Monday, August 29, 2005

Stephen Harper Stays on the Barbie

In his last soapbox sermon to the Tory leadership, Andrew of Bound By Gravity had this to say:

Finally, here is my suggestion for the CPC's next move: Join Jack Layton's call to recall Parliament early in order to deal with the softwood lumber dispute. Do this ASAP. Recalling parliament will be seen as a selfless move, and will show strong leadership. If done properly, this will also demonstrate that the CPC can force Paul Martin's hand (in a productive manner, and to the benefit of Canadians), and may also help the NDP maintain some of the leftie vote that traditionally jumps ship on election day from the NDP to the Liberals. (Reasoning: Harper looks less scary, and Jack looks like he can get things done - both of these are vital to split the leftie vote.)

A pity he wrote that before this came up in the online Globe and Mail:

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has no interest in returning early to Parliament to deal with the softwood dispute.

“We have no plans for early return,” Mr. Harper's acting communications director William Stairs said Monday, dismissing an idea first floated by NDP Leader Jack Layton.

“The NDP supported this government despite what it has done (in) sponsorship, botching BSE and softwood files ... they are part of the problem,” Mr. Stairs said.

“That they should come out now and call for Parliament to resume is empty rhetoric,” Mr. Stairs said.

Mr. Stairs said if the New Democrats wanted to see progress on the issue of U.S. duties on construction-grade wood, they'd agree with the Conservatives and pressure Prime Minister Paul Martin to call U.S. President George W. Bush.

Mr. Stairs said the Tories have been urging Mr. Martin to talk to Mr. Bush for weeks to resolve things at the highest political level but he has refused to pick up the phone.

Well ... that's unfortunate. Andrew's suggestion certainly had the merit of showing Mr. Harper to be active, to be respectful of the institution of Parliament.

And to be brutally frank about it, the strategy Mr. Stairs described is pretty much a non-starter. Phoning the President about softwood lumber right now -- when Hurricane Karina hasn't finished running its course -- would seem quite churlish. It also sets the precedent of Paul Martin knuckling under to the opposition -- something no self-respecting Librano wants to do.

There are other things, though that Harper can do -- like denouncing the appointment of two more Liberal hacks to the Senate. Or coming up with alternative strategies to address the homegrown doctor shortage.

Or staying on the barbie circuit 'til Labour Day. Good ribs, huh, Stephen?