Is Harper As Phony As He Seems?
This December 17th editorial from The Star is worth reading:
"For the past three months, the only thing consistent about Prime Minister Stephen Harper's position on the economy has been its inconsistency.
During the fall election campaign, Harper pooh-poohed talk of an economic downturn and declared: "My own belief is if we were going to have some kind of crash or recession, we probably would have had it by now."
Last month, in a speech to business moguls in Peru for the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum, Harper changed his tune: "The world is entering an economic period unlike, and potentially as dangerous as, anything we have faced since 1929." To address the crisis, he said, "it may well be necessary to take unprecedented fiscal stimulus."
A few days later, the Harper government produced an economic statement that contained no new stimulus, forecast balanced budgets into the next fiscal year, and suggested the economic crisis could be overcome "with prudence and restraint, combined with hard work."
Then this week in a TV interview, Harper warned: "The truth is I've never seen such uncertainty in terms of looking forward to the future. I'm very worried about the Canadian economy... Obviously we're going to have to run a deficit. We're talking about spending billions of dollars that was not planned."
What is the explanation for this roller-coaster ride?
Harper and his ministers would have us believe that circumstances have changed over the three months, morphing from a financial crisis to one affecting the real economy. But most of that was predictable and was, indeed, predicted. No one really believed the crisis could be contained to a few banks and insurance companies.
On the other hand, the political circumstances have changed, as Harper's government was almost toppled earlier this month by a coalition of opposition parties demanding more stimulus in the wake of the hold-the-line economic statement. That would account for the shift by Harper since then. But how does it explain what he said in Peru before the economic statement about the need for stimulus?
Some have suggested that the answer lies in a split between Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who actually delivered the economic statement, and Harper on how best to address the crisis. But that is hardly credible in a government that is as centred on the PM as this one.
One is left with the uncomfortable feeling that Harper, far from the steady hand at the wheel portrayed in Conservative propaganda, is making up his course as he sails along.
Cartoon by kind permission of
Graeme MacKay at mackaycartoons.net