Thursday, February 04, 2010

You don't need Admiral Ackbar to see through Stephen Harper

As I chuckled while reading reports of the “clever trap” that Stephen Harper had set for the opposition parties by daring them to deny unanimous consent for his sudden proposal to scrap parliamentary break week in March and April after shutting down Parliament to “recalibrate” I was reminded of the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar:

Of course, the opposition parties didn’t need Ackbar to see through this latest gambit from a Prime Minister whose the increasingly unearned reputation for strategic genius is but a faded memory:

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says he has no problem with the Conservative government's plan to cancel parliamentary breaks in March and April.

But he says he'd prefer if the Tories simply came back to work now.

Ignatieff, who has been holding meetings with his MPs in Ottawa since Jan. 25, says Harper's excuses for the shutdown have disappeared and now the PM is "in a scrambling act to ... catch up to the Liberal party."

"We've been at work for two weeks and we've had some great results," Ignatieff said during a break from party roundtables on community safety and en
ergy and the environment.

"Parliament should not have been shut down. Canadians are prepared to get Parliament back to work. Why is the prime minister not prepared to do that? And now, he wants us to work during the break weeks in March and April.

"We're perfectly prepared to do that but we're wondering why we couldn't have started working on the 25th of January" when the Commons was scheduled to reconvene after its Christmas recess.
And if you had any doubts that Harper’s supposed reputation for chess playing is proven a fa├žade when he’s faced with an even marginally competent opponent, consider this latest brainwave from the PMO: he has invited himself to address the British Columbia Legislature on the eve of the Olympic Games:
The B.C. legislature is slightly agog over next week's pending visit by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Apparently, he intends to address the chamber Thursday.

Topic: the 2010 Winter Olympics, presumably, though more than a few observers have been joking along the lines suggested by the headline on this item.

No one has made an official announcement, but the news was broken earlier this week by Sean Holman on his Public Eye Online website.

Even lacking official confirmation, controversy abounds.

Apparently, the visit was not by invitation from the provincial government. Rather it was Ottawa's idea.

Nor is there any obvious precedent for a prime minister to speak to the provincial house, though Gov-Gen. Michaelle Jean did address the legislative chamber in March 2006.

Yes, that’s right. Harper is going to use this prorogation, this period when Parliament had to be shut down so he could focus on the budget, to go talk to B.C.’s Parliament. He’s using this prorogation, when Parliament had to be shut so we could all focus on the Olympics, to talk to B.C’s parliament about the Olympics. Funny too, isn’t it, that B.C.’s Parliament can sit so close to the Olympics, and Ottawa’s can’t, isn’t it?

I mean, who thought sending Harper to the BC leg was a good idea? The optics are bad for about a dozen reasons. He shuts down the national parliament, avoiding questioning and scrutiny, but goes to speak to another one? At a time he is supposed to be knee-deep in economy saving? Drawing attention to the fact that B.C.’s legislature will be sitting on the eve of the Olympics, but Canada’s won’t, making Harper’s Olympic prorogation excuse even more pathetic?

Just like moving to cancel the spring break weeks, far from an opposition trap, only served to further underscore the narrative that prorogation was wrong, that Parliament matters and has work to do, and that Harper now tacitly admits it. And it again raises the very valid question: If it’s so important to for Parliament to cancel those break weeks, why isn’t it sitting now?

Heck, even the media are starting to outright mock the government in news copy. This was filed on the CP wire this afternoon, emphasis mine:
The Harper government is scrambling to take back the political agenda after suffering a beating in the polls over its decision to suspend Parliament.

The Conservatives trotted out a pair of cabinet ministers Thursday to assure Canadians they're hard at work _ and that a new proposal to cancel parliamentary spring breaks is not just a cynical political ploy.

``The two break weeks need to be cancelled so we can work hard,''
Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis said. ``We want to sit as much as possible in order to get the measures passed that we think Canadians want to see passed.''

He didn't explain why Parliament couldn't be doing that work now.

Conservative whip Gordon O'Connor sent a memo to Tory MPs and senators on Wednesday, telling them to cancel their traditional spring breaks _ a change that would need unanimous approval by all parties.
When they’re laughing at you, Steve, it’s over. Forget strategic genius. Even Admiral Ackbar could have seen this train wreck coming.

Maybe he should lead the Conservatives?

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Ted Betts said...

With the economic still still weak, you have to wonder why Harper would risk the instability caused in the markets by even more Parliament.

CanNurse said...

Nice blog today, bringing it all together. Ted, I laughed out loud at your comment! Priceless!

C4SR said...

I can't imagine that there is a Tory MP from now vulnerable seats (in Ontario) who is thrilled with the prospect of being stuck in Ottawa on every business day between now and at least the May 24 break week.

Taking away the constituencey weeks and replacing them with unnotices interchangable speeches by interchangeable government MPs in Ottawa.

Another wise move by the great tactitian.