Monday, January 26, 2009

Some leaks are better than others

Specifically, anonymous government officials embarrassing Harper in a Globe report today:
"We have grown-ups running the budget process," a senior government official told The Globe and Mail yesterday on condition of remaining unidentified by name. "There will be no juvenile political games."

The source said the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Guy Giorno, has seen his influence over the budget superseded by two veterans with more than 70 years of combined experience; the Clerk of the Privy Council, Kevin Lynch, and a senior adviser to the Prime Minister, Bruce Carson.
Message: they absolutely do not want to be defeated on the budget and are apparently quite fearful that it may happen.  They're pulling out all the stops, including such leaks to the media about the process.  This is all addressed to Michael Ignatieff.  If you believe this stuff, that is. But it certainly appears, anyway, that senior Conservatives, or perhaps Kevin Lynch, have taken the PM by the ear and read him the riot act. I don't know how else these little anonymous sound bites can be interpreted.
"There's a sense now that now's not the time for gimmicks," said the Tory. "We just have to appear serious at this stage. We can't appear to be poking our fingers in people's eyes."

The new co-operative attitude on behalf of the PMO has also been on display with respect to the premiers, business leaders and the civil service. Observers also say Mr. Harper's authority has been curbed, his agenda circumscribed and his instincts to attack Mr. Ignatieff curtailed. (emphasis added)
Well, welcome to crushing reality, boys.  It's only taken them just about three years to get it through their skulls that the federal government and the Prime Minister's Office should not be their own personal partisan war rooms devoted to gimmicks and "poking fingers in people's eyes."  What an earth-shattering revelation that the Conservative brain trust has finally arrived at.  Oh, and it only took a serious threat that they'd be turfed and grave national economic difficulties for them to wake up.

How embarrassing must it be for a Prime Minister to be so described as above, like a child whose privileges have been taken away. I mean, if this kind of messaging is what they view as necessary in order to demonstrate their gravitas, then Harper's time as leader has got to be in serious question.  

But let's not get too carried away here, as we do see this little reminder of how authentic this posturing may or may not be:
When asked whether Mr. Harper would have done so much consulting without the sword of the coalition hanging over his head, the bureaucrat said "no way, no way. This isn't in their DNA. They're playing against type here."
Nothing like fear as a motivator.   

Again, we shall see what the budget brings. They're certainly doing their best to make it sound like it will be passable. That trust question does loom heavily in the background, however. It's just so difficult to believe that they might produce something supportable, despite the lengths to which they are going.