Saturday, November 28, 2009

Politics: What Has Harper Done?

TORONTO, ONTARIO - In the United States, President Obama has gotten a lot of negative press lately for a lack of accomplishments in the office. The epitome of the criticism came nearly two months ago on Saturday Night Live skit, featured in this Fox news report. Fred Armisen as Obama describes his successes as two--jack and squat. However, while Obama may have little to show for his administration to this point, even his opponents would never say that he has been lazy and not trying to advance his agenda. Between the economic collapse, two wars, health care reform, climate change initiatives, and other measures, there is no question what Obama has been trying to do, whether he has accomplished it or not.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been in office far longer than Obama and in fact has been elected twice, in 2006 and 2008. Yet, I cannot think of single significant accomplishment of his government since the 2008 election. A stimulus package was passed, but based on what was happening a year ago (refresh your memory if needed), that only occurred because otherwise the opposition would have toppled his government, not by the government's own initiative. What else? Nothing comes to mind. Go back to the 2006-2008 government, and there are some symbolic domestic measures (declaring Quebec a "nation" and the apology for the native residential schools), but no other notable legislation. It seems to me that far more so than Obama, it is the Harper government that has exactly two accomplishments--jack and squat.

Furthermore, I can't point to what significant legislation the government has even been trying to get through parliament. There's no climate change legislation, or energy policy. There's no change in tax policy. What exactly is this government trying to do? Based on the last publication from my local Member of Parliament, just about everything on the legislative docket is a crime bill of some kind. Liberals claim this is to "scare the public before the next election," but whatever it is, the government itself isn't talking much about it.

It is a major indictment of the opposition Liberals that they have not been able to articulate a vision of doing ANYTHING that might be more popular than the apparent do-nothing stance of the government. It should be easy to build opposition to a government without obvious accomplishments, but they haven't yet done it. Considering how pathetic that is, it is little wonder that the public continues to favor the ruling Conservatives.

For Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, though, the record should be ominous. A government without significant legislation to point to, and no clear articulated vision to advance in the future, can only run on a record of competence and fear of the unknown competence of the opposition. Inevitably, all governments make mistakes and seem incompetent--when that moment comes, the fear seems insignificant. If it continues on its current course, the Harper Conservatives will face such a moment someday--and they will have nobody to blame but themselves.

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