Friday, June 05, 2009

Strange Bedfellows

It has been remarkable to watch this week as the Government of Ontario and Government of Canada embarked on a risky foray into the auto industry to almost no debate or criticism. Remarkable, but not surprising. After all, the Conservative Prime Minister had little choice but to bail out the stumbling auto giant lest he be accused of pushing precious manufacturing jobs south of the border. The same can be said of the Liberal Premier of Ontario. The two men, Prime Minister Harper and Premier McGuinty, have much much in common. They both took over their parties after disastrous election campaigns (McLeod 1995 and Day 2000). They both faced the obstacle of overcoming the "natural governing parties" that held power. They both lost their first election. They both defeated the short term replacement of a long serving first minister. They both are proof that in the words of another Premier of Ontario, "bland works." However, the one thing they have rarely had in common is policy.

By agreeing on this issue, if at the end of the barrel of a gun, they have in effect inoculated each other from criticism. Mr. Harper is not likely to see David McGuinty or any of his colleagues rising from their chair in the House of Commons to criticize a plan that is as much a Liberal plan as it is a Conservative one. Likewise, it is unlikely that either Mr. Hudak or Ms. Elliot will come out against the plans dreamt up by former Harris cabinet members, Mr. Flaherty and Mr. Clement. The NDP was never going to be against a plan to save union jobs. Thus, Ontario's three major parties, provincially and federally, have a sort of agreement on what otherwise would be a massive issue.

It is always kind of eerie when there is political consensus. It generally means one of two things: either it's so smack-you-in-the-head-obviously right that no one can disagree, or everyone's drinking the same bad kool-aid and it's a terrible idea. Time will tell which is the case here.

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