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The Conservatives have forgotten how to get things done

I was at the lake when the federal election was called. “Meh,” was my response. I didn’t even bother to turn on the TV for two days to look at the coverage.
Brian Zinchuk
Brian Zinchuk

I was at the lake when the federal election was called.

“Meh,” was my response. I didn’t even bother to turn on the TV for two days to look at the coverage.

That’s saying something, since for several years I was the political reporter for the Battlefords NewsOptimist, and I met my wife and most of my lifelong friends at Saskatchewan Youth Parliament. I have lived and breathed politics since a young age, and I could barely be bothered to notice a federal election underway.

Saying something, indeed.

Obviously, this was the intention of the federal Conservatives. Launching an election on the August long weekend is the epitome of crass. Call an election when people are relaxing, and maybe they won’t notice.

One of the first promises made by Stephen Harper is a renewed home improvement tax credit. It’ll cost about a billion and a half dollars a year, but will only start in a few years, when we can afford it (probably just before the NEXT election). Gee, that’s swell. I just finished reading a scathing report in Macleans which echos columns I have written myself about the deterioration of the Royal Canadian Navy. The retirement of the three ancient destroyers and two supply ships has diminished our navy to utter irrelevance.

What could we do with $1.5 billion? We could write a cheque today to France and take delivery tomorrow of two fully completed amphibious assault ships, essentially small helicopter aircraft carriers, from France. That’s not hyperbole, either. France decided not to sell the two Mistral-class amphibs to Russia after Russia’s tacit invasion of Ukraine.

They could be in Halifax within the week, ready to have a maple leaf painted on the smokestack.

But that’s exactly what we’ve seen from the Harper Conservatives. They’ve promised the moon for the military, and delivered next to nothing. The end of the “decade of darkness” for the military was a lie. We are now fully into our next decade of darkness.

Politicians have one basic job – do what you said you were going to do. So why is it that with so many things, the Conservatives have forgotten that simple tenet?

Take this election being called in summer, nearly three months before the actual election date. The whole purpose of the much-ballyhooed fixed election date written in law was that it takes away politician’s ability to muck around with them to their own advantage. Yet we saw one election called long before the end of their mandate, and now this one had the writ dropped ridiculously early. It’s purpose, of course, is to starve out the other parties’ war chests. Since the Conservatives have by far the most money to play with, they can stretch it out and play the long game.

A long game of dirty pool, that’s what this is.

Or, perhaps it could be something else. There are clear indications that the halving of oil prices has put Canada into a recession. Maybe the election was called early before those indications became a chorus. No ruling party wants to go into an election with a recession hanging over its head.

The Conservatives have in many ways provided competent governance. But now, nine years on, some things they have done have rubbed the wrong way for too long. The consistent use of omnibus bills has made a mockery of parliamentary democracy. The horrible state of military procurement can no longer be ignored.

While preaching a good game on pipelines, one should note Northern Gateway, TransMountain Express and Energy East have not yet begun construction. If they were serious about it, at least one of those would have dirt being scratched today.

I’m not even going to touch on the Senate, which is now full of Conservative senators behaving badly.

There is more to governing than handing out tax cuts. Sometimes you actually have to govern. That means let individual bills be considered on their merits. That means making decisions and spending money, such as with military procurement. It means ending the trickery with elections.
Governments in this country aren’t elected in, but elected out. The Conservatives have accumulated enough baggage they might soon find themselves on the way out.