Sunday, August 15, 2010

Harper's legacy. . . . .

Like many people, I have been somewhat surprised that Stephen Harper has managed to stay in the job of PM for as long as he has. But as I, and many others, have said, it has not been his mastery of political strategy that has maintained him at Sussex drive for this long. It has been a strange confluence of events that has kept the Conservatives in office, which has included above all a divided and often incompetent opposition. In other words, it hasn't been what the Conservatives have done that have kept them in office so much as what the opposition hasn't done. And of course, one effective strategy that the Cons have employed is legislating by stealth. Hiding troubling pieces of legislation in other, larger, bills, as well as making as many changes as possible through non-legislative means - these have been the hallmarks of the Cons time in office and they have set very dangerous precedents for the future. If all the things that the Cons have done actually went before the House and received adequate public debate, I believe Harper and his gang would be long gone from government. The largest failures of the opposition have been not getting these issues adequately on the public's mind. So it goes. 

However, like many others, I have felt a mood change in recent months. Time is the greatest enemy of governments regardless of their political stripes. Even with overwhelming support, time can weigh very heavily on the shoulders of any government. Things add up as the months and years go by, and even the most competent and honest government will find skeletons coming out of its closet, scandals pilling up on its doorstep, and its inadequacies coming home to roost. And in a situation of overall instability and minority government, a governing party's time is truncated and lessoned. In such a situation, a governing party is, in a sense, fighting up stream, particularly if its basic goal are controversial. It must thus, govern by stealth and stay in constant election mode. Such a government could only survive with extreme degrees of control and secrecy. Thus Harper's political instincts of control have been timely, another politician with the same situation and the same agenda would simply not have lasted this long. 

But it seems that time is catching up with the party in power as it always does. A party that was elected with a message of transparency, openness, and honesty cannot function too long in the direct opposite manner. Time itself will break down the strategy. Furthermore, time is giving more and more ammunition to the opposition  that will inevitably weigh heavily on the government. Apparent fiscal irresponsibility by a government that prides itself on its fiscal image is bound to be a major issue for any voter. Nine Billion for prisons in a time of fiscal trouble when the crime rate is going down, billions spent on international meetings with dubious outcomes, partisan directed funding, all of these things add up over time. And this is to say nothing of other important issues such as the constant firing of government watchdogs, the apparent disrespect for the supremacy of the House, etc. Indeed time's winged chariot is now beating the Prime Minister about the face and neck and the mood is slowly changing. 

The question then becomes; how many dangerous precedents of mismanagement has this government set which future governments can now take advantage of? Is this just one more four year period which will have resulted in the erosion of governance and the concentration of power in the office of the Prime Minister? And in the end, will this ironically be the very legacy that Stephan Harper was aiming at, successfully achieved??

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