Thursday, February 24, 2005

Budget bleat

Occam's Carbuncle has some pithy analysis of the federal budget, from Tuesday! (based on leaks reported in Politics Watch). My favourite was probably this one:
Aboriginals - $150 million for learning programs and $100 million for housing.

Oh, and $50 million for the forensic audits.

Zing. I do take issue with his sarcastic appreciation of the tax cut. No Cut Too Small, that's my motto. I figure if I'm going to get cranky about small tax increases, I ought to be loudly appreciative of small decreases.

Anyway, my thoughts have turned to the Conservative Party, as is the custom, and what I would like them to be doing. Here's a hint, taken from John Robson at his new blog:
Have you considered the strategy of opposing the government while offering an alternative program? That would be the responsible thing to do because otherwise, if the Liberals, Tories, NDP and Bloc between them cook up a budget in many respects unsatisfactory to voters, we have no one to whom to turn for redress. We did not send all you "opposition" MPs to Parliament to collude with the government so we would be denied effective choice. How ever did you get the idea that we did?

Ahhh, Bistro. The sweet, sweet sensation of principles, logic, and practicality merging into a single position.

I understand that the CPC need not reflexively oppose everything that comes out of a Liberal mouth, and they don't want to fight an election yet. But they DO need to do their job as the Loyal Opposition, and they also need to stake out their ground on some wedge issues (gee, that sounds so darn "divisive", I feel icky). Supporting the budget represents some non-zero amount of approval for every spending plan in it, which undercuts, to some degree, future and ongoing opposition to said spending plans.

If only there was some nice motherhood issue that the CPC could take ownership of, and use it to beat the Liberals senseless... hmmmm... I've got it! How about motherhood! It should be obvious that if the CPC came out with one specific reason why they can't support the budget (despite being otherwise "pleased"), that reason would get a lot of attention. That's why this should be what Stephen Harper is saying this morning:

"There is a lot to be happy about with the new budget. I'm glad the Liberals listened to us and incorporated some tax relief, and it's good to see a plan to start rebuilding our military, even if it is pretty slim pickings in the near-term.

That said, the Conservative Party cannot support any budget which provides for the establishment of the Liberals' lunatic plan for a federal daycare system. There are a bevy of reasons to oppose this terrible, terrible plan, and they generally fall under two broad objections.

First, it's a massive government program, and the Liberals have proven themselves totally incompetent at making sure such programs achieve their intended objective.

Second and more importantly, if the Liberals wish to spend five billion dollars to help parents and children, what they should be doing is giving them the money. For some families, the money would help cover the costs of ongoing daycare for their children. For some parents, it would allow them to use daycare less, and spend more time with their own children. And for some families who already have a stay-at-home parent, it will allow them to provide more opportunites for their children.

Even if there were a magical guarantee that the federal daycare system would be the most efficient and effective program in the history of Canadian government, it is still a less appealing alternative than empowering parents to make their own decisions as to what is best for their children.

We will be opposing the new budget in Parliament. We are not keen on an immediate election, but if there needs to be one to let Canadians decide who knows best for their children - the Liberals or themselves - then so be it."

Isn't this a better course of action than, "We're pleased"? Readers are invited to comment on whether this sounds like a sensible speech, or the ravings of a right-wing pinhead, and whether this would catch the attention of the moderate Canadian voter.


At 2:52 p.m., Blogger Sacamano said...

Warren agrees with you.

At 3:37 p.m., Blogger Matt said...

What can I say? It's that obvious.

At 9:24 a.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Read Bob Tarantino today. Better strategy, I think, since an election is a non-starter with both the political parties and the electorate at this point.

At 10:33 a.m., Blogger Matt said...

Forgive the arrogance: it's not that I think Bob's take is stupid, but I definitely prefer mine (or Kinsella's, if you like). If Harper went the way I suggested, one of 3 things happen:

1) Liberals back down on daycare - hooray! Best possible scenario.
2) Budget passes with NDP/Bloc support; the CPC has their non-negotiable opposition to the daycare on record, loud and clear. This also monkeywrenches the Liberals' typical run-left, govern-right strategy, establishing the CPC as an actual alternative, not merely a bunch of new faces running the machine for themselves.
3) Budget fails, and there's an election where the daycare plan is a (the) central issue, and the CPC is the only party on the right side of it. I don't accept the CW that defeating the budget would hurt the "defeaters" most in an election; in fact the last time it happened, the opposition was elected to a majority.

You follow Bob's advice, sure it makes the CPC look strong, but these things are fleeting. Actual sensible opposition to stupid spending plans is the better alternative, to my mind.

At 1:04 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Matt, remember you're talking about a party that hasn't yet held its first policy convention.

If the CPC had its house in order, I'd agree with you - but under the current circumstances, I think your plan would be a shot to the party's foot. Under your second and third scenarios, the Libs would spin this as obstructionist/partisan anti-family, anti-poor, anti-woman politics with the willing help of the MSM; and under scenario number three, the CPC would lose the subsequent election.

The fact that while we disagree on the best course of action, but agree that what actually happened was the worst option Harper & Co. could have chosen just proves my point: the CPC isn't set up to win an election yet. And unless they're ready to win one, they shouldn't force one.

At 3:25 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matt wrote about the "lunatic plan for a federal daycare system. There are a bevy of reasons to oppose this terrible, terrible plan..."

This immense anti-daycare website has many more reasons to oppose Universal Daycare...


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