Friday, October 19, 2007

Machiavellian Conservatives following Flanagan's playbook

The media loves conflict, so they're loving things in Ottawa right now. And they're going to keep on loving things for some time to come, given the current Conservative 'governance' strategy.

It began with the throne speech; one that, despite all the Conservative bluster beforehand, was purposely designed to be just bland and inoffensive enough the Liberals could hold their noses and let it pass.

It was quickly followed by omnibus justice legislation, getting the media election fever flaring-up again. Change one comma, Harper warned, to an election we go. Again though, underneath the bluster, he had compromised on the legislation just enough to allow the opposition to support it, allowing the Conservatives to avoid the election they profess to want so badly:

The showdown over the Conservatives' much-ballyhooed omnibus crime bill fizzled into a debate over technicalities yesterday as the government introduced a bill that opposition parties largely support.

But four of the revived bills included all of the compromises made with the opposition in the previous session. And on the fifth, which would toughen provisions for dangerous offenders, the opposition parties said they will push for what they called only minor amendments.
The fact is, if Harper wanted an election we’d be in the midst of one right now. He would have written something into the throne speech we couldn’t possibly support. Same with the justice bill, it would have been an ideal piece of legislation for him to run on, allowing him to paint the opposition as soft on crime. Instead, he quietly compromised.

He doesn’t want an election. But he does want the bluster, the posturing, the brinkmanship. He wants to be seen as tough, like he’s dictating terms to the opposition, even while he quietly compromises just enough. He wants to avoid an election while mocking the Liberals for choosing to avoid an election.

And this while brinksmanship strategy shouldn’t be a surprise. Harper’s longtime advisor, Tom Flanagan, laid it all out back in August:
No government can survive politically if it acquires a reputation for weakness, and that is the risk the Conservatives face if they remain tied up in Parliament.

By using confidence measures more aggressively, the Conservatives can benefit politically. If the opposition parties retreat, the government gets its legislation. If the opposition unites on a matter of confidence, the Conservatives get an election for which they are the best prepared.

"Fortune is a woman," Machiavelli wrote in a now politically incorrect aphorism, "and it is necessary, if you wish to master her, to conquer her by force." It is time for the government to take advantage of its advantages.
So, this should be no surprise. There will be many more bills to come that Harper will label as do or die, my way or the highway confidence motions. The media will work themselves into al election frenzy each time, covering the conflict they so love and ignoring the policy.

We, however, need to calmly and soberly judge each piece of legislation on its merits. If amendments are needed, move them. If it’s acceptable legislation, support it. And if it’s bad legislation, vote it down. And if that means an election, so be it.

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wilson said...

It seems to me, PMSH is 'clearing the deck' to get his previous 5 priorities wrapped up and solidly in place, before an election.

Something surprising, and new is coming.

Bailey said...

If Harper really wanted an election he could dissolve parliament and ask the GG to call an election. It's a fairly simple process. I don't see Michaelle Jean denying his request as that would just create more controversy after the King-Byng affair in 1926.

Jason Hickman said...

Bailey, there's legislation on the books - I think it's received Royal Assent, but I could be wrong - that says barring a loss of confidence, in the parliamentary sense, there won't be a federal election till '09.

Jeff, a simple question: do you honestly think that if situations were reversed as far the CPC and LPC go, the Libs would have passed on a chance to go to the polls even on a "bland and inoffensive" Throne Speech?

Bailey said...

Jason according to a press release it states that:

"nothing in this section affects the powers of the Governor General, including the power to dissolve Parliament at the Governor General’s discretion"

Therefore one can conclude that the GG can call an election anytime on the advice of the PM.

Furthermore, PEI passed a fixed election date law last May and it received royal assent but that didn't stop Premier Binns from calling an election a few days after that.

burlivespipe said...

Yep, going back to check on that 5.5 priorities seems to be good for the CONs, hey Wilson?
-SURGICAL WAIT TIMES CLIMB TO ALL-TIME HIGHS: Oct 15 National Post (ooohhh! that 'Liberal' media!)
-INCOME TAX BURDEN ROSE UNDER TORIES, Think Tank Says (Ohhh! that 'Liberal' friendly Fraser Institute!)
-FOREIGN SERVICES FACES FINANCIAL, MORALE CRISIS (Ohhh! that guy who whips civil servants we hired isn't whipping hard enuf!)
-OTTAWA SILENCES MEDIA (Ohhh! those darn new immigrants!)

Wilson, some days your leader and his pack of lies is a real hoot. Have you ever heard Newhart's Buttondowned mind?

900 ft Jesus said...

well, the palybook didn't play out very well for Steve & Co yesterday. They took a beating on many issues, including the crime bill. Working against them on that was how the Libs were able to clearly explain how the neandercons had repeatedly stalled their own bills.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Wilson, I was going to ask about wait times, but I see I've been beaten to it. As far as something new, that would be surprising. I wont' hold my breath. It's been, what, a year and a half the Cons have had 'the books' and have 'cracked them open' and I still haven't heard about all these additional liberal scandals that would supposedly be revealed.

Bailey, I think you're right. Particularly in a minority parliament, the fixed election date thing is just public relations. When Harper wants an election he'll engineer one though, not by going to the GG, but by introducing legislation he knows can't be supported. Then he can campaign on the issue and blame the opposition for being obstructionist. its just pr.

Jason, if we had wanted to go to an election now we'd be perfectly justified and we could spin it just fine. But my point was that, by making it bland, Harper gave us an easy out. He could have put in a poison pill that would have forced us to go or, if we swallow it, look really, really, really bad. If he wanted an election, that's what he'd have done. But he didn't, so he crafted it in a way that lets us make a reasonable argument for supporting it, even if he publicly taunts us.

wilson said...

The Alberta experiment showed dramatic reductions in wait times, when public & private medical services were used.
Liberals have long fearmongered against '2 tier' health care (to keep Dippers in their pocket).

Are Liberals ready to get on-side a one payer (public) with a public OR private provider solution?

More money is not the answer, the provinces got a big boost in health transfers (thanks to Martin), and the waiting times increased.

It was also shown that the provinces that put the most per cap money into healthcare had the longest wait times.
So you can speed things up getting people onto lists, but if the delivery end isn't improved, the wait times increase.

Taxpayer pays for Private/public delivery , do Libs have the courage??

You don't have to make nice with Dippers anymore.

Eugene Forsey Liberal said...

Both this post and your previous one were exactly right: LDBD, Policy and demonstrate self-respect and integrity on legislation. Might be good idea to wait to get reverse onus nonsense amended in Senate and see if Harper wants to try to make election issue out of wet squib - who among public will feel Harper's willingness to have election over holidays is justified by what seems to them mostly arcane minor point of law - burden of proof?

However, no party whose name is "liberal" can have so little self-respect as to pass legislation we all know is silly, wrong-headed, contrary to all liberal, democratic and legal principles and destined to be overturned in the courts. I think it would be just too cowardly to knowingly pass illegal and unconstitutional legislation, likewise for "Senate reform" (sic).