Thursday, February 09, 2006

More On Harper's Cabinet and the Notion of Principles

Swirling around the blogosphere is a very loud, raucous debate over two of Harper's cabinet picks: David Emerson and Michael Fortier.

Basically, the gist of it is this - on one side, you have people who are accusing Harper of being no better than his predecessors; and on the other side, CPC supporters saying "so what", and justifying Harper's actions to themselves.

To a certain degree I'm prepared to accept the "what's the big deal" perspective that the CPC supporters are putting forth. After all, Harper hasn't done anything that other Prime Ministers haven't done - whether it be offering cabinet posts to someone for crossing the floor, or appointing from the senate to round out the cabinet when there are regional discrepancies.

However, there's a couple of giant yabbuts lurking in the mix:

1) First, remember all the oaths and epithets sworn by the CPC when Belinda Stronach crossed the floor? How _they_ would never do such a thing, etc.? Comparing Stronach's defection with Emerson is suspect at best - Stronach at least made an effort to sit as part of the CPC caucus for a while before jumping ship. Meanwhile, Emerson has clearly played a game of pure personal gain. No more, and no less. The house hasn't even convened and he jumps ship. I won't speculate on how "talented" Emerson is - I frankly hadn't heard anything of him prior to this (at least not that I paid any attention to) The optics of it stink - Emerson looks like nothing more than an opportunistic, power-hungry fool and Harper looks like a man desperate to make a "balanced looking" cabinet.

2) Repeatedly, Harper and other members of the CPC have railed against "senate appointees" acting as cabinet ministers. Again, this has been something that they would _never_ do. Senate reform has been one of the the Reform/Alliance/CPC hobby horse policies for years now. What's the first thing they do? Appoint a party hack to the Senate - not within weeks or months of being sworn in, but literally within mere minutes. Then, Harper turns around and makes the man a Cabinet Minister?

Unless you are completely blinded by Harper's aura, the optics of this are really bad. Indefensibly bad. Harper has done little more than demonstrate that not only is he dishonest, but also that his vaunted "principles" are as malleable as any other politician's, and possibly far closer to Brian Mulroney's than we might want to know.

The long and short of it is that Harper not only had other options open to him that he chose not to use, but he also showed the country once again what we can expect from his government. Remember, this is the party that campaigned on principles and honest government - the opening gambit looks like neither to me.

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