Jeffrey Simpson certainly doesn't shy away from saying what needs to be said, this morning.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was at it again this week - making announcements. Get used to it. He's going to be making them all summer, just as he has for weeks now.
On Thursday, the Harper announcement show hit Halifax, where, in one of those patented made-for-television setups, he said Pier 21 would become a national museum. Surrounded by Conservative ministers, senators and MPs, who looked on him like angels in a Christ child painting, Mr. Harper rolled out his announcement.
This is his style: matter of fact, flat, direct, the antithesis of the uplifting visionary. He can't move away from it, because the style incarnates him. He's stuck in the polls, but he knows no other way.
I have a minor quibble with his description of Harper being direct as I tend to associate a measure of honesty with that term and really, isn't Harper the master agitpropist?
By now, at least some of you will have seen the colourful newspaper advertisements and TV spots extolling the virtues of the Harper government's stimulus package. These ads aren't the standard ones that give straight-up information about the where, how and when of government programs. Rather, they are blatantly propagandistic, talking up the virtues of the programs as if they'd been crafted by the Conservative Party itself.
As the summer progresses, the Prime Minister also will be test-marketing several themes that his party will use against the Liberals in the next election, whenever that occurs.
The first is that the Conservatives are “tough on crime,” whereas the Liberals (and the other parties) are not. As almost every criminologist in Canada would attest, the Conservatives' crime policies are mostly illusory.
Gee, what if we lived in a world that gave voice to those who speak the truth? Instead, all the coverage goes to those who spin it.
The other thematic test-marketing revolves around taxes, with the Conservatives already accusing the Liberals of planning to raise taxes if elected. Of course, any responsible government should raise taxes, at least temporarily, after the recession winds down to bring an end to the deficit as quickly as possible.
But Mr. Harper is peddling the notion that no tax increases will be necessary because his stimulus package will expire and the resumption of economic growth will do the rest.
This is baloney...
Indeed it is baloney, but apparently it's tasty, because more than a few Canadians are still buying it.
So we shall (again) have a debate about illusions - about “tough on crime” policies that are nothing of the kind, and about future economic policy based on false projections and political fear.
But we shall have prefabricated photo-op announcements and taxpayer-subsidized advertising all summer long. We will be asked to consider these as real substance about the future of our country.
And that pretty much sums up how Harper is failing this country.
Some Liberals talk privately of being brave, of saying to Canadians: “We are the party that worries about the deficit, and wants to bring it under control, so here is how we propose to do it."
Let us hope the brave prevail.