Warning: political views contained below. This warning is issued because this blog is not normally political. It may offend both some Canadians and some Americans. We will shortly return to our regularly scheduled programming.
Our prime minister is a guy named Paul Martin. Arguably, he may have been the best finance minister that this or any modern, developed country has ever had. He slew the deficit dragon; the country now enjoys a budgetary surplus every year. While I will grant you that programs such as health care took a hit in this slaying of the deficit dragon, I look upon it as unfortunate and bitter medicine that had to be swallowed for a while and that now has to be set right.
When he became prime minister, this country had very high hopes that we had finally obtained what we very much deserve: an intelligent, imaginative, and proactive visionary. Even when his first steps were uncertain and when the sponsorship scandal emerged, I cast my vote for him. To me: it's quite clear to me that the man who sets the budget and allocates the money is not the one who actually spends the money. But I digress.
Perhaps Canadians were expecting too much too soon. If Mr Dithers had been totally new to government, I think his performance would have been accepted and perhaps even applauded. But because he had been near the centre of power for ten years and for those ten years plotted to become prime minister, Canadians naturally assumed that he had an agenda, and we expected a prime minister who would hit the ground running.
Instead, we got Mr Dithers.
I was prepared to forgive Mr Dithers many things. I was prepared to hand him my next vote, for, let's face it, the only other serious pretender is Mr Righteous Bumstead, a smooth and smarmy fellow who has nothing to sell but snake oil.
I was prepared to forgive Mr Dithers many things and to vote for him once again ... until this week. This week, he pulled out of the missile defence treaty. Just like that. No warning. Just a self-righteous announcement out of the blue that left the American government reeling in a state of angry incomprehension.
This missile defence project may be (or may not be) a silly notion, but it is the American government's notion, and they don't think it silly. I think they would have been tolerant had Mr Dithers been clear from the beginning that Canada could not be onside in this project. Instead, everything that Mr Dithers has ever said or done on the topic seemed to all to be an implicit endorsement of the agenda.
Mr Bush was certainly led to expect some that sort of partnership and cooperation would be forthcoming. Suddenly, without the decency of any sort of warning, the rug was publicly pulled out from under him. There goes Mr Dither's attempt to build a better relationship with Washington. They're damn mad, and I don't blame them.
Not that I'm any sort of Bush fan; to me, he's one scary cowboy. Not that I'm all that sold on his missile defence plan either. But if he and his cohorts want to fund it, I prefer that Canada at least have a tiny bit of input and influence, not to mention economic spinoff. In the meantime, I do want Canada to have good relations with America. I like good relationships on principle, but I see them as the only effective way to deal with border-trade disputes that erupt from time to time.
I am not happy that Mr Dithers chose this moment and this way to appear to be decisive and firm. You don't try to make cheap political points at home by alienating Washington. Sometimes we have to disagree with Washington, particularly with this administration, but we must do it with foresight and sensitivity. We mustn't give Washington every indication that we are onside, and then, out of the blue, suddenly declare otherwise, especially in a smug morally superior manner.
For the moment at least, Mr Dithers has lost my support and my vote. That leaves me in a quandary, for I am a fiscal conservative at heart, and it is the Liberals here, and it seems to me the Democrats down there, who are now the true fiscal conservatives. The traditional conservative parties have left their roots to embrace neo-conservatism, which is not the same thing. It is most assuredly not my old-fashioned type of conservatism but actually a reckless credo which is anything but.
Mr Dithers, I'm a pretty loyal guy. If you've managed to lose my support, I am at pains to believe that you have much remaining. I think you will be turfed. I think the other party will get its brief chance to screw up, just like they always do — for a brief interlude, every twenty years or so.