27 November 2008

King-Byng v2.0 Update

Following Luke's post yesterday, early indications are that the opposition parties will vote the "fiscal update" down, sending Parliament either towards dissolution or towards some sort of governing coalition/liberal minority government (with emphasis on minority).

Press reaction? Perhaps the Globe could be beginning to regret its ridiculous decision to endorse the Tories in October. Even Canwest/National Post is ambivalent; some columnists are taken aback (and here) while another loves it. Andrew Coyne is very happy... no surprise there.

My two cents: I don't have much grasp on the tactics at play here, but for what it's worth here's my take. This is a cunning move for Harper, but one that would come back to haunt him if indeed the opposition parties stiffen up and reject the measure. That leads me to suspect that the Tories have internal polling numbers that show that they are again in a position to win a majority, and some sort of strategy in their back pockets to put the blame for another election squarely on the shoulders of the Liberals. If they didn't think that they would come off well in an election, they would not be making this gamble. As one Post column points out, the Conservatives are only seeing upside right now. But if the motion is defeated and the opposition parties can govern together for a few months or half a year, it could turn out to be a bad mistake.

I also can't let this go without venting about how utterly wretched this plan is. $30-million to provide well over the majority of the major parties' revenues? That's peanuts, and even if the Tories were being sincere about this simple fiscal prudence, their obsession with balanced budgets at a time of deepening recession is highly troubling.

We get party politics on the cheap in Canada. Tying party finances at least partially to their electoral success ensures that funding is related at least loosely to what counts for merit in representative democratic politics: popularity. A party's funding, and therefore its electoral fortunes, should not depend solely on its fundraising capability, since this depends on a whole lot of factors completely unrelated to ideas, policies, or governing competence.

No comments: