Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Canadians having nothing to fear, but fear monger Harper himself

He's got the title – give him the job

Globe and Mail
December 16, 2008

Upon exiting a meeting with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty yesterday, Liberal MPs Scott Brison and John McCallum described the session as “very constructive and businesslike.” That would be more encouraging if it were clear that Mr. Flaherty were actually running the Finance department.

Mr. Flaherty has spent the last three weeks being embarrassed by his own government. On Nov. 27, he rose in the House of Commons to deliver an ill-conceived fiscal update that by most accounts was dictated by the Prime Minister's Office. When the update's inadequate response to the global economic crisis and its gratuitous partisanship had disastrous consequences, Mr. Flaherty was left twisting in the wind while other cabinet ministers were dispatched to back away from its more controversial positions.

The past few days have seen the continuation of a trend that began even before the fiscal update – the Finance Minister saying one thing, and the government doing another. On Friday, Mr. Flaherty publicly preached the merits of restraint, cautioning against “panicking” and dampening expectations for a stimulus package. Hours later, Industry Minister Tony Clement announced a tentative bailout of the auto industry believed to be worth approximately $3.4-billion. By the end of the weekend, Mr. Clement was hinting at similar aid for the forestry and mining sectors. And in a television interview aired yesterday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper undermined Mr. Flaherty's call for calm – intoning that he's “never seen such uncertainty in terms of looking forward to the future” and declining to rule out a full-fledged depression.

Mr. Flaherty's disempowerment says more about his boss than it does about him. With very few exceptions, Mr. Harper has placed little faith in his ministers. They function primarily as spokespeople, with most major decisions being made centrally. The consequences of micro-managing minor portfolios have been relatively small. But the country needs economic leadership that goes beyond a few staff members in the Prime Minister's Office, as the government has ably demonstrated with its alternately inadequate and, yes, panicky response to the current fiscal turmoil.

Not every Finance minister will enjoy the clout of Paul Martin or even Don Mazankowski, and Mr. Flaherty has not yet been given a chance to prove that he merits it. But now more than ever, Canada needs a strong hand at Finance. He or she must have command of the department, the respect of cabinet, and the ability to speak to the public with authority on the government's fiscal policy. Mr. Flaherty does not seem to meet any of those criteria, because he apparently lacks the most important qualification of all: the confidence of the Prime Minister.

1 comment:

Dr Mike said...


If the boss-man Harper is calling the shots & we are in such a mess then we are doomed.

This is the same guy whose throne speeches attempt to convince Canadians that all is well because he is in control.

Wonder what happened to the 70,000 jobs that were lost last month , 38000 of them in Ontario---maybe they were just misplaced.

Help us all --Flaherty & Harper , a lethal combination.

Dr Mike Popovich.