Mild right-wing coup in Ottawa .. truthiness at last in Stephen Harper’s first budget

May 3rd, 2006 | By | Category: Ottawa Scene

It turns out that there’s not much to say about the first budget of Stephen Harper’s new Conservative minority government in Canada. Except that it does seem to definitively betray the clear but limited extent of the 2006 right-wing coup north of the unfortified border.

For the intricate details of who gets what, and not, consult such reliable sources as the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun, Radio Canada, or the federal Department of Finance.

In the spirit of the new government’s own approach to public debate, the counterweights editors have developed a simplified eight-point graphic with accompanying mini-text. This explains the ultimate big-picture impact of finance minister Jim Flaherty’s May 2 presentation to Parliament in just over 100 words. For a quick look, read on …









A – Left extreme

B – Right extreme

1 – Where Martin minority Liberals were 2004-2005 (and approximately where current Liberals will go if they win next election)

2 – Where current Harper minority Conservatives have taken Canada now 2006

3 – Where George W. Bush has tried to take USA today 2006

4 – Where John Howard has taken Land of Oz down under 2006

5 – Where Harper Conservatives will try to take Canada if they win a majority government in next election

6 – Where the NDP (and/or BQ?) would probably wind up going, if they ever got smart enough to actually win a Canadian federal election.

One or two other quick and dirty notes …

Will this budget make it through the 39th Parliament of Canada, where the Harper Conservatives command only 125 of 308 seats, is the next practical question. One outcome of the right-wing-coup-very-lite approach illustrated above is that, according to TV Ontario on the evening of Tuesday, May 2, the Bloc Quebecois has already indicated it will be supporting the Harper government’s first budget. So, whatever the Liberals and New Democrats do, the budget will finally get through Parliament OK.

The BQ, it would seem, has decided that the budget is not so much of a lurch in an anglophone international right-wing direction as to altogether offend the more communitarian values of francophone Quebec – considering that Quebec also hopes to benefit in other ways from the Harper government’s parallel aspirations to decentralize the Canadian confederation even more than it is decentralized already.

Without a doubt the biggest questions in Canadian federal politics now are when will the next election come, and can the Harper Conservatives win a majority of seats in Parliament whenever it does come? Considering that the master politician Jean Chretien won three consecutive majority governments with only with 41.3%, 38.5%, and 40.8% of the popular vote, the prospects that the Harper government which just brought in the kind of budget it did on Tuesday, May 2, 2006 can pull some similar trick at least once seem good enough. Anyone seriously concerned about a shift from 2 to 5 in the graphic above ought to be worried.

At the same time, one broad point that came home as Mr. Flaherty droned on in Parliament was just how good financial shape the Canadian federal government is in at the moment. Paul Martin’s Liberals still take the main credit for this. And some voters may wonder whether the national finances will be in as good shape when the reins of power are exchanged next time?

The budget has also made it quite clear that the new government has turned its back on last November’s Kelowna Accord on aboriginal policy. As counterweights’ own L. Frank Bunting has been urging lately, this could ultimately prove a big mistake.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Simpson may be right when he argues, as he did again on TV Ontario Tuesday night, that what the Harper Conservatives have done since taking office some three months ago now is good politics but bad policy. And this could be the kind of case the Liberals will have to make in the next federal election too – whoever their next leader proves to be. Even under interim leader Bill Graham, they still seem quite feisty in Parliament these days. But, for the moment at least, you have to guess that this is not going to be an easy case to make, in a world of 30-second TV soundbites and all that.

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