Monday, September 29, 2008

A missed opportunity

Following up on Jack Layton's call for a meeting of federal leaders to discuss the state of Canada's economy, let's note what could reasonably have been accomplished if the country's leaders had heeded the call to work together - and perhaps more importantly, what Stephen Harper apparently considers more important than raising confidence in Canada's financial situation.

To start off, it's highly unlikely that any discussion would have led to immediate agreement on the details of how to handle any crisis. Which makes Layton's idea less analogous to John McCain's efforts to push himself into existing negotiations than it is to Barack Obama's push for a joint statement between the presidential candidates to at least encourage cooperation to deal with the situation.

But even a statement of intention could have been far more significant to ease market fears in Canada - where any final decision would have been impossible since Parliament isn't sitting to work out the terms of any bill anyway - than in the U.S. where it was actually possible to deal with legislation immediately. That is, as long as part of any joint message included some commitment among the parties to work together to address the financial crisis once the House of Commons sits again.

From what I can tell, that's where the Cons figure to have had no interest in getting involved. After all, they're already busy throwing around threats of yet another election if the opposition parties don't roll over and play dead on whatever crime bill the Cons come up with. And in agreeing to cooperate responsibly on the economy, they would effectively be giving up that leverage for the good of the country as long as the crisis still looms.

Needless to say, Harper isn't one to forfeit a potential political weapon over something as trifling as the well-being of Canada's economy. But while his response is hardly surprising, it also surely calls into question whether Canadians share Harper's apparent view that the ability to force legislation through to jail 14-year-olds for life is more important than working to defuse an economic time bomb. And the contrast is only all the more stark in comparison to Layton's effort to lead the federal parties toward cooperation on the issue that Canadians are likely most concerned about.

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