11.23.2010 07:06 AM

In today’s Sun: five years later (updated)

For starters, Stephen Harper – once the feared Reform Party outsider – is no longer feared so much, if at all. As with all prime ministers, Harper has become pretty familiar to the rest of us.

For a decade, the Liberals kept Harper and his conservative colleagues from power with frightening tales about what the right-wingers would do to social programs, health care and race relations.

But after five years, our social network is mainly what it was; health care is more or less intact; and the party with the most racially diverse caucus in the House of Commons is, well, Harper’s.

UPDATE: Delacourt weighs in on what I’ve tried to say, and what Martin has said much better than I could.

38 Comments

  1. Catherine says:

    Five years later….and our country is in deficit with no real plan to replace our vanishing manufacturing jobs.

    If you are in the upper income bracket, you may not notice.

    For the rest of us, it is not pretty.

  2. Lance says:

    An interesting, refreshingly non-partisan and reflective article in the Sun. You’ve hit upon one key to renewed success for the LPC; and that is demonizing your opponent, and saying “bogey-man” will only take you so far, and that the further you go, the less successful a strategy it will become. Crying “hidden agenda” after all this time just gets sillier the more a track record of proving otherwise becomes evident. Eventually, the Liberals are going to have to come up with a plethora of policies that are going to distinguish themselves from the Tories. I realize and can appreciate that they don’t want to reveal their hand before an optimal time, but eventually they are going to stick their neck out if they want to see eventual and renewed success down the road. Quite evidently, that requires strong leadership. And do they have that right now? No. They can bash Harper all they want for his heavy handed style, but I bet that they they wish they could have a small dose of that right now. Da Little Guy sure had it, and strong leadership like that is to be admired, regardless of the party.

    • jordan says:

      Admired? A lying, scheming, vicous mud-slinging sociopath who is on record as wanting to “destroy” the 30% of his fellow-citizens (does he know what that means?) who are or vote for Liberals? To quote Lucien Bouchard: NOT A REAL COUNTRY.

  3. Paul R Martin says:

    A very well written and well reasoned article Warren. Calling Harper names has not worked. The Liberals need some fresh policies and so far, I have not noticed any.

  4. Marc L says:

    Great column, and right on the button Warren. I’ll repeat the point I’ve been making for years now. It’s not just that the Liberals have no strategy. It’s above all that they have nop policies. They don’t have anything to propose to Canadians. However, it’s not as though there is any lack of isssues in this country. But when they do come up with something, they revert to the tireless corporate-bashing that the NDP is known for (cancel the corporate tax cuts, protectionism, etc.) or grand new spending intitiatives. We even had the spectacle of Scott Brison claiming that the solution to this country’s productivity problems is more government spending!

    It seems to me that the formula that worked during the Chretien-Martin years was relatively conservative economic policy (though more by necessity than anything else) combined with “progressive” social policies. The Harper government appears to be moving in the other direction — free-spending fiscal policies (though outside pressure has something to do with it) combined with an increasingly “right wing” slant to social policy, that was not really there over the past few years. Personally, I would be very keen on a Liberal party that sticks to the centre, with a more right-of-centre stance on economics, and a left of centre stance on social issues. And, drop the talk of coalition: a party that has no policies of its own that looks for the NDP’s help to govern looks like a party that is just desperate for power more than anything else. It’s not as if Layton’s NDP — in contrast to some of the Provincial wings — could credibly govern this country with the corporate-bashing anti-business policies it puts forward.

    Above all, the Liberals need to spell out a credible plan to bring the country forward over the next few years. It’s not as if there are no challenges to address. They just have no real plan to tackle them.

  5. terence says:

    So you are saying he’s more Liberal than the Libs?

  6. Ron says:

    Warren
    Just read your piece in the Sun…finally…I knew it was in you, just not sure when it would come out…Powers told me…I didn’t believe him at first…guess I now have to…you have finally written a piece without all the spin…some clear concise points…this kind of realistic reporting is what the people want to hear…not all the spin and rhetoric…
    Great Job

  7. Ted H. says:

    However, if had achieved a majority in either of the past two elections things would probably be very different.

    • Lance says:

      *SIGH* MORE hidden agenda – “just wait until he has a majority. Ohhhhh THEN you just wait and see.” Do you ever get sick of that never working?

