Bush's pal Steve Harper is not doing well these days.
So long as Steve had a simplistic 5-point program and stuck to it, he did well. But when it came to multi-tasking he had trouble passing gas and blowing his nose at the same time. When it came to putting out fires he was all thumbs with both the hose and the extinguisher.
Harper's problems really began with his flip-flop on income trusts. During the election campaign, unlike the Grits who seemed to be lurking around the next corner to do them in, Stevie had promised to maintain them as an investment vehicle. Once in power however, he fell under the spell of the gurus at Finance, the Bank of Canada, and Bay Street. They convinced him to break the promise. And so, the sly and stealthful pal of Bush's, shamelessly changed his mind. Income Trusts, he announced, would be phased out. The handsome returns they delivered to their investors would be no more. Thusly, he broke his word to a key group of the traditional coalition of Conservative voters - retired people with savings, not to mention, the brokers and financial advisors who feed off of them, together with other business groups. They were all loyal, fair and foul weather Conservatives. Overnight, many became former loyal, fair and foul weather Conservatives.
The front end man picked by Stevie to do the verbalizing dirty work was an arrogant Ontario former ambulance chaser, Finance Minister James Flaherty. Flaherty's hauty demeanor while presiding as the chief executioner of the much beloved investment vehicle, did little but exacerbate Stevie's Government's first major PR disaster.
The next stop along Steve's road to perdition was his Budget. It took about 24 hours for the Canadian people to grasp the essence of it all - an obvious and giant bribe to the Province of Quebec.
The billions transferred over to Steve's pal Jean Charest never had a snowball's chance of passing the stink test. Charest was informed of Harper's largesse of several billion to La Belle Province to correct a mythical fiscal imbalance in Equalization payments near the end of a brutal provincial election campaign which was not going well. And so, in one of the most unsavoury and odious moves in Canadian political history, with the proceeds of his bribe, Charest offered a huge tax cut to Quebecers. He squeaked through with a narrow minority victory.
The Budget also earned the undying enmity of Tory Premier Danny Williams of Newfoundland, who came out swinging about what he saw as another broken Harper promise - the promise of not including resource revenues to calculate Equalization payments. Williams remains on the warpath, taking his rip-roaring attack on Steve's character and policies, on speechifying road trips elsewhere in Canada. Premier Calvert of Saskatchewan, notwithstanding that he is a mild gentleman as befits a man of the cloth, has also told anybody within earshot of what he thinks of the conniving Prime Minister. Canadians from across the country cursed the Prime Minister as another Quebec appeaser. Even Quebecers seemed embarassed by the Conservative generosity of other Canadians' money. His support there has dropped like a rock since.
Then comes Afghanistan. The hapless and feckless warrior, retired General and Minister of National Defence Gordon O'Connor, under constant fire in the House, changed his story about the treatment and monitoring of Canadian captured detainees in Afghanistan repeatedly. He was ably assisted in the confusion by Steve himself, together with the grey-matter challenged Liberal gift from the Conservatives that keeps on giving, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day.
The cuckolded (probably not the most accurate term in hearkening to his treatment by the vamp Belinda, but delicious nonetheless) Foreign Affairs Minister Peter McKay also got into the act. His Department first lied about the existence of a report on conditions in Afghanistan. It then produced a heavily censored version. When an intrepid Globe and Mail reporter produced the original, Canadians discovered that the censored report left all of the good news in, and the bad news out - an odious coverup. Canadians already felt queasy about Afghanistan, there being no end in sight to our sacrifice of lives and money. Now they are left with the firm conviction that the Government does not know what it is doing there. The treatment of the detainees handed over by Canadian troops to the Afghani authorities who tortured them, sounded to them an awful lot like the evil-doers Bush, Cheney Rumsfeld, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanomo.
Next on the Agenda was the Global warming issue. This is the one promise that Bush's pal Steve Harper obviously did not want to break - the promise that he would go easier on industry than the Grits' Kyoto policy. The basis of Stevie's policy is the reduction of intensity levels of green house gas emissions, as opposed to an absolute reduction of emissions. A reduction of intensity levels will not necessarily reduce emissions. Canadians understand that in the case of the oilsands, the biggest greehouse gas belcher in the country, absolute emissions will increase regardless of intensity reductions because the production of oil from the oilsands is expected to triple in less than 10 years. The Canadian policy based on intensity reductions is - in the words of Al Gore, the guru of global warming - "a complete and total fraud."
To sell his flim-flam plan, Stevie sent into the battle, his doorman, John Baird - the chippy and burly, highly-partisan political hit man whose Frat boy demeanor reminds one of the anchorman on the college relay beer-drinking team. Yes, Baird was the designated hitter to take on the saintly Suzuki and the immensely popular Al Gore. The Frat boy never had a chance.
And finally, we have the plight of NHL star Shane Doan. Doan, from Halkirk, Alberta, is the highly effective and popular Captain of the Canadian National Team presently duking it out for the world hockey championship in Moscow. He had a dust-up with some NHL officials a couple of years ago, who accused him of making an anti-French slur during a heated hockey game. He denied it. There was an investigation, and he was cleared. But it wasn't enough to satisfy the politicians. Led by the Bloc, a hearing ensued last week before the Commons Official Languages Committee. All of the parties wanted in on this keystone kops act. By God, they were going to fall all over each other protecting our country from racial slurs in the hockey rink. Here, Steve had an opportunity of picking up some lost points. He could have and should have said, 'This is ridiculous. There's been an investigation and he's been cleared. Get off his case." He let Shane twist slowly in the wind until the debate petered out. Stevie just couldn't resist the further pandering to the nationalist vote in Quebec. He said nothing. And he lost more points. The whole Ottawa political scene became even more of a laughing stock than usual. Oh, yes, when it was all over and there were no further real or imaginary points to get, Bush's pal Steve Harper called Shane to congratulate him on a hat trick. Talk about trying to have your cake and eat it. Fortunately, the Canadian people saw it for the crass opportunism that it was.
Today Canadians received further information that the polls, already getting soft for Stevie, have taken an alarming anti-Conservative turn. An Ipsos Read poll released today shows the Conservatives with 35%, Liberals at 34%, NDP at 14%, the Bloc with 9% and Greens at 7%.
Most importantly, the Grits lead in Ontario 44% to 34%. And in Quebec, with the people obviously having more pride than Steve gives them credit for, the Grits are second to the Bloc and ahead of the Tories: The Bloc has 35%, the Grits 25% and the Conservatives 20%. In Atlantic Canada the Grits are ahead with 43% to 32% for the Conservatives. Only in the west, do the Conservatives lead the Grits: in British Columbia, 43% to 32%, in Alberta 66% to 20%, and in Saskatchewan, 46% to 25%.
If the election were held tomorrow, Stephane Dion and the Grits would win, because the overwhelming Conservative lead in Alberta does not translate into enough seats.
Bush's pal Steve Harper is in deep political trouble. What's worse, the Canadian people don't care much for him. Get ready for a Dion Government. You can say you heard it here first.