Harper’s Government is in response mode
By Bruce A Stewart
Summers in Canada are normally non-political. We enjoy the good weather. Politicians do the rubber chicken circuit.
Major initiatives? They’re for the fall.
The summer of 2012, though, comes with complications, putting a premium on watching and waiting.
Over in the Eurozone, a mistake has been made. The conditions — or lack of them — placed on Spain to keep its zombie banks alive and pretending to be solvent aren’t the same ones placed on Ireland or Greece.
The Irish are already up in arms, and demanding the same lax “do carry on” conditions as the Spaniards got.
You can be sure this will also play out in the Greek election. Why vote for the hair shirt of austerity when Spain didn’t have to?
Earlier this week, of course, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, pulled a hissy fit when our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, refused to commit any additional monies to a Eurozone bailout plan.
Why should he? Why should we? That, evidently, was a question she wasn’t prepared for.
Many have commented on the apparent drift of the Stephen Harper Government. There are no new initiatives to take the eye off the file they’ve muffed — the F-35s — off the grind to pass the omnibus budget implementation (and half a hundred other policy changes) bill, and the on-going situations in Etobicoke Centre and with the robocall complaints from the last election.
Yes, things are getting passed — most recently, the move to excise Section 13 of the Human Rights legislation — but these are coming as private member’s bills. Government legislation is all tied up in the omnibus package, and then the order paper is essentially bare.
There’s a reason for this.
Sometime later this year — perhaps as early as the summer — the dominoes of the second global financial crisis will start to fall.
This will slam Canada hard: demand for our exports will fall, currency valuations will suddenly shift, capital will flow to “safe havens” and away from investment. It’s likely some corporate giants will again quiver on the edge.
At the same time, the ratings agencies are likely to switch from optimism to pessimism (they are already issuing warnings). Ontario will almost certainly slide deeper into the hole as its debt is downgraded — again.
The calls for stimulus will be extreme. So will the international calls to siphon funds from Canada to patch unrepairable regimes.
Actions not seen for decades in Canada — such as using the Federal disallowance power to bring fiscal order to certain provinces — may have to be on the table, for the good of the nation.
Right now in Ottawa, scenarios are being built for all these contingencies.
When the firestorm starts, the challenge will be to pull it all together for Canadians, instead of looking like the government’s simply reacting to one event after another.
That’s why Harper’s government is watching and waiting. The time of testing is at hand.
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.