      And even if that were true, what are the Liberals proposing that they do differently, considering that they have supported his agenda in Parliament for the the past five years?

      • Ted H. says:

        My turn to sigh at your comments. This is not spin, this is not hidden agenda fear mongering, get real and stop sounding like a broken record yourself. I was just stating a simple fact that Stephen Harper’s policies and strategy have been based on minority rule. If the Conservatives had a majority they would have equiped themselves differently. Would it better or worse for the Canadian people I don’t know, but permit me to say that charity does not seem to be regarded as a virtue by this government.

        • Gabriel Germaine says:

          Most parties/platforms get watered down when the governing party wins a majority. The Libs in the past campaigned from the left but governed from the right. In most cases most parties move to the centre. It’s not unreasonable to believe this would also be true of the Cons if they won a majority. Would there be mistakes and things done people wouldn’t? Probably but to think Canada would radically change would be foolish. Even if it did we could vote them out and bring back the Libs to fix it. The fear mongering has to stop. It’s a ridiculous stance.

  8. Marc L says:

    Catherine,

    Forget about the “vanishing” manufacturing jobs. They are not coming back. The relative decline of the manufacturing sector has been ongoing for the past 50 years, and has recently accelerated with the strength of the Canadian dollar. In contrast to what some would have you believe — usually to protect their own interests — it’s quite simply not true that the jobs lost in the manufacturing sector are “good” or high-paying jobs while the ones gained in other sectors of the economy are “bad” or low paying jobs. I did some work on that a few years ago, and Statistics Canada published a paper by Philip Cross that you can probably find on their website. In both cases the research punched a big hole in that story. There is nothing inherently “better” about manufacturing jobs (in an interview on his work with one of the papers, Mr. Cross in one quote quipped that there is nothing high-paying about a job in a pork-processing plant).

    The point I want to get at is that the LAST think I would want to see is the Liberals propose the kind of industrial policy that we have seen in the past where the government intervenes to artificially prop up failing industries to protect low-paying unskilled labour-intenstive manufacturing jobs. That would be very bad policy — unfortunately, comments like the one you made point right in that direction.

    • VH says:

      This is misinformation. Germany managed to be the world’s largest exporter from 2003 to 2008 and was second last year.

      And they have extremely strong unions.

      What you really mean is that certain states game the system and you want Ontario to play along and race to the bottom too rather than fighting to eliminate hidden and explicit trade subsidies.

  9. Ted H. says:

    “Right to Work” = Union Bashing, bring all workers to the lowest common denominator rather than try to bring them up, put the standard of living in a race to the bottom.

    “Entitlement” = Right wing speak for basic services such as health care that Canadian rely on and any civilized country should be happy to provide for all citizens. It ensures good quality of life and in fact is a bonus to the economy, not a drag. The Right does not think we should be “entitled” to such benefits, the purpose of government is to buy military hardware, cut taxes, and put people in jail, not actually try to make life better for citizens.

    • Ted H. says:

      There are jobs in RTW states, Germany already sees the hourly rate as a bargain, how long before China does too. Universal healthcare does not have to be on a crash and burn trajectory if a government sees it as the funding and social priority that it is in a civilized country. However I was really just pointing out that “Right to work” and “Entitlement” are loaded and primarily right wing terms, not criticizing your points which are well put even though I don’t agree with all of them.

  10. ed_finnerty says:

    I think that Ms Delacourt has it right. They have no program/policies to promote which are of interest to anyone.

    Of course, the response to their last program, ‘The Green Shift’, probably permanently curred them of the effort.

  11. Namesake says:

    Geez, there seems to be an outbreak of short memories & lack of insight at work, here, in not recognizing how parallel the two situations are…

    Once Chretien was firmly in power — which was achieved due to the public’s disgust w. all the previous govt’s scandals & broken promises & perceived economic mismanagement; the grand Red Book policies were just window dressing which pretty much just _stayed_ in the window — and was able to keep the little monster scandals of the day in their little boxes, it:

    sufficed to assure voters he’d continue to be pragmatic & stay the course, while demonizing the Opp. w. talk of their hidden agenda & crazed elements, to frighten voters away from a needless change.

