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Friday, December 05, 2008

Harper Gets a Reprieve. Now What?

So now what? Have we merely staved off the inevitable non-confidence vote? Will Harper learn to love Canada as much as himself? Will Dion be gone at an accelerated pace? Will we find some adults to supervise Question Period? Will Canadians keep caring about their country enough to continue to engage at a meaningful level and not just be reactionary? Here are some observations and prognostications:

Dion: He has to go sooner than May 2009. His work here is done. The country is too volatile and split for the Liberals to wait for the next Godot to show up. Dion has considerable talents but political leadership and retail politics are not his strong suits. He has brought Harper to heel but he lacks the skill set and the mind set to make him sit shake-paw and beg. Those are the critical training objectives for Harper to master if he wants to extend this reign.

Harper: He is a man of many faces. It is as if being two-faced is not enough for him. He is not well intended in the service of the country and pathologically insincere in word and deed. As a result of such serious character flaws he suffers from a syndrome of serious integrity lapses. But he can be trained. Like all good puppies, he will learn because he responds to rewards and fears punishment. Harper is not yet House broken but he has finagled his way out of the House and into the dog house. He has pissed off most of the country with his snarling and aggressive behaviours. He is on a choker leash now and if he does not behave, he will be muzzled. If he continues to behave like a brighter but smart-ass George Bush he will be “put down” - politically at least.

Liberal Leadership: Let’s get the Liberal leadership over by the end of February – at the latest! The candidates are decided and known. This sequel promises to be less engaging that the first season and with fewer survivors left in “the Great Race.” The political climate is so fragile and the country is so uncertain that one lingering political uncertainty is unwise and unnecessary. Dion is done and the Liberals will be too if the dither.

The Coalition: This edition of a united opposition is likely over. It has done its job. It has humbled and humiliated Harper and for that we owe the leaders a debt of gratitude. If there is a new Liberal leader decided on a fast-track the second edition of an on-going opposition coalition ought to be part of the plan going forward. We need to look carefully at the concept of coalitions given we are on our third minority government in a row – and who know how many more will be coming.

Old Canada Redux: Canadians are still split on partisan lines and Harper has revived the regional animosities again. I would like to see a coalition government for a short term, like a year or so. It would serve as a potential test run of what governing would be like as a result of Proportional Representation. It would not be as a result of PR but it would be a consequence of PR.

The Next Canada: We are about to be tested as a nation and as a society. Our old orienting mythologies of being an inclusive, fair, caring and careful and cautious society are going to be put challenged due to this economic crisis. Our character as a nation will be highlighted as we work our way through the coming calamities. How we deal with big issues urbanization, climate change, immigration, aboriginal relationships and our place in the world and our roles and responsibilities as citizens are going to be highlighted.

The Next Election: Are we going to come through this as a new progressive society, stay as a consumptive at all cost “growth” society, or will be retreat to a traditionalist model? The next election will set that course. If Harper wins a majority we will retreat into a conservative ideological mode of thought noted for a moral discipline with an expectation of obedience to authority. Harper will be portrayed as the strategic manager and experienced economist will be the strict father figure to get us through the economic mess but based on fears and insecurities. More George Bush?

If there is some other election outcome we may see a different more progressive Canada emerge that is a more caring and nurturant society. We may see a new political culture that has government and leadership that is attuned to empathy, responsibility and hope where we protect, empower and care for each other in a more vibrant sense of community and common cause that includes the individual but is larger than the individual. More Barrack Obama?

One thing that seems certain, given the causes and courses of the economic meltdown, the status quo is not on. We are not longer able to afford and presuming we can continue to abuse the planet for personal gain at the expense of the “others.” We are embedded in a globally interdependent and vulnerable world that is facing an ecological peril that is more dire than the ensuing recession/depression.

As George Lakeoff says in The Political Mind “A new understanding is emerging about what is means to be human. Our political institutions and practices reflect our collective self-understanding. When that changes dramatically, so should our politics.”

He closes the book with the chilling observation “But we better hurry up. The ice caps are melting.” Amen!