The coming days will forever cast the Conservatives’ November 2008 Economic and Fiscal Update as either the worst political miscalculation in Canadian politics in thirty years, or a forgettable contretemps.
The events unfolding right now recommend the former. By media accounts so far, Jack Layton moved with lightning speed yesterday reaching out to emissaries like Ed Broadbent to start the process of building what may be a historic change in government.
However, if the latter turns out to be the case, it will almost surely be because Stephen Harper summons his vaunted skills as a political chess player to once more deke-out his opponents. Yet one of the premier admirers of those skills is presently gob-smacked that the Economic Statement exposed Harper as politically rudderless:
Paul Wells' indictment is brutal:
“So, drawing his inspiration from Jo Moore, the Downing Street spin doctor who thought 9/11 would be a “very good day” to get some embarrassing news releases out, Harper decided an economic crisis would be an excellent cover to use for a little political kneecapping. What could be more clever? That’ll show them he’s a serious guy.
So the real outrage of yesterday’s economic “update” is not that it seeks to impose on most parliamentarians a change to funding rules that most of them would never ordinarily accept; it’s that it accomplishes nothing else. It’s that in the most dangerous economic times Canada has faced in 20 years if not far longer, this prime minister can’t wipe the smirk off his face and grow up a little."
It may be too late for Harper and his backroom chums to stash their toys and start behaving like the sober managers of a G8 economy.
Even if the Conservative brain-trust finally decode that they underestimated the importance of a real and dramatic stimulus to save jobs, and that this was no time for juvenile and petty changes to $27 million worth of political funding, it will almost certainly be too late.
The opposition parties, like a slumbering bear have woken in anger and are now aware of the shiny potential of the moment in front of them. What comes next for Layton and the other opposition MPs will be daunting, but they will have already shown more maturity in the face of a serious economic challenge than any of Harper’s playmates.