Monday, May 26, 2008

Low hanging fruit

A CTV online poll showing a healthy majority of those voting think Harper should indeed be pulling the plug on Maxime Bernier just about now. Yes it's an online poll, susceptible to incredible manipulation. But still a notable result on the potential removal of a Foreign Affairs Minister, demonstrating that Bernier's incompetence is resonating. We bloggers compile our records of stumbles, a lot of them tending to be not so high-profile but rather of the "inside baseball" variety. Bernier's gaffes of late, however, including the amateurish call for the Governor of Kandahar's resignation, the questionable girlfriend and the bungled promise of an unavailable cargo airlift plane are taking hold in the public's mind. A string of errors and you can't help but question the basics here.

So Michael Ignatieff yesterday on Question Period took Bernier to task. And apparently it'll be the order of the week to request Bernier's resignation. Not that Bernier will be in town all week. I suppose it'll be left to the likes of Van Loan to defend the minister's million dollar mistake in promising the unavailable C-17. It'll be entertaining, no doubt, to see what Van Loan comes up with to make it all seem perfectly reasonable. What's a million dollars, hey?

In the background, as we read last week, the rumblings from Conservative sources are that Bernier's days are numbered in the Foreign Affairs portfolio in any event. He's low hanging fruit for the opposition. He's pretty much done.

The bigger issue is the disregard in which Foreign Affairs is held by the PM and what might be a nascent war going on behind the scenes. We've witnessed what appears to be an increasing willingness to push back against Conservatives in recent weeks. For example, we witnessed, in the Julie Couillard publicity, reporting on what appeared to be information about Bernier's reliance upon her in his day to day affairs that had to have come from his staff, or at least, certainly those in the know in the department And now, on the bungled C-17 promise by Bernier, his aides claim that he was given faulty information on the availability of the C-17. As Ignatieff pointed out on Sunday:
"He's lost the confidence of his own department," he told CTV's Question Period on Sunday. "You can't make promises on the international stage if you can't deliver. This was a serious mistake."
The rage against the government machinery practiced by the Harper Conservatives coming back to haunt them? Makes you wonder if such push back is going to become more common. And it makes you wonder about the harm being caused in the meantime to significant issues Canada is not tending to while there is a glaring lack of leadership in this file.

I would expect to see a defence of Bernier this week and next. Then a quiet dumping in the summer during some kind of miniature shuffle. They never acknowledge any kind of responsibility for their incompetence, they just paper over the mess when few are looking. But as this sample poll suggests, Canadians know the score...