Thursday, March 18, 2010

Saying one thing and doing another

Watch Pierre Poilievre on Power Play yesterday, it was yet another great moment in unserious Conservative political gamesmanship. In response to the Commons vote cancelling the ten percenter fliers, a frivolous propaganda program, he "announced" with great fanfare, that the Conservatives are prepared to support the abolition of political party financing. It went over like a lead balloon. The thought that the Conservatives would, within two weeks of returning after prorogation, introduce a poison pill into the House of Commons dynamic is astounding. Especially a poison pill that previously contributed to a constitutional showdown. This is how out of tune they are. It's this week's sideshow, this week's change to the national anthem.

What the Prime Minister's partisan front man Poilievre would not do, however, was to say whether the Conservatives would introduce a motion or legislation in the House of Commons to that end, proposing to axe political party subsidies, a common feature of any western democratic nation. In other words, Poilievre was presenting more silly games on behalf of the Conservatives. They stated in early January that they would not place this proposal in the budget and claimed that it would form part of their next election platform. But they would not bring it back before that time:
There has been some opposition speculation that Harper might use the budget to reintroduce the idea of scrapping public subsidies for political parties - a move that would financially cripple the Tories' rivals and almost certainly compel them to defeat the government.

Harper first floated the idea in the 2008 fall economic update, triggering a parliamentary crisis that nearly saw his government toppled by an enraged opposition coalition.

Tory insiders say Harper remains committed to the idea but won't revisit it in the budget.

"This is something we're going to put to the people of Canada in the next election but not before," said the source.
So unless that was all hooha, Poilievre was simply blowing smoke to taunt his opponents, that's all. Amazing how the Prime Minister just can't seem to keep himself away from the anti-democratic narrative that's building.

What's likely going on here is a frantic reaction to the growing perception of harm to the Conservative brand, that the Conservatives are entitled to their entitlements. See Guergis, Jaffer, Flaherty's double double jaunt, the news of the big budget boost to the Prime Minister's bureaucracy, etc. Combine those p.r. incidents with an agenda that has been exposed as lacking in all that hyped up recalibration. Throw in poll numbers, transitory as they are, that are starting to get uncomfortable. Thus, the Prime Minister's Poilievre move was likely a desperate ploy to change the channel. And maybe the ten percenter move hit the Conservatives a little too close to home. No more free ten percenters, something that really hurts them as the biggest users and they lashed out with the party subsidy threat. This seems to be the juvenile thinking at the top of our government.

In the meantime, the country is starting to take to the notion that this government says one thing and does another. It's seeping into the culture, see below. When today's truth tellers, the Jon Stewarts and Rick Mercers, have your number, that's a sign your government is in trouble and apparently it's time to haul out the big ammo, as they futilely did yesterday, just two weeks into the returned session. Amazing.