Musings —01.26.2015 08:27 AM—
What a difference a few weeks make.
Not so long ago, the federal government was counting on a structural surplus — and lots of largess to dispense at around the time of the final budget before the general election.
Not so long ago, the price of oil per barrel was going up. Not so long ago, the dollar was worth pretty close to a dollar (U.S.). Not so long ago, employment numbers seemed to be heading in the right direction. Not so long ago, the war against ISIS — which is a right and proper effort — was to be confined to air strikes, and a narrowly circumscribed mandate.
Now, of course, oil is on a dramatic downward slide, and so too is the Canadian dollar. Joblessness seems destined to get worse — with Target Canada alone dumping nearly 18,000 people on the sidewalk, how could it be otherwise? And the war against the genocidal forces that is ISIS — well, a few days ago it involved direct, face-to-face combat between Canadian troops and ISIS forces.
The Spring that the Harper government had been expecting is not the Spring Canada will be getting. Things look decidedly grim and are arguably getting grimmer.
It’s not entirely fair to do what some partisans (like NDP Leader Tom Mulcair) are now doing: that is, demanding to know why Harper didn’t foresee every one of these things happening. Nobody, including Mulcair, foresaw our circumstances getting this bad, this quickly.
But it is fair to do what other partisans like Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau are now doing — that is, asking: “Where is the plan?” While Harper may not have known what was coming in early 2015, what does he plan to do now that it is indisputably here?
As Trudeau has said, abandon some of the government’s announced — and reckless — tax stunts, for starters, and end the tribal wars with select provincial governments, for another. Develop an economic strategy, and dispense with the short-term economic tactics. And, when it comes to ISIS, return to Parliament to seek input (and, if required, approval) for a military endeavour that now looks quite different from what it looked like at the start.
If Harper declines to do most or all of these things, then Trudeau should fill the void. He can, and should, provide some policy about how he would do things differently. Along with it providing an alternative to the government — which is Trudeau’s job, after all — it would address the chief criticism of Trudeau himself. Namely, that he lacks any serious ideas.
Will any of these things come to pass? Who knows.
But one thing is for sure: the 2015 that our political leaders had been counting on?
It’s not the 2015 we’ve got.