More SHOCKING News : Harper not really fiscal Conservative … oh wait, that’s not a shock either.

Posted on January 30, 2009


The only real surprise is that it has taken this long for advocates of smaller government to catch on or — more charitably — make a public fuss about it.

Here is a link to the Globe article which summarizes the reaction.

One quote in particular summarizes the angle of the piece:

Ms. Kheiriddin, co-author of Rescuing Canada’s Right: Blueprint for a Conservative Revolution, said the party’s base may decide to stay home in the next election, particularly if the package does not work. “It flies in the face of all the principles Mr. Harper personally held for a number of years, as well as what the movement was hoping this government would achieve.”

I am genuinely — and I mean this without a hint of sarcasm or irony — baffled about what seems to be only a recent revelation to these advocates of small government.

After living overseas for about five years, I only really started to pay attention again to Canadian politics in Feb. 2007, when I went to work on the Hill. By March 19th, 2007, I knew without a doubt that Harper was and is not a fiscal conservative. This was, of course, the day Budget 2007 — the biggest spending budget in Canadian history — was tabled in the House of Commons.

A personal highlight of the day was watching Andrew Coyne reporting from the House. His absolute disgust was not only audibly palpable in his voice but manifest in his body language — crossed arms, tense almost crumpled body. He seemed on the edge either of tears or of taking a flame thrower to the place.

What should have been a triumph for fiscal Conservatives that day was an utter disappointment and, for anyone who was watching with clear vision, it was the final and irrevocable proof that Mr. Harper and his team stand by no principle and are only concerned with holding power. Indeed, even a cursory examination of Harper’s political career reveals a man whose only goal is to be in control and that he will resort to any means to achieve that end. Harper’s only secret agenda is that he has no agenda other than holding power.

The thing that also struck me that day was what a total strategic blunder the budget was. Counter-factuals are always rightly suspect but I truly believe that had Harper introduced a small-government-budget — reduced spending and tax cuts — the Opposition would have voted the budget down, he would have had his election, and he would have won his majority. Instead he threw so many billions at Quebec that the Bloc had to and happily supported the budget.

Of course, that calls attention to what I take to be the other great Harper myth — that he is some kind of master tactician and / or strategist. Six months ago, I might have said more to justify my view that his genius is more myth than fact, but the election blunders and the debacle of the fall economic statement more than aptly demonstrate that Harper’s only genius is to happen to be the leader of the Conservative party when the Liberals are in such absolute disarray. Indeed, even with a hapless Opposition, he came very close to losing everything and only survived thanks to a questionable decision by the GG. Hardly, the stuff of genius.

So, why is Harper’s questionable commitment to the idea of small government a sudden and unexpected revelation to advocates of small government. The only explanation I can offer is that Canada’s fiscal conservatives adopted a trait characteristic of some of their social conservative allies: blind faith.

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