Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Warning: Signs of Conservative Drift

Toronto Star Columnist Chantal Hebert says that Stephen Harper's Conservatives need new ideas. It's a short readable article and by and large she's right. With weak opposition leaders Stephen Harper has a potentially stable government but his last budget was a hodge podge of new spending initiatives without a really coherent theme. Chantal says:

At this point, the government is basically killing time, an exercise it cannot sustain for more than a few weeks, let alone the months or even years between now and an election.


Something more substantial is needed to both re-launch the government and give Harper something inspiring to campaign on in the next election.

Behind a business-as-usual facade, a search for new ideas is ongoing. It involves the top strategists of the government as well as the upper levels of the civil service. It will stretch into the summer and could result in the presentation of a throne speech in the fall.

The larger question is whether the Prime Minister should go the route of another set of unconnected but populist nuts-and-bolts initiatives or opt for a grander design.

The former may offer the least risky path to the government, but what if it leads to another dead end? Harper needs a more ambitious agenda for both defensive and
proactive reasons.

Yep. I can't say I often agree with Chantal, but government simply works best when there's an overarching coherent agenda that will make policies fit together. There's an enormous amount of pressure especially on a minority government to focus on uncontroversial policies to stay in power. Stephen Harper must resist this temptation or risk being a mere caretaker of a short lived government. I hope this summer a bold new strategy is developed.

My advice to those developing the strategy: Do not ignore your base, especially social conservatives and democratic conservatives, there's enough support for truly conservative principles to give the Conservatives a healthy majority. Also use your back benches, there's a lot of energy, passion and principle that can drive your agenda forward. An unambitious agenda will suck that energy away from your government and your supporters, myself included.

H/T Unambiguously Ambidextrous

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