For those of you who haven't been paying attention or who aren't Canadian, in a nutshell, Thursday's document bore the mark of a bully and a thug and little else. Though in the midst of a what seems to be universally regarded as the gravest crisis to confront Capitalism since 1929, the Conservatives saw an opportunity — not to prime the economic pump, nor to rally Canadians 'round their government in dangerous times, but to practice some (very) petty political one-up-manship.
- Taking away the right to strike from public servants? Check.
- Removing public funding to political parties based on the number of votes received ($1.95 per vote)? Check.
- A promise to sell off (unspecified) government assets in order to "balance" the budget and no matter that this would mean selling at or near the bottom of the market? Er, check again.
- Specific plans for dealing with the oncoming storm? Er, no exactly. Not as such. Well. No.
And so, within days, the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois have let the Governor General know that, should the current government fall, there is another waiting in the wings — with Stephane Dion as Prime Minister, no less!
Political drama doesn't get much better than this, not outside of Italy, anyway.
You all know (or else you haven't been paying attention; shame on you!) that I loathe the Harper Tories. I believe they are neo-con ideologues of the worst stripe, who despise the very idea of government beyond funding the army, jails and the police, and so I won't pretend to be anything but giddy at the prospect of seeing them defeated, but ...
But the Liberals and NDP are playing a dangerous game. While the truth is the Conservatives' neo-con base is small and divided, split as it is between an unholy (and senseless) alliance between social and economic "conservatives", and that the general support behind the Liberals, NDP and Bloc can be (loosely) qualified as (small-L) "liberal", the fact remains that the Bloc are separatists and the destruction of this country is always at the base of its raison d'etre.
As Churchill famously said something to the effect that he would deal with the Devil himself in order to defeat Hitler, when questioned on making an alliance with Stalin, so might the Liberals and NDP justify sharing a bed-spread with Gilles Duceppes, and i support them for doing so.
But I hope the hell they're going to be careful.
If this coalition actually takes power, I see two likely outcomes.
The first would see a reasonably competent (or better!) government preside over the next couple of years, sooner or later brought down by a Bloc Québecois that sees it's political raison d'etre slipping away because of that competence. If the BQ is smart (and lucky), they'll have some kind of symbolic issue to take to the polls on their tedious quest for a "flag sur le hood du Cadillac".
The second would see Liberal infighting destroying the government within months, leading to god only knows what sort of electoral outcome.
But whatever happens, we can take much comfort in the knowledge that Stephen Harper will be walking from the fray, a historical footnote and little more.