“What next?” is proving a tough question to answer
By Bruce A Stewart
Think about a decade of accomplishment for Stephen Harper.
Unify the centre-right in Canada so that elections can be won? Check.
Gain power? Check.
Drive a stake through the heart of the Liberal Party and leave it bleeding on the floor? Check.
Convince Ontario and enough of the Maritimes to come along for the ride to get to a majority? Check.
Kill the long gun registry, the Canada Wheat Board, impose sentencing standards? Check, check, check.
Now, all of a sudden, the government is at a loss. What’s next?
Let’s go through the list of things that can’t be on the agenda, the way the Stephen Harper Government looks ahead to 2015.
The social conservative agenda is out. The “hidden agenda” meme is finally dying out — don’t wake it up.
Fiscal conservative moves? Well, in words, perhaps.
But the reality is that under Harper the size of our government has grown at Trudeauesque rates.
There’s a lot of mileage in those Economic Action Plan cheques and signage … in all those regional economic expansion agencies … in futzing around with little tax credits rather than overhauling the entire system.
Sure, the budget ought to get balanced … just in time for the next election. But not because it’s the right thing to do.
So the government nibbles around the edges a bit. “Let’s take some cost and delay out of the environmental review process.”
If there was a serious attempt to improve productivity in the civil service, or serious reductions planned — closing stale agencies, ending programs that have run their course, generally cleaning house and making things better — people wouldn’t be so focused on whether there’s a ranger to take your money at the park entrance this year, or whether the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse gets repaired, or whether the provinces can handle review processes properly.
But there isn’t.
So the government gets tossed around for its handling of the F-35s, and for little things.
Being the Harper Government, “oops! sorry” are not words you’ll hear. So the guns are brought out and a tiny matter blows up because of an over-reaction.
Unfortunately, with nothing else to say, that’s where it ends.
It took Stephen Harper nine of those ten years to get to his majority government, the one where he could do all the things he’d been dreaming of.
Turns out there weren’t many dreams there after all. Just a bunch of rhetoric, bluff and bluster. Maybe he ought to have had a hidden agenda?
Globally, the news will get much worse through the last half of 2012, 2013 and 2014. There won’t be much joy out there as Harper heads into his re-election campaign.
Canada’s now weaker than it was in 2007-2008-2009 when the last wave hit. You can thank overspending for that.
Meanwhile, across the aisle, a narrative is being formed. You may not agree with it. But a good story in harder times will be tougher to beat with “more of the same”.
If Harper’s wise enough to lead, he’d better be at it. Now, while there’s time.
Bruce Stewart is a consultant, educator and philosopher with a passion for public affairs currently located in Toronto. He is well known across the Internet for his blogs on management (Getting Value from IT) and social affairs (Just a Jump to the Left, then a Step to the Right) and for his daily stream of commentary on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.