    But Martin’s people overthrew Chretien, and not only let one of the monsters out of the box, but fed and watered it, until it grew
    big enough for:

    Harper to get into power — which was achieved due to the public’s disgust w. all the previous govt’s scandals & broken promises & perceived economic mismanagement; the grand ‘Open, Accountable, Transparent Gov’t’ policies were just window dressing which pretty much just _stayed_ in the window.

    And was Harper was in power, and managed to keep the little monster scandals of the day in their little boxes (sometimes by calling a time out!), it:

    sufficed to assure voters he’d continue to be pragmatic & stay the course, while demonizing the Opp. w. talk of their hidden agenda (coalition!) & crazed elements (socialists! separatists!), to frighten voters away from a needless change.

    _Harper_ didn’t win on the basis of grand policies (they didn’t even roll out a platform until, like, a week before his second election), or inspiring leadership: his constant complaints about the corruption of the previous regime finally stuck, the first time; and his ‘stay the course — the others will ruin things’ message worked the second, and, he hopes, the third time. As it did with Chretien.

    Granted, it’s tougher to replicate this cycle again in the absence of a big enough individual monster, to date, which is why we’re stuck in Groundhog Day mode, until a really big one breaks out. But I don’t see the current Lib. leadership for being any worse than the two immediately preceding ones or the current Cons. one, in this regard.

  12. nic coivert says:

    Are you kidding me? Tired of the old saw ‘don’t try that boogey man -hidden agenda stuff.’ Because it isn’t a hidden agenda, I know very well what Harper’s agenda is. I think he’s made it very clear. And no way would I want it implemented in full here in Canada. Massive Yankee style prisons with a conviction rate to fill them. More doling out of public money for faith based (read Christian Evangelical) organizations here and abroad. Which brings to me his stance on abortion, the track record there speaks for itself. And then there’s all the fiscal irresponsibility. Blowing a 12 billion dollar surplus. Promising 6-16 billion for war jets, while at the same time screwing the vets by buying them out with a one time payment. The environment. Undermining green initiatives everywhere. A complete lack of policy aside from blame it on the liberals… And these things should scare people. They scare me. I don’t want to mimic America’s failures.

    Unfortunately though, Ignatieff is a bit of a political mule.

    • smelter rat says:

      Canada’s New Government ™: muffling any dissenting voice from Canadian scientists and other civil servants who actually know what they’re talking about, unwavering support of Israel’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza, the obliteration of the Rights and Democracy organization, losing a Security Council seat to Portugal for God’s sake, $1 billion spent on the G20 with hundreds of citizens’ civil rights trampled…I agree, his agenda isn’t hidden at all. Most Canadians just don’t want to see it.

    • wes werkman says:

      Can you tell me why supporting faith based orginizations is bad?

      • nic coivert says:

        Suppporting faith based orgs is not inherently bad, of course, but when it is done to the exclusion of non-faith based orgs then we have a problem, and when it is done strictly within the narrow ideological frame-work of Christian fundamentalism then we really have a problem. We don’t need a government in power choosing favourite religions to garnish with tax dollars. We’ve all seen what the rise of the religious right has done to the States, and it is those very same groups are being empowered today by Ottawa. And its not just within Canada either, this is occurring in foreign aid as well, in Africa, in Haiti. Canada is increasingly favouring Christian Missions over all others. The religious right is now one of the most powerful lobby groups on the hill. And they are being well fed.

  13. Ted H – give me a break, it’s the unions that champion the “lowest common denominator” factor for all workers, I’ve worked in enough union shops to see that happen. Gone is the opportunity to advance on merit and skill level, once the union is entrenched it is them the company must deal with, and they have NO interest in the workers other than the LCD. Gone is the ability to deal with your employer as an individual, and typically the union shop stewards are the biggest dogf#ckers on the payroll.

    • Ted H. says:

      Unions are far from perfect but without them you’d be making $8.00 an hour. I would have said $5.00 but I am sure enlightened companies would pay their workers more than that.

      • Also a crock IMHO, in this day and age. That may have been partially true 40+ years ago, but isn’t now and market forces would not allow it. Job market is highly competitive out there and supply & demand dictate wages, not unions.

  14. Good article – we’re at a tipping point now.

    • JH says:

      I think so too Cameron, excellent article. I also think the discussion on here today has been one of the better ones, Even handed, little spin and civilized – congrats to all! Good Lord do you think sanity, politness and reasoned debate might break out all over the country. WK may be the new Messiah of Canadian Politics. Well, maybe that’s a bit much LOL.

