Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Embracing complexity

A few brief thoughts on the passage of the $3 billion fund in light of the brouhaha it's causing on the internets. And I say internets, in that I'm not convinced this has legs that will carry beyond to the wider voting public. This vote was largely covered in a CP report last night that failed to attract much additional reporting from wider media today.

On the argument that the Liberals have once again engaged in rhetoric that's set themselves up for a return to a portrayal of weakness, bluster, all hat no cattle, etc., insert your favourite metaphor. Maybe. I'm not convinced of that. This is not the last parliament at all. The climate in which these political decisions are taking place is distinctly different. I see the Parliamentary Budget Officer's latest is just making the rounds. An 8.5% drop in GDP this quarter? Stunning. Yesterday, news of record EI claims and bankruptcy numbers. The climate in which parties are making decisions counts and it's a strong reason as to why last night's votes are not as significant as they would have been, politically, in the last parliament and why it's not getting much traction today. In this vein, I see the Conservatives trying to "greenshift" the "onprobation" site. Plays get old, they don't necessarily translate or resonate in changing circumstances.

There's the climate and secondly, there's a difference in how the Liberals are opposing. There is a distinct qualitative difference that's been made and it is in the form of the leader and the unified party that's backing it up. The evidence to date suggests that Ignatieff is positioning himself as a strong alternative to Harper. Polls and some fundraising indications are showing it. And those indicators do have to do with demanding accountability and articulating the problems inherent in Conservative choices, including the $3 billion fund over which Conservatives are eschewing oversight. The issue has been clearly identified for the Canadian public and that accompanying accountability motion, yes non-binding, says who is on the side of accountability and who is not. Now it'll be up to the Conservatives to show that they're not spending it in a tide of partisan frenzy. It may be cynical to say as a result of such machinations, but publicly there is a better perception of the Liberals as a viable alternative to Harper. So machiavellian "doublethink" on the $3 billion the end of the day is it hurting or helping then?

And I'm making that preceding point purely at a political level. The substantive fallout is terrible, there's no getting around that. We see it in the changes being made, pay equity, CBC, etc. The answer on all those issues is to get the voting public to throw the Conservatives out. Make the case sufficiently so that they won't have 143 seats next time out, obviously. (Not going to address coalition options here, that's done.)

On getting more from the Conservatives at the moment or on any issue in this minority parliament, and in light of the Auditor General's recent grumblings, where is the evidence that the Conservatives are rational actors? They've shown themselves to be utterly incapable of making parliament work, of working with other parties in the interests of Canadians. They're piling up instance after instance of that. Certainly an election stand-off would have ensued, much to the delight of Conservatives who would be quite happy to recklessly plunge into another election. Think that would have been off the table? That surely they'd see the light and know that Canadians wouldn't tolerate it? They certainly were prepared two weeks ago to risk lost EI benefits for Canadians given their burying of the EI provisions' coming into force date. And I'll respectfully disagree with those saying an election would have been palatable on the issue of Harper denying accountability on this fund. Not a winning election issue at the say we want stimulus in the economy yet we're going to put a 4-6 month lag on it (election, new government, new budget...).

I'm sure I'm missing issues here but frankly, a little tired today, still. And I said this would be brief but it turns out, not so much.