Making hay while the sun shines

Andrew Coyne is just plain cranky. I heard him explaining this article on how stupid politics is in Canada last night on the CBC. For example, here’s a quote:

The Conservatives, for their part, seem to have lost all interest in policy, contenting themselves with packing diplomatic posts with party supporters and other delights of office. Before long they will be haranguing each other in Question Period, to the immense uninterest of the public.

From the tone of his conversation on CBC, it seems he believes that neither the Tories or the Liberals want to engage in any serious policy debates out of electoral fears. He claims that comes from Jean Cretien’s example.

I had this in my mind when I read the the TJ article this morning about Shawn Graham’s increasing approval ratings.

It seems to me that Graham has been doing a lot of image polishing himself in his first year in office rather than serious policy moves.

I think the first year or two in office is when you make all your offensive moves and then you settle back into defense when you look at your polling numbers.

Remember old Iron Mike Harris. Like him or hate him, he did a lot of slashing and pillaging in his first couple of years as did old Charest in Quebec. Charest’s polling numbers after those changes (or even hinted changes) were at record lows – I think I remember him being around 15% approval or some sub-George Bush level.

So, if Shawn Graham spends his early time in office tiptoeing through the tulips, when will the tough decisions be made?

I don’t know if politics has become ‘stupid’ as Coyne suggests. I do know it has become a lot harder to make tough decisions. There was a time in this country when politicians made decisions like supporting NAFTA, the GST, cutting $40 billion in spending. Even in New Brunswick, we saw forced community amalgamations, hospitals closed, public sector wages frozen for years. A lot of tough decisions.

I suggest there will need to be very tough decisions ahead for the Graham governmetn if they want to even start moving towards self-sufficiency. This will start with a rethink of government and an attempt to turn the Titanic away from the managing of decline to supportive of growth. It will, I believe, also mean a major shift in public spending towards the investment side of the ledger rather than the expense side.

And the best time to make that happen is early on in the mandate before you can see the whites of the eyes of the voters.

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0 Responses to Making hay while the sun shines

  1. mikel says:

    ‘Tough decisions’ means ‘you won’t like them but I will’. Has there ever been a study or a record on how much cash amalgamating Miramichi has ‘saved’. Its always interesting when ‘tough decisions’ like amalgamating happen, they disappear as policy decisions right after they are done.

    So that was a ‘tough decision’, but we don’t know whether it was a RIGHT decision, or even a democratic one. At least the lack of amalgamation in rural areas was a DEMOCRATIC one. Policy decisions are not ‘moral’ decisions, so they aren’t ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, at least not objectively. They are ‘right’ to the person who holds to certain criteria and thats it.

    But I’d suggest both you and Coyne are off base, its just that they aren’t talking about the ‘tough decisions’ that YOU or HE like to talk about.

    For the liberals to let NBPower burn the dirtiest fuel there is in the province that is the worst polluter is a HUGELY tough decision. When St.John and Lord walked through a tax deal for Irving, breaking forty years worth of tax laws, that is a HUGE and very tough decision, people were outraged.

    For the liberals to dump a party resolution of public auto insurance that is a VERY tough decision. YOU don’t call it a tough decision because it was just something that you already agreed with.

  2. NB taxpayer says:

    Good post. I think Coyne is still a bit bitter over the decisions made in the first two budgets of the “new” conservative government. Spend, spend and spend some more.

    Let’s just say he didn’t expect a party which campaigned diligently on small government and low taxes to do the opposite when in power.

  3. NB taxpayer says:

    One more thing, it would seem that you and Milton Friedman share a similar ethos when it comes to the implementation of a solid government strategy.

    Here’s a quote from his book Tyranny of the Status Quo:

    “everywhere, whether in the United States, Great Britain, France, or Germany, a new administration has just about six months to make major changes that will benefit the community at large. …Unless the occupant of [the White House], Republican or Democrat, makes such changes in the first few months after being elected or reelected, the tyranny of the status quo will assert itself and prevent further change.”

    Ouch! If you go by that anology, then it is safe to say that the Liberals will have to run on a renewed platform (rather than their record) before the next election. Either that, or start expending some of their politcal capital now.