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Friday, March 10, 2006

Harper's five-out baseball

About six weeks into the new minority Conservative government and the cracks in the fence are begining to show. We’ve all known from the start that this new government was just the old Mulroney planks glued back together again, with some of the missing pieces replaced by cheaply made vinyl, but some of us are still surprised how poorly the plastic board is holding up.

Some people in this country actually believed that Stephen Harper was going to keep his end of the ethics commitment, bring in a new ethics bill, and behave in an ethical manner. I for one did not believe him, and I am one of those who is not surprised.

First it was the appointment of a newly-elected Liberal to the Conservative cabinet.
Harper could have invited the fellow to join cabinet and keep his Liberal Party card, or he could have asked him to sit as an independent, and included him in the cabinet. Instead, he offered David Emerson a cabinet post if he would leave the Liberals and join the Conservatives. Strike One!

No one has missed the point that, if the shoe had been on the other foot, Harper would have been screaming blue murder. Imagine if Paul Martin had won, then turned around and offered Diane Yablonsky a cabinet post if she would switch parties. Heck, Harper would have been on the phone to ethics commissioner Shapiro whether Yablonsky accepted the deal or not. He’d have not only been calling for an investigation, but you can bet he’d be demanding a resignation, and Shapiro would be his man of the hour.
Instead, here’s Harper, defaming Mr. Shapiro, attacking the ethics commissioner for not having the moral authority to do such an investigation, and acting like it was Shapiro who thought up the idea. Truth is, Shapiro is doing his job, acting on information provided to him by members or parliament.

Harper says Shapiro doesn’t have any credibility to do the job. Based on what Canadians are seeing from Harper, its a situation where the kettle is calling the pot black. Harper’s own ethics plan calls for the institution of a rule that would prevent the Prime Minister from overruling, or discounting, an ethics commission ruling. Now, here’s Harper, as Prime Minister, doing all he can to discredit the ethics commissioner, and overrule him! Strike Two.

Then there’s the little matter of our troops in Afghanistan. On this issue I have to wonder who is handling the PM’s spin. All he really had to do was step up in front of the Canadian people and say, “Sorry about Afghanistan folks, but it was the Liberals who got us into this and made the commitment to stay there a year. If you want to spank somebody, get Paul Martin to drop his trousers!”

Instead, Harper and his new government stepped up to the pitch, even though it was crossing the plate well to the outside. First he used the Bush-ism, that it is not right to question the armed forces while they are engaged in battle, claiming such questions would undermine morale. Then he sent our top general, Hillier, out to inform the Canadian people about public policy ( a task that certainly goes above and beyond the call of duty because it is not the General’s job to set public policy, nor to explain it). When that didn’t go over so well, Harper sent out the new Defense Minister, one Gordon O’Connor, who accused the anti-Afghanistan movement of being thick in the head, and too slow to understand what was going on. When those two moves, combined, only served to increase the speed of the ball as it neared the plate, Harper came out arguing that a debate over the role of our armed forces in Afghanistan would set a dangerous precedent. The precedent, he seemed to fear being set, turned out to be the democratic principle of Canadians having a say in what their armed forces are doing in the world at large, which gave the anti-Afghan involvement pitch some real velocity, and had the ultimate effect of leaving the new PM swinging wildly at a pitch that was well out of the strike zone. Strike three!

But wait a minute, the batter is still at the plate!

Must be Canadian baseball rules, where the biggest guy on the diamond gets to swing at as many balls as he wants until all the other players on the field get bored and go home!

And that moment is coming soon.

It will begin with the childcare debate. The previous government guaranteed hundreds of millions of dollars to the provinces for a national childcare system. Harper wants to scrap it. This is not only going to get the back up players in the provincial duggouts in an uproar, but its certain to become a high fly ball on the federal field. Its not a matter of whether it will be caught or not, but which fielder is going to do the catching. The Bloc, the NDP and the Liberals are all in range, its just a matter of which one decides to get under it and wave the others off.

Now, despite the fact that Harper already has three strikes against him, and is about to put a fly ball out just behind second base, we Canadians are a generous lot, and are more than likely going to let him take a sixth pitch.

That pitch will come the day Harper and his team present their budget. What to watch for is one penny of that budget going into private health care. Yes, it appears, by his words at any rate, that Mr. Harper is against Ralph Klien’s “Third Way” approach to healthcare, which is basically a system where, if you have the coin, you can pass go and get your hemroids lanced ahead of the homeless guy who has been waiting in line since Jean Chretien wrote his book, Straight From the Heart! If there is anything in that budget that will allow King Ralph to go ahead with his plan, or that axes money already committed to childcare, or education, or wait list times at hospitals, then there will most definitely be a riot on the field.

Those of you who are watching this game closely will soon notice that the guys at first, second and third bases sending signals to each other. The gist of those signals will be: Look, this guy has had six pitches and he’s still not so much as managed a base hit. If we let him stay at bat we’re going to be here for a couple years and nothing is going to happen. We’ll keep lobbing balls across the plate and he’ll keep missing them. Let’s get him out of there and put in someone who at least can abide by the rules of the game.

At that point you can look for the players on the field to approach the umpire, that sexy little beast we all affectionately call GG, and ask her for a turn at bat.

GG will have to allow it, but first she’ll make all the players on the outfield don shirts of the same colour. If they do as she asks, she’ll have no choice but to call Harper out and send his crew to the outfield, from whence they came.

What will happen then, well the other guys, most likely led by the short guy with the “stache” will take a turn at bat. It will take some time for them to move through the order, and because none of them are real heavy hitters, we’ll be in for a few innings of walks and base runs, with the odd foul ball, and a few outs on over anxious base runners. They’ll stall a lot, swing at very little, bunt here and there, and maybe score the odd run. This will go on until the players all get tired of it and decide to trade in their baseball caps and gloves for hockey helmets and sticks, and get back to our second national sport, Federal Elections.

How long will all this take. Oh, I’ll bet we’re back at the rink about the same time the NHL players head to training camp and the kids return to school for the 06-07 season.


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