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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Are Charest and Harper Both Past Their "Best Before" Dates Already?

The volatility of the political scene all over the country is fascinating to watch and I would like focus on two examples. We have the spectacle of Jean Charest playing chicken with oppositions on his budget and the infamous "tax break for the middle class” that may (or not) trigger an election. The myth of the “so-called” fiscal imbalance in Quebec is now proven to be a myth if equalization money from Canada can be used for a tax reduction when it is supposed to provide for equivalent public service levels.

The ADQ and PQ parties are both on record as opposed to his cynical budget ploy by Charest. They say the tax break Charest wants would be better public policy if it were provided in the form of a debt repayment. That way the interest saved could be added to operating budgets through enhanced general revenues and that way serve the needs of Quebecers for generations. Charest is now being framed as a guy who can’t count akin to Joe Clark’s budget folly that brought down his minority federal government decades ago.

Next week will be most interesting in Quebec politics. I just hope the new Lt. Gov. in Quebec avoids an election and asks Mario Dumont to take a stab at forming a government with the PQ under a newly anointed leader in the form of Pauline Marois.

Another unfolding, or unraveling, drama, depending on your POV, is the aimless wanderings and wanings of the Harper Cons. The Base is angry at the lack of alignment of Harper’s actions to Reform/Alliance principles and the Quebec gambit of buying Charest’s victory with Ottawa tax money is backfiring too. The personal power agenda of the Prime Minister has alienated and aggravated just about anyone who he needs and wants within his sphere of influence.

He is now determined to devalue his political stock in Ontario with his legislative agenda to add and redistribute new House of Commons seats. It is god for the west but it is also more pandering to Quebec. That is now perturbing Ontarians even more as Harper moves to realign the seat distribution in a way that undermine their power and influence and short changes the largest voter group in the country.

With all the levers of power at his disposal for over 16 months and with no real threat of an election, unless he wants one, Harper has not been able to move beyond his political support ranking of the last election. Loyalty to his leadership from the Reform/Alliance side of the CPC is eroding and his personal trustworthiness and political integrity is in decline as well.

He is about to shut down Parliament and do an “Elvis” and “leave the building” in the next few weeks. more than a tad prematurely. He will leave a load of unfinished business and most of his critical policy Bills are now in limbo. This retreat from governing will enable his opponents, Dion in particular, to regroup and revive. He also forfeits the ability to control and set the political agenda in the media while wandering about the land on the BBQ circuit talking to his "choir" about yesterday's victories and avoiding discussions about today's realities.

Given that the big issue is going to be the environment and the fact it will continue to grow in importance this summer, Harper will become increasingly less relevant given his lack of traction, trust and tenacity on those issues. I am sensing the Harper era, such as is has been, is about to fade to black. The sound track will change and be full of whimpering and whining, with more vengeance and vanquishing to come from his partisans. That sentiment will show up with surprising results in many of the pending constituency nominations.

Look out for a multitude of maverick CPC bumper stickers on pick up trucks all over rural Alberta this summer saying: “Come Back Preston Manning. All is Forgiven!”