Sunday, November 23, 2008

Conservatives Telegraph Strategy

I think it is time to start paying attention to what Harper and Flaherty are saying vis-a-vis the economy. If you're like me, you get the visceral need to change the channel anytime they appear on television, but I think we are going to have to torture ourselves and listen for a minute. There is one argument that they are using repeatedly these days as they prepare to run a deficit worth paying attention to. The argument, such as it is, goes like this: in this time of crisis, we cannot afford to be bound by economic theories and academic abstractions; we need to save the economy. While I don't necessarily disagree with running a small deficit at this point in history, I think the language Harper and Flaherty are using is important.

There are basically two reasons for talking about the no deficit principle as an academic abstraction. The first is the Conservative Party Base and the second is Michael Ignatieff. First the base. The last time (at least the last time I remember) the Tories went to a major policy conference, Harper bullied and cajoled his party into moderating some of their more extreme views in order to show a more moderate and electable party. This time, the policies (as Danielle Takacs so excellently reported) were pure red meat. The core party principles. One of those party principles used to be balanced budgets. At least it was when Mike Harris, Jim Flaherty, Ernie Eves et al. were promoting their Balanced Budget Act in Ontario (for you non-Ontarians think fixed election date law with fewer teeth). A great way to get a right winger in this country or our American neighbours off a principle is to call it academic. Much of the right wing has developed an antipathy to the academe so strong as to put them off any idea even remotely academic. Thus, they are getting away from our commitment to fiscal responsibility because its academic.

The second part of the calcualtion is more important for Liberals. The Tories seem to agree with the media that the Liberal Leadership Race is Michael Ignatieff's to lose and as such are beginning to lay the groundwork for their attack strategy. How do you attack Iggy? You call him an academic who is ill prepared to deal with the realities of an economic crisis. Is it fair? Of course not. When's the last time the Tories were fair. However, they seem to be going that route. Putting Flaherty and Clement in charge of the economy is further illustrating the contrast they want to drive home. Flaherty and Clement have loads more experience as cabinent ministers, at both the federal and provincial level, than almost anyone in the Conservative Party or even at Parliament at this point. Harper is getting ready to make the steady hand argument. In order to do this he is creating a straw man who looks a lot like Michael Ignatieff. New rule: everytime Flaherty or Harper say they aren't doing something because now is no time for theories, everyone in the Iggy campaign takes a drink. It might take some of the sting out of the attack ads that will come out if Iggy is elected leader.

No comments:

All views expressed in this blog are those of the author and the author alone. They do not represent the views of any organization, regardless of the author's involvement in any organizations.

All comments are the views of the individual writer. The administrator reserves the right to remove commentary which is offensive.

The author is not responsible for nor does he support any of the advertisements displayed on the page