Monday, March 01, 2010

Setting the tone

Here's a must read going into the week that will see Parliament resume, Chantal Hebert's column today in Le Devoir.

Considering the Chretien & Mulroney governments in comparison to the current one, she wonders if the Harper government, after four years, will ever bloom the way the others did, achieving a few "political seasons" before their decline. She suggests that the Harper government is that kind of government that has potential yet never blossoms. The still young nature of the merged party with its battle scarred history is cited as a major reason, with not enough emphasis on policy as a foundation. The lack of governing experience and institutional memory in the party are also cited.

Interesting thesis, you have to consider it. How is it that Harper would not get that he should have reached out to the other parties and worked cooperatively in a minority government structure over all this time. Where has the mature governing gene been? Does it not exist in the Conservative party? If it does, we've yet to see it for any sustained period of time. Maybe the Mulroney rift has been more impactful than we thought. If Harper had gotten the point, we might have a very different governing situation now. As someone said this weekend about Harper and prorogation:
"We caught a major break when Harper reminded people of his deficiencies, a self-correcting mechanism which kicks in when he gets close to majority territory," said one senior Liberal.
Who knows, ultimately, but it's interesting stuff to think about. Hebert suggests that this coming session is probably going to tell us whether the Conservatives are capable of achieving that state of mature governance to warrant further support.
Quatre ans plus tard, le gouvernement Harper ne s'épanouit pas au pouvoir autant qu'il semble se ratatiner. Depuis quelques mois, ses appuis se tassent dans les intentions de vote. Les sondeurs en sont souvent à parler de noyau dur pour décrire ces appuis, un noyau hermétique en symbiose avec un gouvernement de plus en plus perçu comme replié sur lui-même et sur ses idées fixes. Faudra-t-il attendre que le Parti conservateur retourne dans l'opposition pour le voir mûrir davantage? La session qui s'amorce mercredi le dira sans doute. (translation)
Hmmm...after four years under Harper, it would be a stretch to think that there's some steady governing version about to visit upon us. One that would take off with the Canadian public. Look at the indicators out there. See Guergis, last week. See Teneycke threatening "bring it" in the media this weekend ratcheting up the detainee document issue into an election worthy event. A turning point session is not going to be had if key allies are out there hyping an election as the typical response to any given difficult issue, the detainee issue in particular. It could get very serious and if the Conservative response is to go nuclear, that's not speaking to mature governance to me. If they have these proxies like Teneycke out there, we should assume that's the message that Harper wants put forth.

See also Ivison, Murphy and Powers for indicators of the tone among those on the right side of the spectrum, variously portraying the return of Parliament this week as a downer or mocking prorogation as a trifle despite the widespread rejection of prorogation by the Canadian public.

It's also crunch time budgetarily speaking and in terms of policy, they've already signalled that it's stay the course, no new spending, no new programmes, cuts are on the way (possibly public service pensions). Tax hikes are here too. In other words, nothing policy wise that is likely to capture the public's imagination.

Hebert has set forth a reasonable suggestion about where we are, it's more likely a shrivelling government, not a maturing one.