By Jason Menard
Recently at a hospital clinic the specialist greeted my wife and I with a simple, but telling, comment. He said, “Well, one week into a new government and the sky still hasn’t fallen.”
If that doesn’t sum it all up, I don’t know what would. We’re in a national wait and see position. The left-leaning among us are watching and waiting for that other shoe to drop – some would say in a goose-stepping fashion – and the expected Conservative deluge to come forth.
Most importantly, all of us on both sides of the electorate, are waiting to see what Stephen Harper’s going to do. He’s waved the saber at the Americans over the Arctic waters – partly because it’s the right thing to do, and partly to distance himself from the U.S.-based conservatives who threaten to stain Harper’s Conservatives with a little Bushian Republicanism. The Prime Minister-designate has also committed to continuing Canada’s role in supporting international initiatives, such as overseeing the elections in Haiti.
Most of us don’t know what he’s going to do first — and we’re waiting with bated breath.
As the medical specialist said, the sky isn’t falling. But most of us aren’t ready to tear down the scaffolding just yet, because we’re worried about the shaky foundations that our country’s future is built on.
Really, you have to feel bad for Harper. He can’t even field a congratulatory phone call from George Bush without some looking at it as validation of the U.S. right-wing’s glee over a new, conservative-minded regime running things north of the 49 th. If Bush called Martin after a victory, no one would have blinked an eye, but the allure of a Bush/Harper marriage is too much to resist.
So where does Harper go? Knowing that this minority probably won’t fare much better than its predecessors, he has two options before him. He can go conservative, which ironically means that he’ll have to be a softer, more-Liberal, Stephen. Or he can go all out and push the limits and resilience of his opposition. And somewhere, in the back of his mind, that option has to look appealing.
Knowing that the Liberals are in full-scale rebuilding mode and with several of their supposed leadership candidates eschewing the allures of the top post, Harper knows that the Liberals don’t want another election any time soon – especially if it means that Paul Martin and his baggage is back for another kick at the can.
As well, he has to be aware of voter fatigue. We’ve gone through two federal elections in under two years. We’ve borne a great expense for our dedication to democracy, and Harper would be wise to warn his opponents that any action that brings down the government will be presented to the public as a waste of taxpayer money. Nothing frightens an opposition more than the idea of being blamed for forcing us to spend another 150 million plus on yet another election.
So why not go for it? Why not be bold and put most or all of his eggs in one basket? Commit to the drastic tax cuts, the increased spending, and the social changes that he ran on in the first year of power. Force the opposition to make the choice between swallowing a bitter mandate pill or face an angry electorate.
Playing it safe and appealing to the middle-of-the-road voters would only anger the hawks in his own party and lead to inter-party squabbling down the road. The best offence is a good defense – and with three left-leaning parties in opposition and no apparent common ground to stand upon, the Conservatives’ best strategy may be to engage in an aggressive establishment of his platform.
That would mean that the sky would truly be falling for all the left-wingers out there – but the skies would be clear and sunny for all those right-wingers who have been waiting 12 years for their moment in the sun.
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