Thursday, May 03, 2012

Something missing all around

So I watched this 8 minute video version of Harper's speech to caucus yesterday. It was, as many reports have recounted, packed with a consistent economic focus. Of course. He really doesn't seem to enjoy talking about anything else and that's the turf they want everyone focused on.

But the economy is not the sum total of a nation, so there's always so much missing when he gives a speech like this.

The closest he gets to his vision is the stuff about Canadians giving his government a "mandate to secure their prosperity." He repeated that twice. It's not that rousing. It's also devoid in caring. What should prosperous nations do? Guard their prosperity, is that it? A nation of hoarders and me-firsters? Or should they be concerned about the least among us and around the world, for example. Where's the moral fibre in Harper's speech? But, I digress...

The line that stood out in the speech for me was this: "We are the only party in this country with a serious, workable economic plan." That seems to me to be the big challenge in defeating these Harper led Conservatives.

So what's their plan? They talk a lot about having one, for starters. And they have framed the economic debate pretty thoroughly with the Economic Action Plan branding and the low tax lingo. Then there's the part of the plan that sees us as hewers and drawers of our natural resources. There is also the pushing of free trade deals around the world.

Now what are the elements of the economic plan or vision that challenges the Conservative one? Anything coming to mind? What is the alternative to the Harper economic agenda?

Challenging how the government is spending dollars is fine and needs to be done. What the larger plan is as an alternative that is clearly identifiable and credible and resonates with people...that seems to be missing. That's a common critique around the world.

I'm hoping that during the Liberal leadership race there's going to be a fresh and credible challenge on economic grounds to Harper's staking out of this territory. That there is some new thinking that challenges the economic orthodoxy that the nation is being fed. Mulcair and the NDP, for their part, are going to have a high hill to climb in terms of being trusted on economic issues.

There is an opportunity to elbow into the space that Harper is occupying. He's not really doing that well despite newspaper editorials telling you how dreamy he is. Canada is ripe for and is owed an alternative.