A Canadian's perspective on domestic and international issues. Independent coverage of Canadian federal, provincial and municipal elections and anything of interest in Canada.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Harper's a weak one

Prior to his election as Prime Minister last month Stephen Harper had a lot to say about the democratic deficit and the arrogance of the ruling Liberal Party. He also campaigned on Senate Reform, promising to make the upper house elected.
Now, one week into his term, Harper has apparently turned a blind eye to those concerns.
First, he appoints a Conservative Party organizer to the Senate and makes that person a cabinet minister. Then he solicits an elected member of the Liberal Party to change allegience and join the Conservative cabinet. Finally, he stands by, not saying a word, while the Liberal-come-Conservative boldly announces he doesn’t care what the people of his riding have to say, he won’t quit, and he won’t call a byelection.
Imagine if the tables were turned, and the Liberals had won government, then approached one of the Conservative members to perform a similar flip. Harper would have been screaming blue murder. That’s for sure!
Across the board, on both the opposition and government benches, and from the constituents in the former Liberal member’s riding, there have been cries of “foul.” Harper, the champion of political ethics when he was in opposition, seems to be taking the tact, ‘ignore it until it goes away’. A ploy he was quick to denounce when he was in opposition.
Had Harper approached Emerson and asked him to join cabinet without relinquishing his Liberal Party membership, or if he’d asked Emerson to sit as an independent, before giving him a cabinet post, there would be no problem. Instead, he chose to offer the former Liberal a big raise in salary, and a high profile position, but only if he became a Conservative. Its nothing short of total hypocracy!
Harper’s appointment of a Conservative Party hack to the Senate is exactly the sort of cronyism the Conservatives have whined and complained about since Harper became their leader. Is this how Harper and his gang plan to change government, by conducting business in exactly the same fashion his predecesors did?
While Harper has been busy offering big perks to former Liberal insiders, and promoting unelected party hacks to well paid positions within his goverment, he has shut out some of his long term supporters, including people like Diane Yablonski. Therein may be the good news for Canadian voters.
The cracks in Harper’s ethics and integrity are clearly showing after one week in office. The internal cracks, which are bound to appear if Harper continues to overlook elected Conservative Party insiders in favour of unelected cronies and Liberals, will take a little longer to manifest. But the pressure is already building and sooner or later, if history is any indicator, that dam too will break.
Other cracks are soon to appear. It will begin when Harper begins to push some of his proposed legislation through a parliament where his governing party is outnumbered. The next big issue will be childcare. Harper wants to abandon the childcare deals currently in place between the feds and their provincial counterparts. He has even boldly stated he will have it through the house and into law by July. Its a bold gesture from a man who does not have enough seats to pass any kind of legislation, and his tact of telling the Canadian people its a done deal is certain to rile the opposition. At very least the other parties are going to delay the Conservative legislation, if for no other reason than to teach Harper that he does not have control of the house.
To make things even more difficult for Harper, the NDP have now formally requested the Ethics Commissioner look into the Harper-Emerson deal. How is Harper going to respond if the commissioner comes out against the deal? He’ll be in a catch -22. Will he ignore the commissioner and thus undermine that office, or will he have to eat crow and allow a byelection. Either way he comes off looking like a hypocrite.
If, on the other hand, the Ethics Commissioner sides with Harper, what damage will that do to the commssioners credibilty before a Canadian public that increasingly views all government agencies as corrupt?
In one week Stephen Harper has demonstrated to most Canadians that he is no better than his opposition. In seven days he’s managed to participate in outright cronyism, backroom deals, and arrogant disregard for the voters. His opponents, I’m sure, are looking forward with glee to seeing what he does with his second week.
It all makes for terrific fun for political observers, who can already see the next election on the horizon. Harper thinks he has at least two years before his government will be called to account. Based on his first week in office, the wait time will be much shorter.


Post a Comment

<< Home