Friday, December 19, 2008

Going through the motions

Senator Elaine McCoy rightly points out that while the Cons' first set of budget trial balloons is largely patterned on parts of the progressive coalition's agreed policy framework, it conspicuously leaves out policies which have the agreement of more than half of the House of Commons. But the bigger issue with any attempt by Harper to posture his way out of a non-confidence vote is one which won't be fixed regardless of how many words the Cons borrow from the coalition's policy priorities.

Instead, the fundamental problem with leaving the Cons in power is that while the budget will surely include large dollar figures nominally directed toward worthwhile goals, it will almost certainly leave the ultimate decision as to how to spend the money allocated in the the hands of Harper and his cabinet.

Now, I'm not sure there's another feasible way to manage the required amount of funding other than to transfer responsibility to cabinet. And with an even faintly responsible government in charge, that step wouldn't be a problem.

But given that the Cons have consistently proven to be far more interested in patronage and partisan calculation than in effective governance, there's no reason for any opposition party to believe that Harper would put the money toward reasonable uses after winning a budget vote. And that goes doubly in light of Harper's eagerness to force another election.

Which means that regardless of how many progressive ideas the Cons start parroting in an effort to cling to power, the only way to make sure that the progressive coalition's agreed priorities actually get dealt with is to follow through on the agreed Lib/NDP government.

Update: Jack Layton makes the same point:
Rather than diluting the reasons for defeating the government, NDP Leader Jack Layton insisted Mr. Harper's comments give the plan credence.

“If he is now accepting that the coalition ideas are the right ones, then I believe the best group to implement that program is the coalition, because Mr. Harper doesn't believe in these ideas,” Mr. Layton said.

“He argued strenuously against them up until just a few days ago, and his government's attacked, very specifically, that size of stimulus package in the House of Commons,” he said.

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