Thursday, 28 April 2011

Exhibit A?

Harper no longer on high moral ground


First posted:
Friday, March 25, 2011 3:10:27 MDT PM | Updated:

Even when the Liberal party was run by the Nutty Professor, the best Stephen Harper could do was win a minority government.

Despite the pollsters, despite the government having put a Rock Cornish hen in every budgetary pot, the coming federal election will be close, full of surprises and bitterly contested. The last result I expect to see is a majority government.

The coming campaign will not be launched around the budget. It will begin with a damning vote in the House of Commons. For the first time in history, a sitting government will be found in contempt of parliament.

Not important? Rubbish.

It's not just a case of Steve doesn't play well with others. It's a case of preventing duly elected MPs from doing their jobs. It's about having foisted the death march of partisanship on our seminal institution. It's about making dizzying spending decisions as if this were a one-party system.

Unlike 2008, Steve has a lot of explaining to do this time around.

Does he really have a weakness for disbarred ex-forgers with an eye for the ladies when it comes to staffing the PMO? How appropriate is it for a PM to say, "You win some, you lose some," when the Federal Court of Appeal makes a legal finding that his party has broken the law?

Own scandals
And how many times can Steve call in the RCMP on his own brood without admitting that he hasn't exactly put honesty and integrity back into our politics?

In Steve's finest political hour, he occupied the high ground when he said that the Liberals no longer had the moral authority to govern. He was right: Adscam was like a hundred gallon drum of rotting fish.

But now the moral high ground is occupied by others who will be measuring the PM's once credible rhetoric about integrity and transparency against the tawdry backdrop of the in-and-out scandal, the Bev Oda affair and contempt of parliament.

Iggy as underdog
Michael Ignatieff may yet prove that he should be marking papers, not running a country. But he begins this campaign in the always advantageous position of the underdog, though not as feisty a one as Jack Layton.

Little is expected of Ignatieff based on years of listless underperformance as Opposition leader. So if he shows even a little bit of spunk in the battle, there is a chance he can at least stave off a rout.

Ignatieff has already served notice that the government's sad ethical record won't be the only thing under the microscope; the economy too will be front and centre.

Despite the prime minister's chorus of enablers on his canny management skills, there is a case to be made that this guy spends like a Liberal.

How can you take a bow for being a good manager when you have racked up the largest deficit in history, grown government by 15% since 2006, and come up with a budget that would make increased government spending a reality for the next five years? Is that even Conservative?

If the past is any guide, Steve will dismiss the scandals and contempt finding as trivial.

Meanwhile, he will relentlessly raise the bogeyman of a coalition government if Canadians don't give him an outright majority.

Fear works. How long it will work is the main question of the next election.

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