Entries from November 2008 ↓

Caucus confidential

Dion to be next PM

Man overboard: Flaherty flounders as Harper bails

Some days a boy is just left shaking his head.

Two years ago Stephen Harper threw me out of the Conservative caucus allegedly for breaking caucus confidentiality. When asked to prove it by the media, he could not.

This weekend the Harper Conservatives not only eavesdropped on the national caucus meeting of another party, but then bragged about to the media and released an audiotape. What’s worse? Utter hypocrisy, or a total lack of ethics?

Ah, but this is just the start.

Since staring death in the chops – the kind of political oblivion Mr. Harper visited upon me, heaped upon Stephane Dion, dumped on Bill Casey and anyone else who dared question or oppose him – our subprime minister has been showing just the kind of guy he really is. Apparently, he’s willing to say, or do anything to retain power.

First, he used an economic crisis for millions of Canadians as an excuse to try and screw his opponents on Parliament Hill. In his glee, he forgot any measures to help families or create jobs.

Then, realizing what a dickhead move that was, and after defending it for one day, he threw it overboard. Then he also threw overboard a move to take away the right to strike from public servants.

Along with this, he cancelled a vote in Parliament that would have defeated his government, and pushed it back to December 8th.

Then he threw his finance minister overboard, having him announce a budget for January that he had just announced for March.

Now, as I wrote this, comes news Harper is actually considering shutting down Parliament entirely to prevent any vote from taking place until a budget is read – two months from now.

It could not be any clearer right now what matters to this person, which is what I have been saying here for two years. Stephen Harper is obsessed with himself, with holding and exercising power, and with political brinkmanship. He orchestrated the last election when there was no need for one, simply to avoid the coming financial mess. During the campaign he lied to voters about the economy, the banks, the deficit and the opposition. In Halton, voters were told Liberals would scrap child care payments, jack up the GST and run a deficit – messages which had been repeated in millions of dollars worth of government propaganda funded by taxpayers. All lies. And no sooner had the vote happened, but this guy was in Peru saying the economy was 1929 all over again, and bailing out the banks with $75 billion.

If there was ever an election which was financially and intellectually stolen, it was this one.

And over the last three days we have proof after proof that the Harper agenda has virtually nothing to do with the welfare of the Canadian people. Unethical, dishonest, unprincipled and hate-driven, it is a dead party walking.

Eight more days.

By the sword

Election night, 2008, and I was standing in the foyer of our campaign office with a CTV microphone in my face. Lloyd Robertson came on the monitor at my knees while the local reporter, Galit Soloman, held the mic.

It was a weird moment. I recalling hanging out with Lloyd in the network newsroom, giving him investment advice and some tips about his property on the Trent Canal, always being impressed at what a gentle soul he was. Then I remembered hiring Galit when she was a young exchange student, just trying to get into television production. She impressed me by showing up one day at the television and Internet broadcasting company I’d founded after leaving CTV, and offering to work for free. She was soon an on-camera presence, and as I looked at her this night, a poised and consummate broadcast professional.

But I digress.

When the satellite feed hooked in and we went live, when Lloyd asked me for my assessment of the night, my comment was simple: This is the night Stephen Harper lost it.

After all, it was the guy’s third kick at the can as a federal leader in an election campaign that was his to lose. He’d blown it totally in 2004, coming across as a scary rightist wingnut. In 2006, even up against Mr. Dithers and in the midst of a generational scandal, he barely eked out a win. And in 2008, fighting a man most of my constituents could not understand with an environmental platform when the story was the economy, he faired no better. In fact, only 60% of Canadians bothered to voted, and less than 40% of them supported Harper.

This was no mandate to last.

And so, here we are today. In his first act, with financial anxiety rampant in the land, Harper uses a key economic update not to help citizens but as an opportunity to screw his political opponents. It was political brinksmanship of the highest degree, and a measure of a man who ultimately cares only about himself and the divinity of his own ideas. He is a bully who now lives in a cloud of self-delusion, thinking he won an election when, in reality, the other guy lost.

