Monday, October 03, 2005

Public Policy Forum Piles on Harper

The Public Policy Forum, according to its website, “was founded in 1987 to provide a neutral venue where the private sector and the public sector could meet to learn from one another.” Its blurb goes on to say that “the PPF does not sit in judgement of what government does, but looks at how public policy is developed and how the public service is managed.”

Unfortunately, this purported detachment does not apply to what opposition leaders do, hence PPF Vice President (and former Joe Clark chief of staff) Graham Fox’s lengthy indictment of Stephen Harper in today‘s Toronto Star, which appears in Policy Options, a publication of the Institute for Research on Public Policy.

Fox runs through a long and rather stale list of Harper’s failings as leader, as seen through the prism of this spring’s events when the AdScam testimony broke and the Martin government faced confidence votes on its budget. Briefly, these failings are:

· Relying on a small cadre of advisers to the exclusion of all others
· Failing to broaden the base of the new party
· Failing to adapt his strategy to changing circumstances
· Continuing to oppose same-sex marriage, after Canadians have “moved on”
· Blaming others and shutting out different views
· Centralizing party power in the leader’s office

The only original observation I found was Fox’s claim that, according to William Johnson’s recent bio of Harper, Harper is “fundamentally a social conservative.” Is that what Johnson said? I haven’t read the book yet (hoping to get it next week for my birthday), but took a quick look at a library copy and note the following passages:

From a lengthy discussion of Harper’s March 1989 memo to Reform leader Preston Manning, which details much of Harper’s thinking:

While recognizing that the Reform Party should stand for conservative social values, Harper also warned against any departure from moderation, any partiality for “ultra-conservative values” such as nativism and excessive religious fervour. “A modern party of the Right cannot pander either to these minorities or to resentments of them.” (p. 122)

And from page 363:

His (Harper’s) stance for years had been that moral issues should not be a matter of party policy, but each MP should be free to follow his or her conscience and the wishes of the constituents.

Add to these the common knowledge that Harper is a social libertarian and has described himself as such from time to time. So where does Fox derive his conclusion that Harper is a so-con?

The screed ends with the conclusion that Harper “has to decide whether he wants to lead a social conservative movement or a brokerage party. If he opts for the former, he must do so with the clear understanding that he will not form a government . . .” If he wants to lead a “brokerage party”, Harper must “recognize the need for the party to broaden its base and make the kind of policy compromises inherent in that shift.” Since those compromises were basically made at the party’s Montreal policy convention in March, it seems that the only policy compromise Fox is talking about is same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage is a challenging issue to deal with, and I would argue that Harper and his MPs have addressed it with more honesty and integrity than Paul Martin has. But what should Harper and conservative MPs say to the vast majority of their supporters who oppose changing the definition of marriage? “Don’t bother us with your deeply-held views on a fundamental social institution! Can’t you see we’re trying to get our hands on the keys to the government limos here?!”

I don’t think that Harper is thrilled about having to continue the debate over same-sex marriage into the next election (where I don’t think it will be a major issue nationally), but should the rise to power consist primarily of jettisoning every issue that may slow or divert one’s progress? Perhaps Fox sees debating contentious policies as a burden. That’s a strange view for someone working for a think tank.

Despite the layers of Saran Wrap supplied by the imprimaturs of the Public Policy Forum and the Institute for Research on Public Policy, Fox’s piece has the smell of a hit ordered by PC malcontents who wanted Harper as leader even less than they wanted merger. Lo and behold, the forum’s staff includes Joe Clark old-timers Jodi White (she’s the President) and Bill Neville (“Senior Advisor to the President” – I am not making this up). Perhaps Fox thinks it is their advice that Harper should have sought on managing minority government situations.

