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Weekly Digest

by Archives March 17, 2009

When politicians realize nobody is listening to them they adopt a communications strategy. These can come in many forms.
We’ve recently witnessed several slogan campaigns over the past year, from Barack Obama’s stirring and inspirational “Yes We Can” to Stephen Harper’s petty “Stéphane Dion Is Not A Leader.”
Another strategy is the action plan, like the Liberal party’s Green Shift. The problem with presenting actual plans is that they give opponents something to prey on.
Occasionally politicians opt for the time-honoured tradition of role-playing in which they use comparisons to other professions. Today’s metaphoric career of choice: the teacher.
Ever since ex-professor Michael Ignatieff gave the Conservative budget a “conditional pass,” put them on “probation” and amended the budget, the teacher references have been flying around like paper airplanes in a class full of first graders.
If we’re to follow the schoolyard comparison to its fullest, the Liberals would be best compared to the student union. Disorganized and irrelevant, they claim to have the power but can only issue token warnings. They know how to make a big fuss but haven’t figured out how to do anything substantive yet.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has assumed the role of the aging math teacher who’s been at it a semester too many. He was good at his job when he could cane students for flubbing their multiplication table, but hasn’t figured out how to assert his authority over his increasingly defiant pupils.
When the senate was holding up his stimulus budget, a flustered Flaherty “was appalled with they had show[n],” noting that “Liberal senators didn’t even understand” elementary concepts, and how! He told the senate they’d better do their budget homework or else, adding “I don’t mean that you go on March break and do it when you come back.” It remains to be seen whether he’ll opt for after class detentions or the cancellation of pizza day, but be assured he’s serious – the Senate situation is “leadership examination for Mr. Ignatieff . . . we’ll have to see if he passes or fails.”
The Prime minister, an obvious candidate for principal has “been very frustrated with the opposition since the election.” The unruly student body is getting on the old man’s nerves.
All this talk of double secret probations and report cards is meaningless posturing, the result of a deadlock in the polls. MPs need to get a grip and try being politicians for a bit. For Ignatieff that means coming up with some real proposals; if you’re going to criticize the government you’re supposed to present an alternative. And for Harper, it means realizing it’s the opposition’s job to frustrate you. Nobody seems to be able to get the fact that the Conservatives are a minority government into Harper’s head. The democratically elected members of parliament are supposed to voice their opinions. The Prime minister’s job is to build consensus, not to be frustrated. We know where the parties don’t agree, it’s about time they find some areas where they do.

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