The Tories should do more than blink. They should be made to throw up the whole mess of reactionary policies that masquerade as prudent responses to the recession. Both the opposition and the mainstream media refuse to even talk about many of the right wing aspects of the economic update:
i) The sale of crown assets at fire sale prices into a buyer's market for the sole purpose of making it look as if the financial situation is not so bad.
ii) caps on public sector wages. now that sure helps purchasing power and stimulates demand.
iii) doing away with the right to strike for public workers.
iv) cutting of equalization payments, a sure way for the Conservatives to lose seats in Quebec.
v) sabotaging pay equity suits.
No doubt there are many others. What sort of an opposition and a competitive press do we have when most of these issues are just ignored in favor of the lack of a stimulus package and funding of politicial parties. Even if neither of these were an issue the economic update would still be simply mask a clear right wing agenda that Harper is trying to push through in spite of the fact he only has a minority. He may end up not even having a government.
Tories blink first in showdown TheStar.com - Canada - Tories blink first in showdown
TOM HANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes a statement regarding the Oppositions' plan to form a coalition government, in front of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Nov. 28, 2008.
Plan to slash subsidies for parties is withdrawn, but opposition still aims to defeat government
November 30, 2008 Les WhittingtonTonda MacCharlesBruce Campion-SmithOttawa Bureau
OTTAWA—An unexpected climbdown by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on a key element of his explosive economic package is unlikely to halt the opposition’s joint effort to oust the minority Conservative government.
In a stunning about-face, Transportation Minister John Baird went on television yesterday afternoon to announce the Harper government would reverse its controversial proposal to strip political parties of federal subsidies.
"It's not worth going to an election over," Baird said on CTV, referring to the subsidies. "We'll leave that political debate for another day."
And there were hints there could be further retreats in store. A Conservative official said the government "will put more water into their wine" when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty makes an announcement today in Toronto, The Canadian Press reported. But the official said the announcement will not include any new economic stimulus.
The plan to axe subsidies was one of several elements of a Conservative economic package that have the Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Québécois poised to vote down the Conservatives and replace them with a coalition government.
Late yesterday, the Liberals and NDP said the Conservatives' flip-flop on political party subsidies is not enough to keep the Harper government from being voted down at the first opportunity in the Commons.
Sources told the Star last night that high-level talks are afoot to choose someone other than departing Liberal leader Stéphane Dion as the interim leader of a coalition government. One prominent name being mentioned is former Liberal finance minister Ralph Goodale.
"It can't be Dion because Canadians so massively rejected him," said one senior Ontario Liberal. Meanwhile, Conservative MPs are on "high alert for a return to campaign mode," even as they launch an all-out media blitz to discredit the possibility of a Liberal-NDP coalition government, attacking the idea as an "insult to democracy."
A memo from Harper’s office, obtained by the Star, instructs MPs to take to their local airwaves and have supporters call in to talk radio.
But opposition MPs are accusing the Prime Minister of hypocrisy, charging that Harper is overlooking his own efforts to forge a coalition to replace Paul Martin’s minority Liberal government in 2004.
Harper, then Conservative leader, even joined with NDP Leader Jack Layton and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe to write then-governor general Adrienne Clarkson, urging her to look at "options" if Martin's government fell in the fall of 2004, mere months after it won a minority mandate on June 28.
"We respectfully point out that the opposition parties, who together constitute a majority in the House, have been in close consultation," read the Sept. 9, 2004, letter from the three leaders.
"We believe that, should a request for dissolution arise this should give you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options before exercising your constitutional authority."
That message is in stark contrast to the one Harper delivered Friday night, when he charged that Liberals don't "have the right to take power without an election."
"The opposition has been working on a backroom deal to overturn the results of the last election without seeking the consent of voters. They want to take power, not earn it," he said in a statement.
Now Conservative MPs are being instructed to take that message to Canadians.
The scripts were sent out to caucus members, along with clear instructions from Harper's chief of staff, Guy Giorno, on the key messages and how best to deliver them.
"While our preference would be for the opposition to respect our clear mandate and allow speedy passage of the legislation accompanying the fiscal update, we are nonetheless prepared to return to the polls over this issue," Giorno said.
Angered by Thursday's economic statement that delivered no financial boost to Canada's ailing economy — but served up provocative measures such as cutting political party subsidies, curbing public servants' right to strike and modifying pay equity rules — the NDP, Liberals and Bloc have united in opposition.
Both the Liberals and NDP said last night their main objection to the Tories' economic policies is the lack of measures to jump-start the struggling economy — not the political subsidies issue the Conservatives backed down on.
"To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it's the economy, stupid," John McCallum, a Liberal spokesperson, said after Baird’s announcement. "If the government still doesn't understand, if they think this is going to get them off the hook, they’re missing the point."
NDP spokesperson Brad Lavigne said: "This changes nothing because for the New Democrats, it was never about public financing."
The opposition has accused Flaherty of failing to understand the severity of the economic crisis facing Canadian businesses and workers. Harper said earlier this month that Canada needs unprecedented stimulus in the form of new government spending or tax cuts to pump up the economy.
But Flaherty, despite acknowledging the economy is in recession, said Thursday that Canadians would have to wait until he delivers a full-scale budget next year to see what new actions the Conservatives think are needed to stimulate the economy.
Since Thursday, the Harper government had said it had no intention of backing down on its plan to scrap the $30 million in annual subsidies for federal parties.
But, in an interview on CTV yesterday, Baird said that measure would be dropped from the legislation to implement the policies announced in the economic statement.
MPs will vote on the legislation early next month and its defeat would topple the government, leading to a snap election or a move by the opposition parties to take power with a coalition.
The Liberals had threatened to topple the Conservatives in a confidence vote tomorrow, with the hope of eventually replacing them with a coalition. That forced Harper to announce late Friday that he was delaying all votes that could defeat his government until Dec. 8.
Opposition parties continued to talk yesterday to hammer out details around a possible coalition government.
The New Democrats held a special caucus meeting to brief MPs on developments and seek their input. Eleven of the MPs were in Ottawa, the rest participated by phone.
New Democrat MP Libby Davies (Vancouver East) said "progress is being made" as discussions centre on common points of policy.
On the Liberal side, an official said that representatives of the parties were in discussions and that talks were "going well."
Around the country, many Conservatives were furious that Harper's inner circle had failed to consult more widely before delivering the fiscal update.
One senior Conservative said Harper had shot himself in the foot for ideological reasons — much as he did when he announced $45 million in arts funding cuts last summer, which cost his party seats in Quebec in the Oct. 14 federal election.
"These guys think it's campus politics, so they get too cute by half and then f--- everything up," he said. "We're in the middle of an economic crisis and they pull a stunt like this?"