Monday, February 09, 2009

Discord between Harper and Flaherty bears watching

Don Martin had an item yesterday on Friday's public discord between Harper and Flaherty, where Harper said no to additional stimulus versus Flaherty's openness on the issue. There was also this news about Flaherty's reaction to the recent budget leak fest:
It was no secret that Mr. Flaherty was furious when the PMO leaked the deficit figure and most of his budget ahead of schedule. There's some evidence he didn't even know it was being done until the revelations hit the newswires.
I think for the public, until now, it was a secret. So while the grown-ups were in charge of the budget process generally, the p.r. shenanigans still apparently inflamed the Finance Minister. Interesting how word does seem to get out that not everyone is on board with the PMO's tactics.

As Martin suggests, this tension is an ongoing oddity at a moment when the PM and the Finance Minister should surely be on the same page on the big questions in particular, like the potential for future stimulus. The disagreement between the two, however, was very evident on Friday. Harper was adamant on his "stick to the course" position with no possibility of doing more. Yet Ted Menzies, Flaherty's Finance deputy, speaking on Sunday, seemed to be once again contradicting the PM. Now they're back to being open about it, making the PM look like he's been overruled. Menzies tried to parse out some distinction, saying Harper was only speaking about the budget plan itself not changing, that Harper wasn't ruling out doing more beyond that. But Harper seemed pretty clear in giving the impression that there will be no more steps taken.

So this is a very strange little spectacle. While it may seem a little too nuanced to make any difference, it really could be quite important. There is disagreement between the Finance Minister and the PM that's evident during pretty bad economic times. Makes them look like they don't know what they're doing.