As we head into the summer break it’s natural to get reflective. And helpful perhaps to look at the bigger picture, which can be tough to do during the day to day partisan cut and thrust.
Taking stock, no one has much to be happy about. That includes my Liberals although, as a biased partisan, I’d have to say I’m pleased to have avoided what could have been a deadly spring election, and at the heat Deceivin’ Steven has been taking of late.
If I were the Conservatives I’d be even more disappointed though. It wasn’t that look ago that everything was coming up Harper. High popularity for Harper himself, voter support numbers just shy of majority territory. The environment issue hopefully neutralized, gains in Quebec. Liberals stagnating in the polls, and the not a leader attack ads doing their job sapping Dion’s personal popularity. The budget would be their springboard to a spring election and at least a more comfortable minority, if not a slim majority or better.
Instead here we are going into the summer with the Liberals three points ahead (in one survey anyway), a siege in Atlantic Canada, sagging Con fortunes in Quebec and a chance for Dion to turn things around on the bbq circuit. Where did it all go wrong for Deceivin’ Steven?
It would be tough to pin-point just one moment. Whether it’s the fight with the Atlantic provinces, Afghanistan detainees, the Afghan war itself, an embarrassing performance at the G8, defence contracting, the RCMP, committee fascism, the Wheat Board battle, income trusts or a host of other screw-ups, it’s been a bad stretch for the Cons.
Part of it may be Harper beginning to believe his own press clippings and let his arrogance and controlling tendencies began to surface. Another major factor was also likely the fact the Cons ran out of script; they had no agenda left and started to ad lib. We’ve seen the pattern before, witness the Con rise and fall in election 2004. Nearly cost him in 05/06 too.
A very salient point is raised though in an article by the CP’s Bruce Cheadle, and it’s bang on the money. The Conservatives have been spending far more time attacking the Liberals than they have governing. And it’s just not working.
Really, just what did the Cons accomplish this spring?
If it's difficult to pinpoint Conservative advances this spring, it is in no small measure because the government is fixated with attacking Liberals.
The Conservative party web site, under the slogan "Getting Things Done for All of Us," is a daily barrage of attacks on Liberal Leader Stephane Dion personally and the Opposition generally.
The party spent untold - and undisclosed, non-reportable - dollars buying unprecedented attack ads outside an election campaign period.
Responses by government ministers in the daily question period sounded curiously like opposition harangues.
The prime minister himself set the tone with sharply partisan jibes that equated Liberals to Taliban supporters and smeared the father-in-law of a Liberal MP as being part of the Air India terror investigation.
And this exchange Cheadle reports between a reporter and a Harper minister really says it all:
Consider this end-of-session exchange with Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn:And that’s the problem. The Cons have succeeded this spring in keeping Liberal numbers stagnant. Call that 50 per cent mission accomplished, and we Liberals have our own not minor challenges there. But Harper’s other mission was to get his own numbers into majority territory. And not only has he failed, but his constant attacks and lack of agenda have caused him to lose ground, and put him in a statistical deadhead with the Liberals.
Reporter: "Can you name two or three bills that were adopted by your government this session . . . ?"
Blackburn: "I would rather talk to you more about the bills that the opposition parties are often trying not to get adopted."
The Cons like to say Dion is not a leader, but Harper led his government from majority territory and expected strong gains in a potential spring election to a dead heat that has given Dion and the Liberals new life. Some leadership there Steven.
Now it’s anybody’s game. It’s going to be a long, hot summer. Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers