Friday, March 04, 2011

The Last Testament of Jim Travers

One of  last columns written by the late Jim Travers was also one of the most illuminating commentaries that I have read on the Harper Government. In "Harper's Changing the Country more than we realize" (Toronto Star, January 18). Mr.Travers documented the most important ways in which the Harper government has re-framed issues in this country. 

Wrong-footing rivals is the Prime Minister’s favourite dance step. Those who criticize building super-prisons, Canada’s laissez-faire environment record or Canada’s diminished international reputation are quickly forced to defend themselves against message track charges that they don’t share Conservative concerns about victims of crime, energy jobs or principled values.
Other examples abound. All are connected by two national capital realities. One is that Liberals, the one other party remotely capable of forming a government, either can’t conceive or articulate an alternative vision. The other is that the only time Harper’s opponents found the courage to unequivocally say “no” was during the 2008 Christmas constitutional crisis when the Prime Minister’s plan to end public funding for parties directly threatened their interests.
Blowing through such limp reeds is light work for a minority Prime Minister who more often than not is able to operate as if he won a majority. Just as significantly, it allows Conservatives to uncouple their actions from results.
Rarely has that disconnect been more obvious than in current pre-election positioning. Conservatives are taking a stand on corporate tax cuts while lunging a second time at party subsidies. They’re not documenting how more breaks for already lightly taxed big business will create jobs, stimulate productivity or boost international competitiveness. They’re not explaining why a feel-good promise to cut the purse strings to federal parties isn’t a slippery-slope step backwards to the bad old days of backroom bagmen, influence pedalling and tollgating federal contracts for political donations. ......................
.........Missing, too, from the national dialogue are looming challenges that dwarf the importance of topics Conservatives prefer discussing. Off the table and out of mind are, among many things, are the future of universal health care, the complex transition from hewing wood and drawing water to a post-industrial economy, and Canada’s changing place in a rapidly evolving, helter-skelter worldSome prime ministers are moulded by their times, others shape them. Harper is squarely in both categories.
 The ultimate cleverness of Harper's strategy lies in the way that he is wrong-footing the Canadian people. Even though upon assuming office he disowned his own frequently stated determination to do away with universal medicare, his determination to cut corporate taxes  and the GST  while building prisons and beefing up the military can only mean one thing--less money left over for health and social transfers. He is preparing the ground for his last, most important assault on Canada as we know it. Jim Travers warned us.

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