Politics - Ideology - Power
For Harper, only those three things hold any interest. The recent fiscal update/mini-budget proposal thingy exposed that. Harper and Flaherty proposed to bankrupt the opposition parties, override any recent and ongoing contract negotiations with federal civil service employees while taking away their right to strike, and didn't propose any measures to help stimulate the economy. Harper's ideology, joy of political games, and want of power has put him into a position where he confuses management with leadership, has a narrow vision of Canada and has no idea how to actually govern (even if he wanted to, which he doesn't). And this is more painfully obvious than ever.
The way I see, Harper believed he would get the best of the opposition by trying put them into a corner. He proposed a completely unreasonable and undemocratic budget with the subsidy-removal proposal (a red herring) in hopes of being able to paint the opposition parties as only self-interested if or when they voted against it. He would then go into an election with a money advantage and a nice little theme too boot. Or maybe at least one party would support it to avoid an election and in the end the opposition parties would be technically broke for quite some time.
Unfortunately for Harper, the opposition focused on the lack of stimulus and the public didn't seem to buy his red herring, either. The opposition began openly talking about a coalition and I think Harper got somewhat concerned. So this morning the Conservatives removed the subsidy-removal piece - claimed it was in there by accident - and waited for talks of a coalition to fade away, get the support of at least one opposition party, and still claim the opposition were only interested in themselves when the economic update passed.
Unfortunately for Harper, the opposition only seemed more determined to form a coalition. This was made clear with the Liberals preparing to make a non-confidence motion this coming Monday. Now suddenly Harper is scrambling to figure out where he went wrong. I think it's pretty obvious that Harper didn't plan for this outcome. He must have believed that somewhere along the way at least one of the opposition would have faltered. But they didn't. And now Harper's only response is, "I need more time." He underestimated the resolve of the opposition parties to see something done about the economy - likely a plan that somewhat follows the lead of every other western nation and the advice of respected economists - and now he's unsure as to what to do.
Out of his three interests, one holds a great more sway than the other two; power. His breaking of his own fixed-date legislation, breaking election financing laws and so forth, attest to this. So Harper and Flaherty put out their economic update chock-full of ideological and political postures hoping to use the economic crisis as justification. Ultimately though it was about getting more power - through bankrupting the opposition or holding another election with a stronger financial position and newly minted theme. Harper has never been this close to a majority before and he wants it so much and so he seems willing to do whatever it takes.
When this didn't work out and Harper saw that he might lose power, he balked. There is no way he is just going to hand over power. Harper knows he's on a tight leash with his base. He hasn't been able to win a majority through three elections. The last election especially hurt him. In spit of pandering to Quebec and other groups, playing the role of moderate centrist, wasting $300m in the face of a deficit, etc. It didn't pay off and he's still stuck not being able to fulfill the wishes of those that have been waiting for ages for an opportunity to inflict the rest of Canada. Since he hasn't been able to get the right to the promised land, he's been relying on little bits of ideology and politics to keep himself propped up. These will only get you so far, however. For him to simply pass power over to the opposition would likely be his proverbial death knell as leader of the Conservatives.
Harper, like some have speculated, may have considered passing power to the opposition to let the economic crisis take them down rather than him. However, there are too many risk factors involved with this. For example, what happens if all the stimulus pumped out by other nations has a positive effect? Then the opposition parties will get credit. What if the coalition proposes a package combined with new regulations and jobs are saved and Canada shows some strength? Then the opposition gets credit. What if the opposition does their due diligence and hires independent audits of the government's budget? Well, just take a trip back to Ontario, 2003? What if...? What if...? And therein lies the problem for Harper. Giving up power is likely too much for him but the prospect of never getting it back? Well, maybe if Hell froze over, but even then...
As for what Harper is going to do now? I'm not certain. Maybe he will take the risk of letting the opposition coalition get buried by the economic crisis, though I seriously doubt it. Will he make a considered and reasonable proposal to deal with the economic situation? I doubt that as well. Being on short leash may let you speak like a Keynesian convert but it doesn't mean you actually get to act like one without some repercussions. I suspect they've delayed the idea of using a stimulus package until it's absolutely necessary in hopes that Canada will reap the benefits of other countries'. They want to play the role of bench warmer in this situation. So while the US, England, Germany and others are out on the field sacrificing themselves to win the title, Canada still gets the championship ring for just being on the team. No work, but all the glory. And with that in mind, I figure that Harper and his crew are going to use the extra week to come up with some proposal ideas that look like something but amount to doing little or nothing (i.e. The Clean Air Act). That way they can look the part of concerned and active government but still hold face with their base support. And in the end, Canada is still left devoid of a governing party with any vision or leadership when it comes to governing.