Sunday, November 16, 2008

Harper Dances with Deficits

What a difference a week makes. What a difference a month makes. A week ago Prime Minister Harper was convening a Seinfeld-like First Minister’s meeting on the economy and offering nothing and the discussions were about as equally energizing as to what to do. But he can say he consulted with the Provinces before he makes his anticipated unilateral decisions. Stelmach was right to stay in Europe and his offer to “phone it in” made sense when we see the results of what was a three hour exercise in political – not economic - process.

In the election Harper was skillfully man-handling the Liberals and manipulating the media with the old saw of Liberals being taxers and spenders. He was carpet bombing the messaging and describing the dire warnings that would result from a Liberal vote. To let the likes of Dion, as advised by Paul Martin, would be risking deficits...and that, we were told, was a risk that was not worth taking.

The Harper Cons campaign mantra was that the economic fundamental of the country is strong and Canada was going to be OK in the face of the market meltdown. He milked the symbolism of a small group of banking insiders ranking the Canadian banking system as the best of a bad bunch. A 60 second reflection on that “positive news” was hardly reassuring.
Since then Harper has made $75B of taxpayer’s cash available to those excellently run banks so they could have some bad loans bought up. This is to convince the banks to start lending again.

So far the banks have not taken up any of this Harper largess with our tax money. The prime lending rate has been cut and cut again and the Bank of Canada has also injected more liquidity in the Canadian banking system. Now he is poised to bail out the automotive industry in consort with the lane-duck Bush bunch. It all seems so Trudeauesque, who equally failed years ago to convince us with his election rhetoric and silly sloganeering that “The Land is Strong.”

Now Harper is backtracking on his infamous fiscal frugality and flirting with deficit spending coming out of the G20. Of course government should be spending for infrastructure and to create jobs and cash flow in such tough times. Especially when the banks and business will not, or cannot, step up to the plate to do so. But why did the Prime Minister mislead us during the election campaign over instituting such an obvious means to address such serious matters? Is it because Harper thinks that Kim Campbell was actually right? That election campaigns are not the place to discuss issues of significant concern to the country?

If you looked up mendacity in the dictionary you should not be surprised if you were to see Steven Harper’s picture. Harper has proven himself to be a shrewd and canny campaigner and a powerful political enforcer. He has a long way to go to prove himself as a good governor but the times are begging for such leadership. As for Harper becoming a statesman, one has to wonder if he is even slightly interested or capable of such status given his purpose and passion for personal political power.