Well, that didn’t take long.
I actually cannot believe that Parliament has just opened, and Stephen Harper already has me in a blind rage.
Step 1: Economic statement focus
Earlier in the week, I heard that the government’s economic statement was to focus on preserving on a small surplus, plus some initial cuts.
I thought that was a very strange approach in a time why most economists, including conservative (small “c”) ones, seemed to be saying that spending and stimulus were the most important priorities at this time.
Still, I was only mildly irritated at this point. Sure, it suggested the Conservatives were bad economic managers. But I already knew that, and there is some comfort in being right. Plus, I still have a job, for the time being at least, and it’s Christmas. So why fuss about politics now?
Step 2: Cutting federal funding for political parties
This, I was not happy about, even before all kerfuffle arose.
Bully for the Conservatives that they’re so great at fund-raising they don’t need any help from the taxpayer. That’s what happens your party is the one that attracts most of the rich people.
But parties who attract more lower-income people who can’t afford to donate (NDP, Greens), or are currently in some disarray (hello, Liberals), still have the right to exist. No, more than the right; they must exist, or we don’t have a democracy. We have a Conservative dictatorship.
Step 3: The opposition rises
That is some hubris that caused Harper to think the other parties would actually vote for their own demise.
Now, it may well be politically wise for the other parties to say it’s the economic statement itself, and not the cutting of federal funding to political parties, that is the tipping point. I’ll come back to that.
But my opinion is that the party funding alone is enough reason to defeat this bill.
- It’s unbalanced. This bill came in to compensate for loss of other ways for political parties to raise money. Previously, corporations and unions could donate; now they cannot. Previously, individuals could give as much they wanted; now they’re capped at $1000. You can’t take the funding away without making other legal changes that allow the parties to compensate for that loss.
- It’s undemocratic. Funding is calculated on a per-vote basis (with the exception of parties earning less than 5% of the popular vote). It’s one of the very few ways in our system that (almost) every vote counts. Some people, particularly Green Party supporters, do cast their votes exactly for that reason: to get federal funds to their party of choice. Taking away the funding disenfranchises all who voted for a major party.
- It doesn’t help the economy. The amount is too small to matter. Now, there is something to be said for the mostly symbolic gesture. Freezing top-level government salaries and cutting perks also probably doesn’t really help the economy, but it’s just bad optics to be flying all over in first class while people are losing their jobs and savings. But party funding isn’t a luxury; democracies aren’t completely cost-free.
If the Conservatives don’t want their share of that funding, they can give thier back and dare the other parties to do the same (knowing that they won’t). That way the Conservatives can get on their high horse, where they like to be, without kneecapping their opposition.
But party funding probably is a dicey thing to defeat a government on, so the opposition is instead focusing on the content of the economic statement. And frankly, there is plenty to be against there, too.
- Claiming they already stimulated the economy with 2006 tax cuts. Huh? Even ignoring that they selected the most non-stimulative form of tax cut possible–the GST–something you did three years ago is not going to have a new effect now.
- Claiming a surplus based on bogus number, such as inflated projections for the price of oil.
- No infrastructure programs at all, though it’s not difficult to find excellent candidates for these across the country.
But even at this point, I wasn’t quite in a blind rage. I was really kind of excited that the opposition was showing some teeth, and acting cooperative, and refusing to roll over for the bully at the helm. Until…
Step 4: Harper claims a coalition government is undemocratic
While we have been working on the economy, the opposition has been working on a backroom deal to overturn the results of the last election without seeking the consent of voters. They want to take power, not earn it.
— Stephen Harper
Overturn the results? No consent of voters? Makes me crazy ever time I read or hear it.
Mr. Harper, the majority of Canadians voted against you and your party.
The majority of Canadians voted for four center-left parties who agree on a number of major issues.
Three of these parties won seats. Two are discussing forming a coalition government, with the backing of the third.
This could be the closest Canada has ever had to the makeup of the government reflecting their actual votes.
Step 5: ?
Who knows how this play out. But if the Conservatives don’t change their statement, they deserve to go down over it. And that better not lead to an election!
In the midst of a global economic slowdown that may plunge Canada into a deep recession and threaten the livelihood of many Canadians, it would helpful if there were some adults in Ottawa. … While there is certainly a crisis, there is no semblance of crisis leadership here, and therefore no chance for national cohesion. The responsibility for that lies squarely on the shoulders of Stephen Harper.
— Globe and Mail editorial, How to compound an economic crisis
Martin Luther King dreamed of the day when men would be judged “by the content of their character.” By that benchmark, Stephen Harper has proved himself to be a nasty little man.
— Peter Blaikie, letter to the Editor, Muzzling the opposition
The miscalculations have been stunning. Mr. Harper’s strategy has accomplished already the near-impossible: to bring the Liberals and NDP together.
He had so many other, less partisan options at a time of economic crisis and grave national concern. That he acted in this fashion, at this time, was enormously revealing. And very sad.
— Jeffrey Simpson, Economist with a tin heart, politician with a tin ear
Whatever the debatable merits of distancing parties from taxpayers, this isn’t the time or way to change payments peripheral to dangers facing Canadians. It won’t save a single job, meaningfully reduce the ruling party’s runaway spending, or somehow make the democratic exercise cost free.
— James Travers, Harper has needlessly provoked this crisis