Over brie and Courvoisier this holiday season Conservatives have had plenty of time to figure out what they need to do to rehabilitate their party after the November 2008 Economic Statement debacle.
The obvious conclusion for all – save those few hopeless ideologues who still cling to the myth of Stephen Harper’s strategic mastery despite all evidence to the contrary – is that Harper himself must go.
Those needing further convincing that keeping Harper around will hurt more than the alternative consider this: On the very same day that economists are predicting we are now a toboggan run of job loses without even a set of black plastic handles to slow our descent, the only news out of Stephen Harper’s interview with Maclean's is that he’s still fixated on the political party allowances that landed him in the non-confidence penalty box in the first place.
In answer to the question have you “mishandled your relations with the opposition?” Harper incredibly tells Peter Whyte: “the government has decided to go [with] a freeze instead of an elimination. But make no mistake, the government believes that the elimination of these subsidies has to be done eventually, that that’s in the public interest.”
Harper is supposed to be saving a $1.2 trillion economy from collapse. He’s supposed to be managing a $250 billion federal budget. He’s supposed to be doing his part as a leader of a G-8 global economy to restore the confidence of investors and consumers. Instead he’s still obsessing over $20 million worth of political subsidies that are so gosh-darn important they merited ZERO mention in the Conservatives’ election platform. $20 million in political allowances that are dwarfed by the $95 million we are forced so spend on the Senate Harper said he wouldn’t appoint anyone to, but then did.
The issue here is not about political party allowances, nor should it be. The issue now is whether Stephen Harper possesses the self-discipline required of a Prime Minister in a minority government during a calamitous economic downturn. Based on Harper’s narcissistic obsession with partisanship in these times, the answer comes back resoundly “no”.
In a manner unseen since the disastrous bumbling of Stockwell Day at the head of the Alliance, Stephen Harper has climbed high, overplayed his hand, and crashed all the while using his party’s credibility on the economy, democracy and public accountability to break his fall.
Jack Layton and the coalition’s answer is simple: we have to fix the economy and get rid of Harper. You can’t have one without the other.
Harper must go. Even Conservatives must realize that his position is too compromised now.
Which leads to an interesting possibility: before the coalition has its first chance to get their hands on Harper, will more sober and statesmen-like Conservatives like Jim Prentice and Rob Nicholson step forward to call for the change in the leadership their party and our economy needs?