It was the coldest day in a decade in Ottawa on Wednesday. "A cold day in hell," some might say. And it's not necessarily about the weather.
January 23 marks seven years since Stephen Harper was first elected Prime Minister of Canada. The man once linked to the party of Reform and intolerant rednecks evolved to a French-speaking, cat-petting, ethnic-vote courting leader of a merged Conservative Party. As the PM took the opportunity to pat himself on the back in tweeting his self-assessed greatest accomplishments, perhaps the seven-year itch is the right time to recognize PM Harper's biggest blunders.
- G8/G20 financial fiasco: The billion-dollar boondoggle and the fake lake scandal that begat a youtube video "If I had a billion dollars" (Apologies to BNL). One wonders if the fake lake hath frozen over by now.
- Death of science-based evidence: the heart of the census was carved out, the environmental scientists were muffled and/or turfed, and decisions based on ideology rather than facts have permeated public policy.
- Refugee health: PM Harper froze healthcare services for refugees, despite objections of medical doctors and others who lean on logic and common sense. Even conservative Premiers have chided Harper for his lack of compassion!
- Appointing unilingual supreme court judges: Harper's faux-pas hat trick was half-acknowledged when he voted for an NDP-led resolution to require all top public servants be fluent in both official languages before applying for the job.
- Federal deficit vs. fiscal prudence: Harper took office with a budget surplus. Now the feds carry a large deficit, compounding the national debt. So much for fiscal conservatism!
- The F-35 jets: Harper said the cost would be frozen at $9B. That promise evaporated. The fuzzy math cleared up to reveal a $45B price tag. Oops!
- The persistent Y-chromosome problem: the enduring discrepancies in the handling of MPs' gaffes depending on their gender continues to baffle. Faint suspicion of wrong-doing got a female MP frozen out of caucus and turfed. Meanwhile, the latest in a long line of Teflon dons, Dean Del Maestro, remains Parliamentary Secretary while under dual investigations from Elections Canada and RCMP. Adding to that the abortion-restriction issue repeatedly brought back on the table and you have a backwards, misogynistic pattern.
Narrowing the list to just seven items proves to be a challenge, just as it must have been difficult for the PM to list just a handful of accomplishments and favourite photo ops via twitter.
Canadians know that the the Arctic freeze never lasts forever. Eventually, the cold spell yields to Spring. Perhaps the country can return to its normal temperature -- a climate that a majority of Canadians can feel comfortable with.
Majority governments are by definition strong and stable, so this talking point essentially means nothing. Do the Tories really think they'll win another majority by reminding us they already have one?
Curious about the questionable campaign fundraising done by Tory ministers Peter Penashue and Dean Del Mastro? Well the Conservatives have an answer for you. The NDP is much, much worse. While the New Democrats did pay back nearly $350,000 in sponsorship money from unions after Elections Canada found the party guilty of violating campaign finance laws, that doesn't give the Tories the right to ignore legitimate questions about their own fundraising practices. Then again, why answer questions when you can just blame the other guy?
When NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice asks the government something in question period he usually already knows the Tories' answer. 'Remember when you were a separatist?' Boulerice has long since admitted he used to sympathize with separatists and it's time for the Tories (we're looking at you Pierre Poilievre) to let this one go.
Instead of answering questions about allegations of misleading robocalls during the 2011 election, the Tories generally pivot and remind people the Liberals are the only party that has actually been found guilty of phone-call shenanigans. While this is true, it doesn't erase the fact that Elections Canada's investigation seems to have a fair bit to do with the CPC. Canadians deserve to know what really happened on election day, but the Tories seem content to remind us of their rival's misdeeds. Let's hope all that ends in 2013.
No answer regarding the now-scuttled acquisition of the F-35 is complete without reminding the audience that no money has been spent on the purchase. Well, as long as you don't count all the cash spent on the flashy press conference in 2010 when Peter MacKay got to sit in the cockpit right? Wouldn't it be more accurate to say plenty of money has been spent trying to replace Canada's ageing CF-18s, it's just that none of it has actually been on new planes? The Tories aren't fooling anyone here. It's time to admit mistakes were made.
Concerned about a housing bubble? Worried about Canada's shift toward a more resource-based economy? Put those fears to rest, things are much worse everywhere else. At least, that's what the Tories keep telling us. But are they really? Two problems: 1. Were the Tories responsible for the relative stability of Canada's banking system after the crash? Not so much. The IMF has credited regulations introduced by former Liberal finance minister Paul Martin in the 1990s. 2. Things are now better in the U.S., at least in terms of GDP growth, than they are here. The U.S.'s GDP grew nearly 5 times faster than Canada's in the third quarter of 2012. It's time for the Tories to admit that while Canada weathered the economic crisis well, the country now faces new problems that will require new solutions and not more tired talking points.
Even though the NDP has never proposed a carbon tax, the Tories continue to hammer this talking point home every chance they get. Got a question about the F-35? Remind them about the carbon tax. Allegations of misleading robocalls? Did we tell you about the carbon tax? The phrase has become such a predictable refrain that it has inspired one of the most dangerous drinking games in Ottawa's history. Let's hope this one evaporates in 2013.
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