Monday, February 28, 2005

The Conservative Response to the Budget

Bob Tarantino at Let it Bleed has been displeased with the Conservative response to the budget. I tend to agree with Bob on a great many things, but my analysis of the situation and his analysis of the situation and an appropriate course of action tend to diverge rather substantially.

Bob's suggesting that we should have shrouded ourselves in secrecy and pretended to deliberate heavily to create a media stir about whether we would choose to defeat the budget or not, thus getting ourselves some free publicity, seeming to be in control etc.

I'd commend this course of action if we were actually considering defeating the government. However, we're not. We know not, the Liberals know that, and the press knows that. We're not going to defeat the budget going into our first policy convention and only 8 monthes after the last election. Rather than causing suspense and interest its just as likely that we would have been accused of playing games with the budgetary process when we really weren't going to defeat the government.

I'll agree that Harper should have done more to stress the negatives in the budget. However, to be honest my first reaction was nearly exactly the same "Well, that wasn't as bad as I thought it would be." A more appropriate statement from the leader of the opposition would have been "I'm concerned with a number of spending priorities in the budget as they seem to allocate money without any plan on how to spend it, however, I am pleased to see the Liberals have included a number of our priorities in an effort to keep Parliament functioning." I think that's the message Harper has been trying to get across, although perhaps not as effectively as he, I or the Conservative Party at large would like.

Furthermore, I think the braintrust about the Leader are likely aware that Canadians aren't interested in another election at the moment, and we don't seem to have a golden issue to use as a stick to beat the Liberals over the head with so our approach has seemed to be of the tact that we're a reasonable party who wants to see Parliament work to govern Canadians, rather than the hardline, contrarian ideologues we're sometimes made out to be. This tactic makes sense to me, but how effective it is eh..too soon to tell. Would having gone into cloak and dagger mode been more effective - hard to tell but I doubt it. I don't think its as much of a no-brainer as Bob makes it out to be.

On the other hand, the Ballistic Missile Defense announcement being confirmed the day after rather effectively killed any budgetary afterglow in the press so for what solace it might be for those who disagree with my point of view - the Liberals aren't doing much better.


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