He’s back, and not in black, but in a blue sweater vest.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper managed to not nail down a majority government in the recent Canadian federal election but he gets to trot up Parliament Hill with a minority government. How Harper managed to not secure a majority with a weak a Liberal leader and platform to counter, the Green Party siphoning off some NDP mustard and newly found inroads in Quebec inhand must have him thinking…where did it go wrong?
The final seat count was 143 seats for the Consevatives, 76 for the Liberals, 50 for the Bloc Quebecois, 37 for the NDP and 2 indepents. The Tories did manage to increase their total of 127 seats from the last election. However, blood was in the water and the magical 155 seat majority mark was there for the taking and Harper knows it.
The economic crisis and arts cuts comments were what ultimately foiled Monsieur Sweater Vest. His apparent lack of empathy with credit markets and economies imploding really was not the poor play here. The fact he gave stock advice, saying it is a good time “to buy” did hurt him. Also, as Canada’s sitting prime minister, he did not head back to Ottawa to show he was “on top” of the situation.
Opposition leaders hammered at his inaction and stay-the-course mantra. People could really care less about empathy when it comes to money, they want the top dog in their nation showing he his doing something…anything…make it a photo-op but at least show you are doing something to look after their pocketbooks. It says here, if Harper actually acted it would have knocked any gusto out of an opposition leader’s critique of him.
Harper’s downplaying of $45 million in arts cuts as a “niche issue for some” was a disaster for him in Quebec. The little new found inroads he made in the last election there hit the floor quicker than Puffin poo on Stephane Dion’s shoulder. Quebec artists and residents rallied and either voted Liberal or Bloc, turning their backs on the Tories- the following video says it all.
What now? With a stronger minority in hand, will the Tories rule once again as if they have a majority? If the Prime Minister wishes to be seen as really connecting with all Canadians, a more co-operative effort with the opposing parties is needed.
However, a weakened Liberal party, reduced in its numbers from 98 to 76, could provide a new challenge for Harper. Instead of the Liberals avoiding votes in order to not bring down the government (and be thrust into an election with a weak leader and internal division…hold on a sec…that happened anyway) they may actually show some backbone in Ottawa and act like the official opposition. How will Harper deal with this new wrinkle?
In the current context, with true fear among Canadians in the middle of this financial maelstrom, all party leaders will have to play nice and what an opportunity for Prime Minister Harper to not pack away the fatherly, good-guy, blue sweater vest just yet.