      • Warren says:

        I tried parting my bath tub, but it didn’t work.

        • Fraternite says:

          So what is one to do with all of this, Warren? Just sit on our hands until a decent opposition party emerges? Vote for a Tory government that certainly isn’t good just because it’s not horrible? Start drinking the koolaid and vote NDP?

          I pretty much share the sentiment about Harper and his government being “meh” but for someone who has always been politically involved, I find it really difficult to sit out and just wait until something better comes along but really, there’s nothing I can do. I guess this is what apathy feels like…

        • I try parting something every night (usually), sometimes it works, other times she tells me to go to sleep for ### sakes..

          ce’st la vie..

        • allegra fortissima says:

          Gotta put more effort into it, Warren…

          • Namesake says:

            no point… ‘cuz parting the water’s wasn’t actually one of the Messiah’s feats (just: Jehovah’s, Moses’, Joshua’s, Elijah’s, & Elisha’s: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_Number_of_times_water_parted_in_Bible

            Try: Walking on it. Or turning it to Wine. Or filling it with Fish.

            But when all that fails, don’t throw out the tub with the water, so you can still brew up some gin to tide you over this long cold winter until all the Cons’ cons finally catch up with them and hit critical mass, so we can all mobilize to throw the bums out.

  15. orval says:

    The important fact to consider is that the CPC has already won a majority. In 2008 Federal Election, in provinces where there was no Bloc Quebecois (the so-called RoC) the results were as follows:

    CPC 43.29% – 133 seats
    LPC 27.13% – 63 seats
    NDP 20.32% – 32 seats

    In RoC the CPC already has a majority government…the CPC has probably improved since 2008, and the Vaughn byelection on Monday will probably show us the CPC is making gains in GTA.

    Here are 2008 results in Quebec:

    BQ 38.10% – 49 seats
    LPC 23.7% – 14 seats
    CPC 21.7% – 10 seats
    NDP 12.2% – 1 seat

    So long as the BQ remains strong in Quebec, a majority is unlikely UNLESS one of the federal parties makes up the difference elsewhere. The West is lost to the Liberals, so the only realistic possibility for a majority government next time is the Conservative upsurge in 905 and 416. Will Rob Ford voters go Conservative? We’ll see. If so what are the Liberals going to do about it?

    The worst thing to happen to the Liberal Party (apart from being abandoned by Paul Martin on Election Night 2006 after he spent 13 years taking over the party to turn it into “Team Martin”) was Conservative minority government. Why? Because by being constantly on an election footing, the Party has avoided the need to re-build itself to be competitive once again. The party is now a husk, and is not capable or ready to offer Canadians a possible alternative government. The Liberal party is doing NOTHING to earn its way back into contention.

    What2do?

    1. Concede that the Conservatives won the election and are the Government. State clearly that there will be no election until 2012. Support the Government when it follows liberal policy (e.g Afghanistan extension, stimulus spending). When it doesn’t, state objections clearly but allow the Government to enact its programme (maybe one day the shoe will be on the other foot).

    2. Use the time to re-build the machinery of the party – membership, fund-raising, outreach to potential new voters, communications, candidate recruitment and selection, etc. Learn from the Conservatives. Be aware that the process might not be complete in 2012 and the party will not win. There is no shame in this.

    3. Patiently begin to build a policy framework, through asking the membership and also “Kingston conferences” and the like. Forget about insulting Conservatives (and their voters) by claptrap about “da Canadian values” and “neo-con Republican American-style” blah-blah-blah. Be a national political party, a Canadian party, not a pressure group or a protest movement.

    4. Get serious. Forget the trivial and the banal. Pick the core issues and use them to criticize/praise the government. Stop chasing the polls and stop yammering about nonsense scandals. On the day that North Korea bombarded the south and the Ireland was in financial and political collapse, the Official Opposition was asking questions about Minister Paradis’s coat! “Nuf said. This is not a serious opposition. Let the NDP be the silly party. We are the proud Liberal party, the party of Laurier, King, St-Laurent and Pearson. Maybe Ignatieff can join that group one day. But start acting that way now.

    • Namesake says:

      Geez, maybe that would be the right thing to do… if this were 1950! But that ‘Only take the high road’ approach already doomed one to perpetual “Also Ran” status in the ’70s… what you’re describing here is: Robert Stanfield.

