Friday, January 23, 2009

Mr. Harper and his games: is it deja vu all over again?

The PM's budget games are well under way over the last 48 hours. Sending his ministers out across the country to sprinkle news in advance of the budget, designed to curry political favour. Running radio ads encouraging Canadians who haven't seen any details to blindly support the budget. The unprecedented leaking of deficit numbers days in advance of the budget and unbeknownst to his own Finance Department.

It's a massive p.r. onslaught from the PMO all designed to get that budget passed and save Mr. Harper's job. Little problem though, the aforementioned games may be working against him: "Ignatieff blasts Harper's deficit 'games'."
“I asked Mr. Harper not to play games like that,” he told 500 people at a luncheon of the Canadian and Empire Clubs in downtown Toronto. “I told him to put the facts and figures on the table, not let them slip out at his convenience. But the guy just can't help himself … he thinks it is all just some kind of a game.”

Mr. Ignatieff said he has five tough question to put to Mr. Harper about his budget on Tuesday: Will it help the needy? Will it save jobs? Will it create the jobs of tomorrow? Will it be fair to all of Canada's regions? And will it burden our children with debt?

“And if the answers don't cut it … if the government fails, I am ready to lead. I do not seek office at any price. But I am ready.”
The more we see Mr. Harper manipulating the process, the less encouraged we should be. I'd say it's entirely unpredictable at the moment as to whether or not we will see this budget garner any support in the House of Commons. I think Mr. Ignatieff is serious.

Throw in to the mix Mr. Harper's disingenuous comments on the deficit from an interview published yesterday and it's clear that he's just not being straight with Canadians:
Q: The November economic update was projecting surpluses for the next few years. Suddenly we’re facing multi-year, massive deficits. How did we get to that point?

A: There are two things. First of all there has been some deterioration in forecasts we’ve received from the private sector forecasters since then that is responsible for part of the deficit. But a lot of the deficit will be actions the government is undertaking in the budget. Deliberate actions to stimulate the economy over the next two years in particular.

Q: So you were working with wrong numbers from the private sector?

A: We were clear about this in the economic and financial update, that the government did intend to undertake stimulative measures going forward. They were not bad numbers by the private sector. We have been getting private sector forecasts now every two or three weeks now for the last six months and they have been deteriorating. This is the effect of the global recession. The numbers, quite frankly from September on and in December were markedly worse in terms of projections than in November. In January, again markedly worse. Markedly worse and with greater uncertainty. We’re all living in a period of tremendous uncertainty, but the world economy has slowed considerably, even since the economic financial update, and that will have an impact on the government’s revenues. So that’s the primary short-term impact. But as I say the government has decided, and I made clear at the G-20 meeting, that this government will go in to the marketplace, will borrow money that is sitting on the sidelines because people won’t spend, because businesses won’t invest, to make sure we sustain economic activity. That’s our plan. (emphasis added)
When I read things like that from Mr. Harper, pointing the finger everywhere else when we know that he, economist, put us in a terrible position at an historic moment, it suggests that we need to be very skeptical going into next week's budget. Ignatieff is right, that Mr. Harper just doesn't get it as to how he should conduct himself and such words from Mr. Harper should make us seriously doubt that he'll get it right next week. His incompetence has been well and truly exposed.

The Governor General is getting some helpful advice at the moment and I'm sure she's taking note of all of these developments.

Don't know what's going to happen but that feeling of hyper-reality from the end of November, early December is coming back again...