fill up conrad black’s ego.

  55. “Why should the Canadian taxpayer subsidize a political party, the BQ, separatist in nature, provincial in nature completely, to compete within federal elections against leaders of parties who actually set out to become PM of our country?”

    Because we love democracy.

    Better than having them funded by, say, the Taliban?

  56. Diane said: “Harper brings in a reasonable budget … one that offers a moderate amount of stimulus, including infrastructure upgrades, and some help for those of us at the bottom, like reducing the income tax rate for those in the lowest taxable income bracket. The opposition then manages to help pass it”

    Just fine, up to there. Then, to ensure these policies actually get carried out, the Coalition can file their loss of confidence proposal and take over from there.

    Otherwise, I predict you would see funding delayed, initiatives defunded, departments “harmonized” and no longer in charge of said initiatives, or any of the other dozens of things a sitting government can do to get its own way without the bother of a vote.

    Harper has successfully decoupled the words of his mouth from the acts of his hands. They have no relationship, no predictability. His party, of which he has been the only leader for the whole five years of its existence, began with a shameless broken promise and can be expected to continue that way.

    Noni

  57. Wow, someone’s getting fired.

    This article sounds like it came from some left-wing media conspiracy think tank. The magazine owners will not approve.

    What happened to the “Rah! Rah! Harper” love-fest?

    P.S. I am still not buying your putrid magazine.

  58. Stephen Taylor?
    Why not Steve Tyler?

    There would be better dancing….

  59. “Stephen Harper spent his whole adult life complaining that the state was no good for anything. Now, under him, it is so. Consistency at last.”

    Fantastic! I can’t imagine anyone summing the situation up any more concisely or clearly than that. Thanks Paul!

  60. Kyle :-) but you’ll read the blog for free?

  61. What’s up with this partisan article and comments?!?
    Oh…I thought this was the Alberta Report…
    I’m out of here… ; ]

  62. There’s nothing like a few months off work to bring a whole new perspective to ones direction.

  63. Mader raises a couple of good points, way up in the thread, so I’d like to respond:

    Certainly, the PM could care about the economy and think that the best thing for government to do is to stay out of its way. And yes, it would be consistent with a free-market conservatism that we haven’t seen from him since he was elected. But, if that’s what they’re doing, it would be nice for the government to say so. I don’t think that Paul’s showing the “Harper Derangement Syndrome” you talk about; I think the PM hasn’t *tried* to convince us that he cares about the economy, or that he’s doing what he thinks is best for it.

    Cutting public funding for political parties is arguably a conservative position (I’m not entirely sure that election financing is a left-right issue at all, but nevermind), and it may be a position the PM believes in. But, if the Conservatives were actually interested in taking a half-step towards getting public financing out of the hands of political parties, they would have started with the tax credit. It would have saved almost as much money, and they could have legitimately argued that it would hurt them the most. That they went after the $1.95 subsidy tells me that it wasn’t about the policy as much as it was about winning the next election.

  64. Good, intellectually honest articles have a habit of drawing bees to honey.

    Given the hollow, lazy opinion of this article (not a fact to be found) and most of the comments – swine to swill, comes to mind.

    Most were fine with Harper’s last budget, so why is this one so wrong, especially when he hasn’t even come out with it yet? And isn’t it prudent to see what our largest trading partner is planning, prior to throwing billions of taxpayer dollars around like drunken socialists?

    Neither did Harper cause the recent parliamentary debacle. Layton and the Bloc had been planning a coalition coup since at least the time of the election, as proven on the tapes. How did Harper handle it? Quite brilliantly, that is, if you check the polls. Which Wells doesn’t seem to be familiar with.

    Now, look at the Liberals. Another year, another leader. Except this one was anointed, not elected.

    Just the way the left likes it these days, given their support for the craven separatist-coalition grab.

    Swine to swill.

  65. What a wonderful article and right to the point. People voted and got what they deserve. Unfortunately in this country, people seem to have a very short memory span. Jean Cretien and Paul Martin left this country in a hell of a lot better shape, than they received it from Mulrooney! The Liberal government paid off a good part of our deficit, our unemplyment rate was at an all time low, there was stability in the markets, all their budgets were balanced and all in all we had it good.
    The Conservatives historically like to spend! Steven Harper pissed away the hard earned surplus from the Liberals on meaningless tax cuts. These tax cuts didn’t improve anybody’s life style! If he would have been in power at the time the Liberals ran our Nation, our boys would be dying in Iraqu right now!
    I remember Malrooney’s fare well trip to the tune of 33 million dollars plus. I remember his flying Palace that cost tax payers over 50 million Dollars. I remember his garage sale at 22 Sussex Drive, where he attempted to sell stuff belonging to the Nation and tried to pocket the money, but when he got caught he returned the money. The list goes on and on. Canada was in very bad shape when the Liberals inherited this Country!!
    It would have been much smarter on the population’s part, to continue with the Liberals and throw the few liberal politicions who had their fingers in the cash register in prison and throw away the key, instead the population opted to go with Steven Harper, who lies shamelessly and twists and turns to suit his personal advantage! This man would NEVER get my vote!
    He seems to be power hungry. Three elections in 4 years at a cost of well over 800 million Dollars is madness. And now, we are back at square one! Our public gets, what our public deserves! Stefan Dion is a very intelligent man. He didn’t win the popularity contest with the people – granted, but we would have been much better off with him. Popularity is of no impotance – what we need is a leader with brains, who is honest and decent and hard working and I am sure we would have had this with Stefan Dion.

  66. Given the hollow, lazy opinion of this article (not a fact to be found) and most of the comments – swine to swill, comes to mind.

