Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Year That Was...Part 1

Well, here we are fast approaching the end of 2009. What. A. Year. I'll start with a re-cap which I suspect will take a post or two to get through. The focus today is on setting the stage.

Let's go back to the end of 2008. If you recall, Canadians were presented with:

  • A Government which initially said the economy was fine
  • A Government which shortly thereafter said things were worse with the economy than they had been for many, many years
  • An Opposition which couldn't agree on anything
  • An Opposition which decided they agreed on enough that they could form a coalition
  • A Governor General sending everyone to the naughty chair for a time-out.

And that was just last fall!

Since then we have seen the government embrace the downturn and spend, spend, spend.

  • Billions for the automotive sector, in line with the measures taken in the U.S.
  • Expanded EI.
  • Infrastructure spending, including those ubiquitous "Canada's Economic Action Plan" signs (Wouldn't you love to have that contract?!?)
  • A record deficit on the horizon due to increased spending and falling tax revenues

Canadians wanted stimulus and the Opposition wanted stimulus, and this what the Government gave them. You can argue about how much has been spent and the like, but from a political perspective the Opposition and the public handed the Government the opportunity to use the public purse to paint themselves as being responsive, caring and prepared to act on the public's behalf.

At the same time, we have witnessed the steps and missteps of Mr. Ignatieff. As this blog has noted on a number of occasions, it was necessary for him to break out of the "support the government for fear of an election" rut the Liberals were in. However, to do so by declaring you wanted an election without defining why was rash and ill-advised. The plummeting support is indicative of this failure to properly define a Liberal alternative.

Staffing changes in the OLO acknowledge these missteps and over time they should be addressed. A team of experience will be needed to balance against unbridled enthusiasm - equal measures of reality and kool-aid should be served in order to steady the ship and plot a course. Of course, only time will tell how damaging Mr. Rossi's forthcoming departure will be.

All of this on its own would make excellent watching. In the spirit of stimulus, however, we are being treated to even more. Step forward Afghanistan and take a bow. This issue and the questions it is raising may accomplish what the Opposition couldn't do over 12 months - hurt the Government.

More on that to come...

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