Wednesday, October 7, 2009

With enemies like these, who needs friends?

So here we are, two days to go before the Thanksgiving break week and what seems an eternity away from the heady swagger seen at that Sudbury caucus meeting. What next?

For now, it seems that everyone has settled into the new reality which, to be honest, resembles the old reality. Government governs, opposition voices discontent, government continues to maintain confidence of the House. It's the way things were before, right?

Yes and no.

Yes, the government has survived this latest scare (even if they would have relished an election) and continues to have the upper hand over its opponents. They have more money, appear better organized and are controlling the message. Kind of like the last couple of years.

However, there are differences and importantly, they are differences which favour the government. Three points to consider:

1. Outside of Quebec, the flirtation with the coalition has hurt the Liberal brand. The strength of their brand was something Liberals could count on even when things were not going well. By going down the coalition route they eroded that brand and have struggled to get it back.

2. The recent Liberal push for an election without defining a reason has left Canadians with the perception that Harper is more reasonable and in tune with their views. That is some mean feat given the challenges he has had in resonating with Canadians.

3. The Liberal troubles over the past few weeks have given the Conservatives the luxury of sitting back, watching events unfold and reaping the benefits. In the past, Canadians were put off when the government went on the offensive and lunged for the jugular with partisan fervor. Right now, Harper doesn't have to do anything so off-putting - the Liberals are doing it for him.

All of this favours the Harper government - something reflected in every poll we see, at the national level and the all-important provincial level. With the economy showing signs of improvement, an Olympic love-in on the horizon and a PM playing (literally) to the arts community, the dreaded majority word is popping up everywhere.

Unfortunately, all of this is occurring at the expense of a real debate about how we will eliminate the deficit, how we are preparing for the economy of tomorrow, and how we are going to prepare for a demographic shift which will affect everything from health care to employment, economic growth to immigration?

Big questions and few answers. But for the Harper government, no worries. The Liberals are doing his job and are making him look good. With enemies like these, who needs friends?


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