      If Harper had followed this advice, he’d still be in Opposition; and you’ve just condemned us to at least five more years of it.

      As for the coat of many costs issue today: sure, maybe they didn’t handle it too deftly in QP today (judging by Wherry: http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/11/23/the-commons-the-ministers-coat/ ),

      but there is a serious issue here that fits into the overall narrative of ‘It’s only taken them 5 years to foresake all their values and become just as corrupt and “entitled to their entitlements” as the Libs allegedy were after decades of being “the natural governing party.”

      After all, the former Lib. Cabinet Minister & then Crown Corp. head David Dingwall got savaged for months & is still invoked today for his allegedly extravagant & trivial expenses…which he was cleared of, but no one remembers that.

      And here, in the midst of an emerging public works kick-back scandal (which recalls Adscam) he is associated with, we have a current Cons. Cabinet Minister who either has a suspiciously extravagant item (considering this party’s anti-elitist, populist posing), or, worse, has been trying to extort over six times the cost of his lost coat from a contractor who was holding a fundraiser for him out of gratitude for being awarded a public works contract he shouldn’t really have been considered qualified for. So even if Minister Paradis was totally innocent and oblivious of the questionable contracts (as indeed the Liberal members were found to be), it goes to his character as to why he would submit a bill to this inflated amount (or indeed, at all).

      (the contractor Sauve testified to the Government Operations committee that Christian Paradis’ staffer called his office to demand that he reimburse $5400 for the cashmere coat which the Cons. are now saying was really just a $650 wool one:

      http://www.cbc.ca/politics/insidepolitics/2010/11/in-the-shadow-of-t
      he-north-tower—-liveblogging-the-west-block-inquiry-at-government-
      operations.html

      http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/contractor-says-tory-lobbyist-won-him-parliament-hill-renovation-job-110131284.html

      So that could well be as an important plank in the whole “There’s something rotten in the state of Denmark” ship that’s being built to sink this Party as the whole extended Dingwall episode was, before, for those of us who don’t want to wait until 2016 to have a chance of having an alternative gov’t.

  16. DL says:

    “In every election, it seems, Harper’s opponents predict he will lose his temper, or do something spectacularly stupid on the campaign trail. But he never does.”

    I have to disagree with this assertion. The fact is Harper has done several very stupid things on the campaign trail which have cost him dearly. Here is just a small selection:

    *putting out a press release accusing Paul Martin of supporting child pornography and then refusing the withdraw it.
    *musing about even if he won a majority, the Supreme Court and the Senate would prevent him from doing anything too drastic.
    *making caustic comments about how artists are all spoiled children going to galas – which cost Harper dearly in Quebec in 2008
    *telling Canadians that the economic meltdown in 2008 was a great buying opportunity on the stock market

    Honourable mention: It wasn’t “on the campaign trail”, but Harper’s economic statement of Nov. 2008 with the idiotic gratuitous attempt to strip parties of all funding has to stand as a pretty spectacular goof by Harper as well.

  17. Rick T. says:

    A very good article Warren. Your observations are right on the money. Until the Liberals come up with a leader who is capable of taking on the PM, the Opposition is where the party will remain. I like change and every ten years the two parties should change places only as long as there is a Leader that can steer the Canadian economy on a steady course. The next election will probably be another Conservative Minority. Harper will win more seats in Newfoundland ( Hydro) and loose seats in Edmonton ( Expo) but basically the numbers will be close as they are now. Iggy needs to be less negative and lighten up and he may get more support.

  18. Sean says:

    …in 2005, who would have thought Harper would force three consecutive Liberal Leaders out of office? amazing…

  19. Patrick Deberg says:

    Don’t forget it is not just Harper you could fear. Tony clement, johnny baird, big Jim fllatherty are key in harpers plan. These guys were instrumental in the runation of Ontario and the mike harris disaster. All the good reformers, deb grey, diane Ablonsky , Preston Manning ( I was going to vote for him once before Harper cut him off at the knees) were marginalized. Red tories out of the tent. Givin a mandate these clowns would transform Canada in one year not ten. Change by increment indeed. I think the reason Canadians will not give Harper a Majority is we know all to well where they want to take us. And we don’t want to go there. That whole bunch are feral wolves waiting for the elk to falter and stumble. Warren you know better…………..

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