Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dysfunctional

Fascinating heading of a Globe editorial today: "He's got the title - give him the job." Remarkably, the national newspaper seems to be calling for the nation's Finance Minister to be permitted to do his job by the Prime Minister. And that unless he is permitted to do so, then he can't be a strong Finance Minister that the nation needs at the moment. A catch-22 for you that presumes that Flaherty is worth the plea. Of this, I'm not so sure.
...the country needs economic leadership that goes beyond a few staff members in the Prime Minister's Office, as the government has ably demonstrated with its alternately inadequate and, yes, panicky response to the current fiscal turmoil.

Not every Finance minister will enjoy the clout of Paul Martin or even Don Mazankowski, and Mr. Flaherty has not yet been given a chance to prove that he merits it. But now more than ever, Canada needs a strong hand at Finance. He or she must have command of the department, the respect of cabinet, and the ability to speak to the public with authority on the government's fiscal policy. Mr. Flaherty does not seem to meet any of those criteria, because he apparently lacks the most important qualification of all: the confidence of the Prime Minister. (emphasis added)
This editorial has a bit of a double meaning, despite its heading. There's its argument that Flaherty has the potential to be that "strong hand" that we need but he needs to be given a chance. On the other hand, it also reads as if they're calling for him to be fired and for Harper to put someone he does have confidence in at Finance. It's not entirely clear to me.

The fact that no one is listening to Smilin' Jim and that his economic update is being totally reworked is a big hint that he's not the right guy. And Flaherty's Ontario record alone raises questions about the wisdom of giving Flaherty a stronger hand. So the fact that the national newspaper is arguing "let Jim be Jim" is a very strange thing.

Combine that editorial with this report on Conservative confusion on their economic direction, from Flaherty's "don't panic" on Friday to Clement's same day "we're moving quickly" shtick, and it's still not clear why Flaherty deserves a vote of confidence. Instead, he's portrayed as a very sorry figure in that report, as if he's a virtual puppet of the Prime Minister, powerless to do anything but his bidding. There is talk of how Flaherty should have resigned given what's happened to his economic update, "...either because they were his policies and they were rejected so firmly he had to withdraw them - or they weren't his policies and he shouldn't have allowed them in his statement."

Pretty remarkable stuff...demonstrating the dysfunctionality of the Conservative economic team at the moment. And all presented with the underlying arrow being pointed at the PM.