And while he’ll try to pull a bunny form his hat over the next week, suddenly promising billions in new spending and a changed path, Harper’s done. In his government’s action this week it showed once again it cares most about power, and far less about using it to build and care for Canada. He’s poisoned the atmosphere in Ottawa just when we need Ottawa to work. He won the election by spreading lies – as did his opponent in my district – and an inattentive populace shrugged and said, yeah, whatever.

Since then the economy has deteriorated, markets plunged, house values eroded and jobs disappeared as whole industries stagger. And what does the prime minister make as his economic centrepiece? Skewering his ideological foes, bankrupting them, playing politics while the citizens of the land suffer and worry.

This does not surprise me. It’s why I said election night he was the loser. Soon he will lose government. Soon after that, he’ll be gone. Joe Clark, 1979. Steve Harper, 2008. Legacy: Loser. The only prime minister ever to have had his government defeated for incompetence and indifference and replaced by a coalition just weeks after an election. This is the man whose eyes I looked into after being elected to his caucus in early 2006, and saw hate.

Once again this week he’s lived by the sword of animosity and spite. And so shall he die by it.

Piece of work

“If you don’t want.. tax increases and a deficit and recession, the only way to ensure that is the case is to vote for the Conservative party.”
– Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Oct. 12)

This week I finished the manuscript for a new book on the economic collapse we are all now facing, and what people should do to safeguard their wealth, their futures and their families. There are some inescapable conclusions to my work. One of them: a great deal of the pain Canadian are about to face was totally avoidable.

That was driven home Thursday by the unbelievable drivel delivered by Jim Flaherty in his economic statement. He did nothing to create a single job for one Canadian worker. But he walked us closer to the brink of deficit, started to sell off the furniture, and forced a needless war with his political opponents at a time when the country needs all oars in the water.

Shamelessly he talked about sacrifice and belt-tightening in Ottawa as he stood before the most bloated federal front benches in decades. Stephen Harper has surrounded himself now with almost 40 ministers, all with staffs, limos and drivers, big budgets and departments. That one little excess is costing the taxpayers an extra $10 million a year.

This is also the government which goosed federal spending by 25% in the last three years, taking it to the highest point in Canadian history. Money was shovelled into transfer payments, into Quebec for example, purely to suck in more Conservative votes. We bought useless tanks for $100 million, cargo planes than don’t fly much for $4 billion and pretended we were a military power.

During the election campaign Harper basically lied to Canadians, saying we have a strong economy, would incur no deficit, and had the world’s best banks. Then he won, told us to prepare for hard times, bailed out the banks with $75 billion and warned of a deficit.

Last weekend he went to Peru, stood before the global media, and said things could get as painful as they were following 1929. Then he came home, and delivered an economic statement which helps nobody, and has as its centrepiece a gutting of his political foes – for his own self interest. And for that piece of testo-driven brinkmanship, he gambles another election when the people need help.

What a piece of work.

The Harper Conservatives have, in too many ways, walked the country into this global mess by failing to heed the US mistakes – even when they were clearly pointed out. We brought in our own subprimes and turned the housing market into an unstable bubble. We allowed government to overspend and burn through a precautionary surplus. We cut sales taxes when income taxes were too high. We turned our back on industry requests a year ago, and let troubles turn into crises. We had an unsophisticated finance minister who blabbered the currency around. We acted like $140 oil and an Alberta boom could paper over a black hole in Ontario manufacturing, despite the certainty that boom would fade. In short, our federal government did nothing to isolate us from this contagion, because it was too obsessed with winning an election. And, we now know, winning it by lying.

So, here we are. And Harper’s first acts are to shove a stick in his opponents’ eye, and turn his back on citizens in need. What a piece of work.

There’s talk now MPs will defeat the Conservatives, visit the GG and form a coalition government. Or maybe Libs will find the courage to force an election in which Canadians pay attention.