This past Saturday morning, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper appeared live on national television to give both himself and the voting public a rogering so intense that I was surprised it wasn’t censored as pornography. After holding out as arguably the last truly conservative head of state on the bailout issue, he announced just over $3 billion USD in “repayable loans” (I regretfully gave a friend one of those, once) for American auto makers. $3b for General Motors, $1b for Chrysler, and a credit line for Ford. The only thing missing from the announcement was the post-coital cigar.
“This is a regrettable but necessary step to protect the Canadian economy,” Harper said. So he’s throwing a few million at a company (General Motors) so “broke” that it just opened a $300 million plant in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Two months ago, he was pointing out the idiocy of America’s spending orgy: “We don't need a Parliament that acts and functions like the American Congress…We're not going to get into a situation like we have in the United States where we're panicking and annunciating a different plan every day.”
So what happened? Well, the Liberal opposition party threatened to bring down Harper’s government over the lack of bailouts, and could attempt to do so again, at any time. So Harper reduced the daylight between himself and the opposition Liberals on this issue, and in doing so, tossed away his biggest trump card.
According to an Ipsos-Reid poll, 58% of Canadians oppose the bailout package. Yet Harper, who had a stellar approval rating during (and largely because of) his bailout opposition, has now been goaded into walking right into the Liberals’ buzz saw.
It really wasn’t even that difficult for him to maintain an upper hand on the economic issue. To wit, here’s a glimpse of his competition:
* The Liberal Aboriginal Affairs Critic, demanding bailout money for Native Indians: “During good economic times the Conservatives gutted funding for First Nations, Métis and Inuit. The Conservatives cannot be permitted to use the weakening economy as an excuse to abandon Aboriginal Peoples.” (When did the perpetual bailout of Natives actually STOP?)
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