Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Politics of Prorogation

TC finds it curious that prorogation has become a cause célebre, the subject of demonstrations currently underway.  Our Westminster style system grants the prime minister considerable discretion and others have previously used it for political purposes. If people don't like prime ministerial discretion that suggests that they aren't fond of the current occupant of 24 Sussex. Regardless, it appears to have acted as a catalyst for an accumulation of grievances against the Harper government and that is significant. As Rick Salutin put it the Globe:
"...impressions are cumulative and, as a series moves along, each new one weighs heavier. Firing nuclear watchdog + global black eye re tar sands + ending KAIROS funding + torture scandal = bad election news."
It appeared early on from strategic leaks to Norman Spector and Don Newman that the plan was to keep the House from sitting until March but then trigger an immediate election thus avoiding any additional scrutiny of the detainee issue but that blew up in Harper's face and he retreated from the idea within days.  It is clear that the idea of an early election is still politically toxic to the party seen as responsible for it. This makes an early trip to the polls unlikely.  One must qualify this assertion by noting the Harper would like to go early to take advantage of the ongoing ineptitude of Michael Ignatieff, and to avoid the downside of deficit politics - the negative fallout from the cuts.  There is a tendency to see the Liberal record in the nineties as an unqualified triumph.  It was not.  They very nearly ended up in a minority in 1997 as a direct consequence of the 1995 budget.

TC thinks the politics of the deficit are not good for the Cons.  Yes, they have a reputation as good fiscal managers but they don't have one as a party committed to protecting public services. That is why an election gamble to get a majority (as difficult to achieve as that is) might be seen by them as worth it.  However, their slump in recent polls makes the majority more elusive than ever.