Monday, January 26, 2009

An ignominious day for Mr. Harper

Shortest Speech from the Throne evah. No wonder.  To endure a lengthy sitting would just have compounded the spectacle of this government offering their second throne speech within a two month time period. Get in, get out and move on to the budget.

But as for the speech, you can read it here. It'll take you about, oh, two minutes. And while it's brief, there are some choice lines worth a look. There are quite a few that ring hollow given the events of the past few months. In particular, those appealing for cooperation, meant to suggest the Conservatives have suddenly found religion:
In these uncertain times, when the world is threatened by a struggling economy, it is imperative that we work together, that we stand beside one another and that we strive for greater solidarity.
Our Government approached the dialogue in a spirit of open and non-partisan cooperation. There is no monopoly on good ideas because we face this crisis together. There can be no pride of authorship –only the satisfaction of identifying solutions that will work for all Canadians.
The present crisis is new, but the imperative of concerted action is a challenge to which Parliament has risen many times in our history. What will sustain us today will be the same strengths of character that have pulled Canada through critical times before: unity, determination and constancy of purpose.
The calls for "solidarity," "non-partisan cooperation," "strengths of character" just don't ring true in light of the government's actions, not just in November but over the course of the past few years.  Their unprecedented use of the confidence vote demonstrated how much they valued such concepts.  Mr. Harper seemed quite small sitting in the shadow of this speech singing the praises of such newfound virtues.  Whoever the speech writer was, they didn't do him any favours with the overreach on this front.

Then there was the language of crisis:
Each Throne Speech is a milestone on the remarkable 142-year Canadian journey. Your predecessors, too, were summoned to this chamber at times of great crisis: as Canada struggled to claim her independence, in the shadow of war, during the depth of the Great Depression and at moments when great policy division tugged the very bonds of this union.

Today we meet at a time of unprecedented economic uncertainty. The global credit crunch has dragged the world economy into a crisis whose pull we cannot escape. The nations of the world are grappling with challenges that Canada can address but not avoid.

The Government's agenda and the priorities of Parliament must adapt in response to the deepening crisis. Old assumptions must be tested and old decisions must be rethought. The global economy has weakened since Canadians voted in the last general election. In fact, it has weakened further since Parliament met last month.
The heightened and unprecedented crisis rhetoric may end up working against the government, particularly were it to be defeated. It creates the foundation for an argument that it's not the time for another $300 million election. Secondly, even if the government survives, if they slide back into partisan rhetoric and tactics - a likely happening - they'll be measured against their own thesis. Either way, it's going to be a much tougher slog this time around for Mr. Harper.