Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The opposition rallies as Harper struggles with new role

The opposition parties are gaining some success in painting the conservatives with the stench of pork barreling by favoring conservative ridings with funds, grants and projects.

It started last week when Gerard Kennedy revealed that more than three-quarters of funding handed out since 2007 went to ridings held by Tories. And again yesterday, when Moore the new Heritage Minister got worked over before the heritage committee, by Charlie Angus of the NDP calling the new $100 million fund for festivals, just more pork-barrel photo-ops.

This is a good strategy on the part of the opposition, because it is easy to prove and is indefensible for the conservatives. All the expenditures are there in black and white. It also plays well with the provinces that have been accusing Harper of politicized exclusion for the results of the last election, specifically Quebec and Newfoundland Labrador and could bode well in preventing further conservative gains in Ontario, the conservatives chosen battleground next time around (Ontarians as a rule like believing they are special).

Unfortunately the opposition is having less success in revealing the conservatives economic mismanagement over the last two and half years, that has worsened the effects of the recession that we are now entering. The fact that Flaherty had already moved the country into a deficit position has been obscured by the stimulus spending package and the much lamented deficit budget.

However it is not for a lack of trying on the oppositions part who continue to highlight the flow of negative reports from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page. Even Paul Martin got into the act yesterday by placing half of the expected deficit right on Flaherty's shoulders.The problem here is that the real numbers, at least until the March year end, remain obscured and besides most Canadians are more worried about their personal budgets.

All in all a good couple of weeks. We now have a functioning opposition and a prime minister who has gone into hiding. Although you really can't blame Harper, as he is unfortunately in a position where he has to learn new skills.

After two and a half years of ideological partisanship riding on the remains of the former right of center Liberal government's fiscal policies, the recession is now forcing Harper to play a more humanistic, non partisan role. One where he must demonstrate his concern for Canadians who have lost their jobs, regardless of the fact that they live in areas that Harper does not necessarily like. He should also demonstrate some humility for his pompous and arrogant proclamations throughout the fall, about how Canada would be sheltered from the harsher effects of a world wide recession.

Obviously, these new skills do not come easy to Harper and now with the glaring comparison to Obama's persona, south of the border, you can understand why he might be taking a time out from parliament's question period, maybe to get some professional help or possibly an offsite workshop on emitting empathy.

Of course it could simply be the fact that he dropped his law suit against the Liberals over the Cadman tapes and even though they might not be able to question him about what he meant by those remarks, I'm sure the NDP or Bloc would like to.

I for one, would like to hear his explanation, again.


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