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.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.
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.
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.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.
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.
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. Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers