Why does a sexagenarian who is still figuring out who he is get to call Stephen Harper a hypocrite? Because he’s better than you
In exchange for the $1.50 I dished out for a paper copy of the National Post today, I was treated to a s***-eating screed addressed to the Prime Minister from Robert Keith Rae, aka He Who Will Never Be Prime Minister, accompanied by an approximately 15-year-old photo of Bob.
The piece bears all the marks of a man who thinks he is better, smarter, funnier and more musical than everyone around him. And to an extent, he is right. After all, how many plodding jingles have you recorded and performed on television that could compare to “We’re in the Same Boat Now?” I thought so.
As the song says “everything old is new again.” [well at least Bob resisted the temptation to quote one of his own ditties] I am no longer the Deficit Poster Boy and Punching Bag. You are. Wear it in the best of health. And rewrite all those speeches complaining about investing in small-craft harbours. Tear up those notes when Preston Manning told us all to “stop digging.” You’re shovel-ready and it looks good on you.
Now, a normal person who spent 30 years devoted to the promotion of democratic socialism before jumping to the most cynical, idea-free force in Canadian politics – for no apparent reason other than he thinks he is still the most capable, intelligent and wise person Canadian politics has to offer – might pause for a moment before accusing others of hypocrisy. Not Bob Rae. I guess that’s one of the reasons why He is Better than Us – no matter what party he is in.
That’s also no doubt why it was reported that, on the morning of the Liberal leadership in 2006, Rae admonished his supporters to remain “humble” when his expected victory came later that day. Except it never came. All the more reason we should be bloody grateful that Rae deigned to have the nomination in a reliably safe Liberal riding handed to him, and suffers the daily indignity of having to address the knuckle-dragging wrestling enthusiasts in the Harper cabinet as “minister.”
Anyhow, to Rae’s point, scarcely visible beneath the oozing scab of his own smugness. Stephen Harper is not the first politician who has found his attitudes, priorities or plans change over time.
Why, just the other day I saw Rae on TV, expressing concern about the buy-American clause in the U.S. stimulus package
“I don’t think either one of us can afford to go off on protectionist tangents,” Rae told Question Period. “We have created this integrated marketplace over several decades and there’s no going back.”
--CTV's Question Period, January 11
And this from the Toronto Star:
But Rae said Canada, which depends on trade, should not do anything to increase protectionist sentiment.
“The risk we run is that we end up offending not just the Americans but also the Europeans and all of our other trading partners,” he said.
“And you have to remember who we are. We’re a tiny country, 33 million in a big world, and it isn’t going to the same effect.
Is this the same Bob Rae who campaigned so vigorously against the original Canada-U.S. free trade agreement that was at the centre of the 1988 federal election, and the 1992 NAFTA agreement, both when he was still a devotee of democratic socialism? Alas, it was.
The Canada-U.S. free trade agreement will make rich companies richer and poor people poorer, says New Democratic Party leader Bob Rae.
Canadian and U.S. negotiators are still trying to define what constitutes unfair trade subsidies, and the Americans are sure to point to Canada’s social programs, Rae said.
Federal government representatives have repeatedly said Canada’s social programs are not threatened by the pact. But the members of yesterday’s panel oppose the pact and echoed Rae’s comments.
--Toronto Star, March 23, 1988 [from free abstract at TheStar.com]
An indication of the likely intensity of the coming storm was an exchange between Mr. Mulroney and Bob Rae, Premier of Ontario and a member of the Socialist-leaning New Democratic Party that opposes the Prime Minister’s Progressive Conservatives.
Alluding to American Presidential politics, Mr. Rae charged that the pact had “everything to do with the Republican convention next week and nothing to do with the interests of the Canadian economy or Canadian workers.”
--New York Times, August 13, 1992
The same boat, indeed. Start baling, Bob.
I must admit that I am little more enthused about the Harper government’s projected $60-plus billion in deficits over two years, than I was by Bob Rae’s $40-billion in deficits over four years.
When I see a news item about a tax credit to encourage home renovation, followed by commercials from banks and the government itself promoting the tax-free savings accounts implemented in the last budget, I am somewhat discom-Bob-ulated. And when I hear commentators saying that similarly unnerved conservative voters have nowhere else to go, I can’t help think: “I’m sure Brian Mulroney assumed the same thing even after the Reform party was founded.” But I am also sure that this last point has occurred to Stephen Harper who, while no saint, seems blessed with more self-awareness than Bob Rae is. (But then, who isn’t?)
Rae’s tribute to his own record conveniently leaves out Ontario’s fiscal circumstances prior to his becoming Ontario’s Worst Premier in History, circumstances for which he was directly responsible, thanks to the 1985 accord that catapulted the second-place Liberals into power. These conditions, just off the top of my head, included:
• 33 tax increases
• Massive hikes in government spending
• The hiring of approximately 10,000 additional civil servants
• Increases in welfare rates, leading to a massive increase in the welfare rolls, despite a booming economy
So when the recession came on Rae’s watch, Ontario’s government was very poorly positioned to respond. Now, there was a certain poetic justice in Rae having to clean up the mess he helped the Liberals make, but Rae proceeded to cripple Ontario further, by the implementation of 32 tax increases of his own, the aforementioned $40-billion in debt, and new burdens on job creation, such as pro-union labour legislation. He did everything short of posting signs at Ontario’s borders and airports telling investors to f*** off.
This contrasts with how the Harper regime governed prior to the current worldwide economic downturn: reducing taxes and paying down debt.
Unfortunately, Rae seems to have concluded that the Harris years vindicated both him and his policies. (Which makes you wonder why he had to switch parties if he was right along.) Bob Rae is the last person who is in a position to criticize Harper. But you will never convince him of that.
Return of the Trusty Tory has also commented on Bob’s op-ed.