The deficit in this country is now apparently $50 billion or more. I personally stand by my earlier estimate of eleventy billion dollars as being every bit as legitimate as any other guess. Now Flaherty’s party has leapt to his defense saying that these are tough times and that it’s difficult to predict what will be needed in order to bail out this or that industry or to fund EI. (I thought EI had a surplus, what happened?) The Conservatives are saying that this is money that the other parties would like to see spent to revive the economy, so how can the opposition complain?
I think what is significant here though is that this is part of a series of revisions, first there was to be no recession in Canada, then there was to be a small recession but no deficit, then there was to be a deficit, now it’s a bigger deficit. The pattern here is of the Conservatives confidently asserting that the best-case scenario was the most likely outcome – how convenient – only to later come back with a revision to the new best-case scenario. This is in stark contrast to the Liberal approach throughout the 1990s and early 2000s where Paul Martin and later Ralph Goodale consistently under-promised and over-delivered with cautious budgets that were actually derided by the Cons and their precursors for being overly, what’s that word, oh yeah, conservative when figuring out the numbers.
Given the magnitude of our economic woes I would find it likely that even Martin and Goodale would run deficits in times like these (unless they went for a wholesale shift towards a radically shrunken government or dramatically increased taxes) but given the track record of those two, I’d expect that we would have been given the bad news up front, as if we were adults.
The idea behind this site is something that I find quite appealing. I got the vague impression after the 2006 defeat of Paul Martin that many people in the higher echelons of the Liberal Party regarded the loss as a temporary hiccup on the way to permanent Liberal dominance of the Canadian electorate. The mindset seems to have been, let’s clear this up, pick someone – anyone – as a new leader and on we go again.
It’s not going to be that way. And even though the Liberals do well in the most important part of the country – i.e.: Toronto – it’s not enough to, you know, actually win power in Canada.
It was nice to hear the CBC news pull a quote from Paul Martin on the matter of the Conservatives putting this country back in the red. For reasons that are entirely understandable, Martin sort of went to ground the past few years after his ’06 defeat. If he can re-emerge and do so as “former finance minister Paul Martin” it has the potential to really help the Liberal brand. Here’s an opportunity for the grits to own fiscal prudence. It’s the sort of inversion of party perceptions that the British Tories are attempting with their “Vote Blue, Go Green” campaign on the environment. This time the Liberals can make it “Vote Red, Go Black” (as in ink).
I was hearing yet again from another left-of-centre Canadian that they would like to see the end of Harper’s government yet they expressed doubts about Dion being able to be Prime Minister. This got me to thinking about the criticisms levied at Dion, that he’s somehow just not fit to be a party leader. In turn, that got me to thinking about federal party leaders in the last ten or fifteen years.
The conventional wisdom on Jean Chretien was that he was past his prime, his moment was 1984 and that by 1990 it had surely passed. How would Canadians ever vote for an inarticulate old man? In 2002 the conventional wisdom on Stephen Harper was that he was an aloof right winger whose views were well outside the mainstream and who was therefore terminally unelectable. Chretien the country for a decade and Harper completed a Reform takeover of the old PC Party and brought his Conservatives to power.
Contrast to some of the politicians with more favourable buzz: Stockwell Day won control of the Canadian Alliance based on buzz that sometimes rose to the level of Trudeau comparisons. This ended when he had open his mouth and actually talk about stuff. Even better press surrounded Paul Martin – seemingly from the time he first became finance minister. He was thought a sure bet to deliver another decade of Liberal rule.
All this is to say that the negative conventional wisdom around Dion probably means next to nothing.
The story coming out now about the bribe allegedly offered to Chuck Cadman to bring down the Martin government back in 2005 looks bad for the Conservatives to say the least. The explanation offered up yesterday by Tom Flanagan and Doug Finley seems, well, hard to believe. It was well known in 2005 that Cadman was very seriously ill with cancer, at some points it was unclear whether he would be well enough to make it into parliament for the vote. Why then would Flanagan and Finley offer to help Cadman with a riding nomination? Cadman died within a couple months of the vote, I cannot imagine that 1) Flanagan and Finley didn’t appreciate or couldn’t find out how serious Cadman’s condition was, and 2) that they really thought that his priority at that point was to win another election given his health.
Harper, Flanagan, and Finley, I call bullshit.
I heard this on the radio in the early morning hours, but Harper has canned Linda Keen, the head of the Nuclear Safety Commission for, um, doing her job? Embarrassing Gary Lunn? I don’t know, but imagine what would have happened if Paul Martin had fired the auditor general, Sheila Fraser for embarrassing his government. Of course that would be unthinkable – an outrage in the opposition’s eyes, Fraser was exposing a slush fund in Quebec! This is just about, you know, nuclear fucking safety!!! No big deal, eh Steve?
I’ve made this MacArthur analogy about Hillier before. Apparently some people like him that way:
“Almost begrudging respect is paid to the intellect and skill of current Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier, who it says, single-handedly bamboozled the best minds in Ottawa into adopting Canada’s International Policy statement. That should come as no surprise, given that Lang was quoted in The Globe and Mail on Aug. 10, 2006, saying: “The problem is, there isn’t anyone who can take him (Hillier) on with a counterworld view. He blows them away.” The problem wasn’t Rick Hillier: the problem was with the Liberals who were supposed to exercise informed oversight over him…”
No one in the military command structure should be “bamboozling” their civilian overseers. The military works for civilians, Hillier needs to understand this. One can only wonder what the Torch gang would say if Hillier made an end run around Harper.
It just boggles my mind that the military essentially selected its own mission in Afghanistan. I’m not sure whether it was Hillier’s war-is-a-force-that-gives-us-meaning mentality or Martin’s indecisiveness or combination thereof, but it seems as though it was far from inevitable that we got stuck with the worst assignment in Afghanistan.
There is this sort of meme now that Iggy is going to really go after Dion for the leadership job. It would be ludicrous if this happened. Part of what undid the Liberals 13 years in power was the sort of fratricidal undercurrent between Martin and Chretien. These new guys though, they can’t even wait till they get into office. The party probably does not have enough time to install another new leader before an election. I don’t have any strong feelings about the Liberal party, but this sort of infighting is what could potentially put Harper in majority territory.
They promise to allow MPs more independence. Paul Martin made the “democratic deficit” his cause and wanted to restore the supremacy of parliament. Stephen Harper promised more free votes. Now Garth Turner is assuring us that Stephane Dion has made this issue a priority. I’m not say that Dion can’t or won’t do as he says, I’m just sayin’…