Parliament has not yet reconvened and Stephen Harper has already goofed twice.
The promise to make every government bill an automatic confidence motion will with time look more and more like dumb bluster. Not only does this directly contradict his previous public statements, there are enough democrats in the country (in every political party) who realize that minority parliaments cannot function under such conditions and, if we are to have more minority situations, Stephen Harper’s promise is a dangerous and unworkable precendent. If an election occurs over a minor piece of legislation, the Harper Conservatives’ carry the full responsibility.
Secondly, the claim that striking a committee of unelected private citizens, who already appear to favour an extension of the combat role in Afghanistan, will neutralize the issue is ridiculous not brilliant. Imagine Stephen Harper’s response during an election Leaders debate to questions about the combat role that has resulted in increased levels of violence and instability in Afghanistan. Will he say that a committee is studying the issue and that election campaigns are not the time to talk about policy? Brilliant. Even those media commentators who loudly applaud Stephen Harper’s every word must be getting tired of being jerked around by the erratic Conservative message machine.
Some have argued that our leader Stephane Dion must have far-reaching, bold, even controversial policy pronouncements. Well what do you think his environmental policy is? The debate has not been settled. Stephen Harper’s government is doing everything in its power to not act and in addition to deceive the public about the costs and Canada’s goals. And targets like those contained in the Kyoto treaty are just an initial step. Media commentators can announce that the issue has been neutralized all they want, but does anyone believe them? Does anyone believe Stephen Harper? On the environmental file, we will witness the spectacle of the Liberals once again dragging the Conservatives kicking and screaming into modernity. These sorts of impressions can last for a generation and more.
I guess the Dion teams’ positioning of the Liberal party on the major issues of the day happened while many were sleeping. I am really pleased by the announcement of corporate tax cuts, a policy similar to “socialist” Sweden, to promote economic growth. The Afghanistan position is reasonable. We will end our combat mission in 2009, although further peace-keeping and aid efforts remain possible. It is time that our other partners in the NATO coalition do their part, otherwise it is not much of a coalition really.
In fact, the party has been positioned in what I think of as a policy sweet spot on most of the important issues. And there is no lack of talent in the federal Liberal caucus to get the message out. In the one-on-one debates of televised political discussion panels, the Liberal representatives leave the Conservatives looking like uniformed angry hacks which is why I would prefer at least another month or so for Liberal MPs to rake the Conservatives over the coals and to get Stephen Harper or one of his bumbling ministers on the record about the Conservative money laundering scandal.
Either way, its up to Stephane Dion to call the plays as he will be the leader for at least the next two elections. The talent and ambition of the current crop of MPs as well as the policies the Liberals are advancing, win or lose, make me proud to be a Liberal. Don’t expect an audience for excuses after the next election. Return victorious or on your shields.