Friday, September 03, 2010

Fall Guy

Update (7:50 p.m.) below.

Big, unexpected news for a Friday at the end of the summer. The PM's chief of staff, Guy Giorno, is departing: "PM’s top adviser leaving after months of Tory turmoil."
Guy Giorno, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s most senior adviser, is stepping down, as the Conservatives seek to recalibrate after a politically troubled summer.

Mr. Giorno, who has been Mr. Harper’s chief of staff since July, 2008, will leave his post by the end of the year, sources say. He recently became a father again and reportedly wishes to spend more time with his wife, son and newborn daughter.
Yep, on the heels of yesterday's poll showing a tie between Harper's Conservatives and the Liberals comes this sudden news that Giorno, his top guy, is out. Makes the family rationale seem polite but likely not the real reason for the move.

The clear message that's meant to be conveyed with the timing of the move is that it's faulty advice that's brought Harper to his present political position. That with a change in the chief of staff position, the ship will right itself and steer itself away from such bad decision-making (prorogation, census, right wing bent, etc.) in the future. That might be plausible if you believe that Mr. Harper is not the one who is predominantly responsible for the decisions of his government. But that's not the story we know. This is a Prime Minister with an iron grip on his government.

So could this be cover for Harper to install someone new and reverse himself on such measures as the irretrievably boneheaded census decision? Giorno's not leaving immediately, so maybe not.

Could also be about staving off internal grumblings and morale issues as Parliament is set to resume this month. Who knows where grumblings can lead after all. Can't imagine many Conservative MPs and cabinet types were too pleased by that poll yesterday and how things are going even though they'd not dare utter a public word.

Or it just may be as simple as Harper not being able to stand the perceived upswing for Liberals. That projected seat count showing a Liberal minority must have really burned. That might have been a breaking point.

The bottom line, despite a likely chorus of commentariat about to tell us otherwise, Harper's in political trouble, he knows it and he's reacting, immediately. Message to opponents? Sent. But whether there's a whole new political dynamic shaping up that's turning away from Harper...that's an open question. It sure feels that way at the moment.

Update (7:50 p.m.): Don Martin's column tonight, "Giorno not taking a fall for Harper."