    Go sell full-bodied wingnut condescension over at SDA, where it has a receptive audience. People here are trying to be serious.

  67. “Given the hollow, lazy opinion of this article (not a fact to be found) and most of the comments – swine to swill, comes to mind.”

    I’m not sure curious what your definition of a ‘fact’ is. Because either you didn’t read the article (which is possible), or you’re living in some alternate reality where ‘fact’ has a different definition. Now, my guess is that it’s Mr. Well’s polemics that you take exception to. Fair enough, I probably would too if I was a Harper supporter. That said, you come off as far less of a partisan idiot if you actual articulate your problem with something, rather than just throwing out a eloquently written, but nevertheless irrelevant criticism.

  68. “Why should the Canadian taxpayer subsidize a political party, the BQ, separatist in nature, provincial in nature completely, to compete within federal elections against leaders of parties who actually set out to become PM of our country?

    Harper is asking us these sorts of questions, yet most pundits, if not all, shy away from considering the question in any way shape or form. Why is that?”

    Francien, Harper was not asking the question of funding separatists at all when he announced the elimination of the subsidy. If he was only interested in separatists, he could have changes (for example) that would not allow political parties that are not committed to being part of Canada to be funded through the political subsidies. He could even propose a policy to ban parties such as this.

    Instead he announced, out of the blue (after all the election was mere weeks ago, and it was never mentioned then) that he wants to eliminate the subsidy by April 1st because of troubled economic times. Well, 30 million will not help that much. Also, many people would likely support the elimination of the tax, but to do it for April 1st is a little unfair, at the very least it should be phased in. But the way that Harper chose to propose the subsidy is indicative of his (and this government’s) nature, as seen in the list that Well’s put in his column.

  69. Hold on a second. Stop everything.

    Are you seriously trying to argue that the head of the (effective) executive branch of a North American government has complete contempt for both the legislative body and the principles upon which it’s founded?

    And exploits that to burnish his credentials as a government-hating conservative?

    Madness! Infamy! You should be ashamed, sir!

  70. The litany of personal attacks in this article indeed reduces it to swill as first described by Irwin. I haven’t seen this blogger before so maybe its his shtick.

    Through to Werner, The elimination of the deficit by Martin had many factors. One of the largest was trying to stave off the rise of the Reform Party. The Liberals over the years stole many of the Reforms ideas. Stephan Harper was part of that movement.
    As for Mulroney, let sleeping dogs lie. The Canadian people spoke and his party was reduced to two (2) seats in parliament. Reform began because there was little difference between a Liberal and a Conservative government in those days. They were just two hockey teams in a bush league.

  71. Paul, great article. Too bad more journalists don’t do this more often, lay out a detailed timeline of events that lead to one major event. Reading your article was very akin to watching the documentary “Taxi To the Dark Side” which laid out how the torture policy evolved from Bagram to Abu Grahab to Guantanemo. Perhaps you could share this article with Andrew Coyne, or does he read what you write?

  72. This was NOT written excellently. This article was a disgrace to Macleans and the millions of Canadians who read it. If I wanted somebody to make up my mind for me, then I will seek my own counsel. I surely don’t need Wells to do it for me. He is just as bad as the O’Reilly Factor, except on the opposite side.

  73. Huh? Jeff, are you suggesting Wells made up your mind for you and you don’t like it? A mind is a terrible thing to waste, so don’t let Wells take it so easily.

  74. Excellent piece. You’re in fine form.

  75. As many have noted, Harper intends on reforming government and you can’t do that by playing along to get along. That has been Harper’s goal from the beginnng – but I don’t think we realized out entrenched systems were – that is the only thing he can be faulted for. The Bloc set out to take Quebec out of Canada – but they ae playing along to get along (in this case everything they can get) and it is working for them. The NDP may talk about reform, but all they really want is to get into power so that they spend, spend, spend (witness their push for the coaltiion, even before the election was over, but they were not honest enough to actually run on that agenda). And what can you say about the LPC – no one knows what they are about, but they don’t know wht they are about.

  76. and you can’t do that by playing along to get along.

    Really? Is that a law of physics or something?

  77. “Is that a law of physics or something?”

    No, it’s from Harper’s playbook.

    “That has been Harper’s goal from the beginnng – but I don’t think we realized out entrenched systems were – that is the only thing he can be faulted for”

    I like the added touch of using the royal we when you find the one and only thing Harper can be faulted for.

  78. All the back-stabbing machinations and old-boys club strategies that are bogging down the federal government these days are truly appalling. If these people actually had the country’s best interests at heart, they would be in parliament right now trying to govern. If the party who won the last election gets it wrong, they’ll find out at the next election. Currently though, all their efforts to exploit each others weaknesses just expose how distracted and corrupt the federal political process is. It is time for reforms that will dis-allow such a degeneration of governance, and force an atmosphere of co-operation and accomplishment to prevail.

  79. Right wing ideologue’s philosophy – Lower taxes, smaller government, increased military size/activities, tougher criminal laws without any regard for age or leniency and no government led social programs such as health care, day care, unemployment insurance, welfare etc…. less regulation or none in markets and industry and so on.

    Most right wingers don’t have a clue about what their philosophy entails or implicates. They just blindly follow. This is not the Canadian way and never has been. It is the U.S. republican George Bush’s way. Do we really want this for ourselves? Not me. I like my Canada the way it was..forever!

  80. Since the 11th of December was quite some time ago, might we be seeing anything from Mr. Wells in the near future? His views are what keep me coming back to Macleans and the dribs and drabs from Inkless are not enough of my required dose! Bueller…Bueller… Anyone???

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