A sidebar: Fox raises the canard of how gay couples that wed pursuant to the various lower court decisions would be “un-married” if new federal legislation were passed. Answer: they wouldn’t. Their situation would be analogous to a house that is built under zoning rules that have been superseded by rules that would not allow the same house to be built today. The existing house does not have to be torn down, as it is a “legal non-conforming use.” As for the married gays, they would eventually die or get divorced.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Graham Fox quote on Conservatives for Equal Marriage site.

Meaghan Walker-Williams said...

"social libertarian"

Wow, I missed where Harper believed that Pot should be legalized, on the basis that adults should not have the state telling them what they can or can't put into their bodies.

I missed where Harper said that he would not continue to try and stop SSM from continuing to become a reality.

I missed entirely, where Harper has advocated the privitized medical care in Canada... last I heard, he was still talking about how great the System that Canadians believe in is.

On what basis do you make the claim that Stephen Harper is a social libertarian.

Because there is *nothing* have read that leads me to conclude that if he got into power, that he would not fail to impose the Reform/Alliance fundamentalists position on various issues down people's throats via legislation, while keeping intact the hideous socialist-super state that was advanced by Trudeau.

If anything Harper is a bismarkian socialist, mixed-market man. Not in any way a social libertarian, let alone a fiscal libertarian.

Natwho said...
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Anonymous said...

To Meaghan Walker-Williams, I can only guess from all the things that you have missed about Stephen Harper that you obtain most of the news you get from CBC. I guess I would have to ask what it was that you DID read that helped you form your opinion of Harper. Anyway, keep reading, you're bound to stumble across the truth.

Ian Ferraro said...

Well, I have read William Johnson's book and he consistently and repeatedly makes the claim that Harper is not a social conservative at all. When I origionally read that article in the Star, I couldn't believe what I was reading when Fox says that William Johnson concludes that Harper "is fundamentally a
social conservative who has believed for some time that politics in Canada require a fundamental realignment." I wonder what William Johnson thinks about this article, and I hope he writes a rebuttal to it in another newspaper article or letter to the editior.

Interesting how Fox simply made up Johnson's opinion of Harper so he could seem unbiased against Harper in stating that he was a social conservative. Basically, he masked his own opinion of Harper (obviously not a favourable one) as being from 'an impartial observer' and someone who is known to be pro-Harper (Bill Johnson).

It is also interesting how within the same quote Fox uses a true statement, "(Harper)has believed for some time that politics in Canada require a fundamental realignment", to try and lend more creedence to the previous assertion that he is a so-con.

Now I'm only 21 years old, but I know that Harper used to be known by the MSM as the "respectable Reformer" particularly because of his opinion that the party should not take a stance on moral issues and should leave those issues to free vote. Now that doesn't sound like the opinion of a real social conservative (like Stockwell Day) does it?

As Adam Daifallah suggests, it seems like Peter MacKay (whom I support), and not Stephen Harper, is the real social conservative at the top of the CPC. Then again the MSM would never want you to know that...

On another note, is that the same MWW psycho that Kate from SDA has exposed? Looks like it is. MWW you seem to be 'off your rocker' when you suggest Harper would "impose the Reform/Alliance fundamentalists position on various issues" and then you state that he a "Bismar(c)kian Socialist" (a socialist who is trying to stop socialism?). And apparently the Reform/Alliance policies were also not of the fiscal libertarian nature. Give me a break, and get real.

Anonymous said...

The fact that Adam Daifallah, of all people, refers to you as "lovely and talented" gives me cause for suspicion.

You are as hateful as AD, and as biggoted as the rest of the Canadian Alliance/Reform wing.

Funny, the one topic wee Adam hasn't posted on is his buddy Conrad Black... hmmmmmm

Joan Tintor said...

anonymous: well, I certainly don't claim to be lovely. And I've never been a member of the Reform or the Alliance. I was a PC to the end, but supported merger after the 2000 election.

Sorry, I don't see where you get "hateful" from my comments. Because I don't think the definition of marriage should have been changed the way it was? You sound kinda "intolerant."

Anonymous said...
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