Bringing down the Harper government
Liberals, NDP, embarked on venture that is not for the faint of heart.
Dateline: Monday, December 01, 2008
by James Laxer
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries/
such a full sea are we now afloat
And we must take the current when it serves
Or lose our ventures.
The Liberals ought to heed these words as they move forward to topple the Harper government. If, instead, they hesitate and give in to their fears, they will hand Stephen Harper an enormous political victory.
If the Conservatives manage to salvage their hold on government, the retribution they will inflict on each of the opposition parties will be a terrible one.
Having committed a grave political blunder last week with its Economic Statement, the Harper government is desperately regrouping to try to regain control of the situation. Apparently they are in full retreat, but no one should be fooled.
The concessions being offered — backing away from slashing campaign funding for political parties, dropping the assault on the right of civil servants to strike, and moving forward the date of the budget — are all designed to convince faint hearted Liberals that they should abandon the idea of defeating the government and installing a new ministry in which they will hold the key positions.
If the Conservatives manage to salvage their hold on government, the retribution they will inflict on each of the opposition parties will be a terrible one. Stephen Harper does not deal well with what he interprets as public humiliation. Here’s a guy who can’t even attend the annual Press Gallery dinner in Ottawa because he’d have to lampoon himself and people might laugh at him. Lacking a sense of humour, which means a sense of proportion, he is not well-suited to political life in a democracy where give and take is of the essence.
The only thing this man understands is conquest, which is why even the members of his own party don’t really like him. If the Liberals decide to let Harper wriggle out of this one, they will have exchanged the substance of victory for a Pyrrhic victory.
Making a coalition work will not be easy for either the Liberals or the NDP. What will unite them though is that they are on the same side of the fence when it comes to the need for a serious stimulus package to cope with the economic crisis.
Oddly enough, keeping the Bloc onboard may prove to be not so challenging. The Bloc will claim credit for the portion of the stimulus package that goes to Quebec, and they will be rid of Harper’s noxious agenda on culture, crime and gun control, an agenda that Quebeckers hate with a passion.
The Liberals, NDP and the Bloc can either hang together or they will hang separately.
They cannot play this game again. If they were to unite to topple the Conservatives further into the mandate of this parliament, Harper would have a much better chance of talking the Governor General into granting him a dissolution and a new election.
This is it guys.
If the opposition fails to defeat the government and install a new one, Harper will exercise complete control for the next couple of years. The opposition parties will be stuck with Flaherty’s budget at the end of January, which is virtually certain to fall short of what the country needs in terms of economic stimulus. Do they really want to place the fate of Canadians in the hands of a man whose first plan for coping with the economic crisis included selling the CN Tower?
This may not have been the way the Liberals wanted to return to government. But it’s a good way. If they perform effectively in office for the next two years, the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc will be well positioned for the next election. And, it will be the Conservatives who will fall prey to infighting. If the Conservative government falls, the campaigns to replace Harper as leader will be well underway by Christmas.
The united power of the opposition parties has been demonstrated to great effect over the past few days. They occupy the high ground and the only thing that stands in their way is their own self-doubt.
PS I know the speech at the top of this post was delivered by Brutus, who came to a bad end. Shakespeare had a way of having even his doomed characters give voice to enduring truths.
James Laxer is a Professor of Political Science at York University in Toronto. His published books include Decline of the Superpowers; False God: How the Globalization Myth Has Impoverished Canada; The Undeclared War: Class Conflict in the Age of Cyber Capitalism; the national bestseller, Stalking the Elephant: My Discovery of America; and the award-winning Red Diaper Baby: A Boyhood in the Age of McCarthyism.
Harper is a neo-conservative ideologue, obsessed with power and his own sense of self importance. He is contemptuous of Canada and a stalwart member of neo-con right-wing groups, closely linked to their U.S. counterparts. This group’s insidious agenda is not what most Canadians envision for our country. Conservative Canadians who believe that Harper’s party represents them and the country have been duped by his relentless divisive propaganda aided and abetted by the cowed media and pundits. If these Canadians remove their blinders, they will see the ‘real’ Stephen Harper and get a glimpse of what he has in store for us in the coming year. They will see that Harper’s plans for the direction of our country are far different from that of mainstream Canadians, regardless of where we stand on the political spectrum.. It is imperative that Canadians of all political persuasion unite for the good of our country.