Harper on the road to a majority – maybe

Conventional wisdom says this is a federal election nobody wants for a purpose nobody knows.

Conventional wisdom is half-blind. The public says it doesn’t want an election, but the public has little say. It is the partisans who decide when an election will be held and that “when” is this spring.

The Conservatives want a majority government and poll numbers for Prime Minister Stephen Harper could scarcely be better. He’s seen as a competent leader and he so dominates the political scene this entire election will be about him and his job – the other Conservatives merely warm bodies to fill the seats in the House of Commons, a sort of sit-down, shut-up Greek chorus of approval.

To this end, the federal budget was a sprinkling of Conservative fairy dust over the land. No sceptic could believe the Conservatives ever expected to have to implement it. Rather, it makes for good election spin.

The Liberal opposition knows it has to give its untried leader at least one election, either a justification that their choice of Michael Ignatieff wasn’t a colossal blunder or a quick and dirty opportunity to boot him and try again.

The rest of the parties, from the NDP to the Greens and the Bloc Quebecois are spoilers and background noise, even though it was NDP leader Jack Layton who put all this in motion when he rejected the budget.

Curiously, the Conservatives’ strong suit is the economy. It is curious because, while Harper has been a good conservator as befits a trained economist, he cannot take credit for Canada having weathered the recession as well as we did. Had the Harper Conservatives been in power when our banks petitioned for amalgamation and deregulation, the likelihood is that, today, we’d be right next to the United States, just behind Iceland, Greece, and Portugal in the bread line.

The man who actually protected Canadian interests was Paul Martin. The former lacklustre Liberal prime minister was a brilliant finance minister, and it was under his watch the Canadian banks were stopped in their tracks when business and special interests were urging the federal government to approve amalgamation so Canada’s banks could play with the big kids across the globe.

Martin and the Canadian government said no. Were they prescient? Unlikely. But they were cautious. And all to our benefit. When the Conservatives start bragging about their economic success – and they will – remind them they had a great deal of help.

Voters also need to sit through the riveting and illuminating documentary Inside Job, a stark look at what happens when greed becomes good.The movie is a lesson in what happens when Greed carries the same capital letter as God and, in many cases, becomes the Supreme Being of a secular life.

The Oscar-winning film, narrated by actor Matt Damon, makes no mention of Canada, but it contains lessons for all of us. The first is that one of the jobs of the federal government is to act in loco parentis and, as childish as that sounds, thereby doing what’s best for all of Canada. The second lesson is that when left untrammelled and unquestioned, the O’Learys of the world leave destruction in their wake in their pursuit of more and more money.

They operate on the message that there is never enough – never enough power, never enough money, never enough stuff. It is they who live the mantra: He who dies with the most toys, wins.

They laugh at the notion they have a moral and fiduciary responsibility to the public, who, in buying their goods and services allow them to be made wealthy.

No one is arguing against entrepreneurs making bags of money. But how much is too much? Inside Job shows what happens when the attitude there is never enough prevails and there is no regulatory oversight.

Watching it as a Canadian is to alternately breathe a sigh of relief we were spared the hubris and greed that drove Wall Street into chaos and to gasp at the sheer venality of the people involved.

It is a stark lesson to be absorbed as we go to the polls.



– Catherine Ford, Columnist, Troy Media