Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Conservative Tim Hudak’s Winston Churchill Moment

There’s a virus sleeping in the heads of most recognizable politicians on this continent. It makes them try to get away, if only once, with what I’ve dubbed: A Winston Churchill Moment. They want to show courage and conspicuous intellectual integrity.

Stephane Dion in Canada and Paul Ryan in the US Congress are ideal examples. They broke the strict rules of our bland politics to stand apart — from their peers and from their own unappealing images. They were convinced that "bold" fiscal and environment policies would enhance their stature — and fill gaps in their formal education.

Rather than stand with Churchill in history, they joined the swelling crowd around that literary invention: Don Quixote. And, certainly, the WCM virus is dangerously active in the Ontario election’s temporary front-runner, Conservative Tim Hudak.

Before elaborating, please accept that I’m out to protect us, not discourage policy-driven campaigns. The failure of “chivalrous” gestures does not reflect poorly on our maturity. Not being easily led near a cliff is nothing to be embarrassed about. History’s folly is fueled by the bad ideas we buy, not the ones we reject.  

Tim Hudak expressed his Winston Churchill Moment in the carefully chiseled and widely quoted cornerstone policy:

“If I have to trade off 100,000 jobs in the bureaucracy for one million new jobs in the private sector creating wealth, that’s a tradeoff I would do any second,” he told a town hall meeting in Barrie. “It’s not easy, I take no joy in this, but it has to be done if we want job creators to put more people on the payroll in our province.”

The best that has been said about this statement is that it’s “radical.” Nevertheless, it distorts both conservative economics and any common-sense conservative way to appeal for votes.

In placing his cuts right up against a million new jobs, it’s entirely reasonable to presume that he’s asking voters to endorse the layoff of 100,000 Ontario workers. Also, in placing his payroll savings against eliminating the provincial deficit in the next two fiscal years, he’s left little room for unfilled vacancies, retirements, and the private sector contracting out to significantly reduce the number of actual layoffs.

The hurried nature of his bloody prophesy certainly separates Hudak from his smarmy Keynesian pump-priming opponents. However, as stated starkly above, it also separates him from the economics of the only Conservative prime minister since the Great Depression that is better trusted in managing the economy than Liberals.

Harper’s federal deficit-reduction targets respect provincial spending cost pressures, aren’t leading to provincial job cuts, and are being absorbed by a Canada-wide economic recovery that is in far better shape than Ontario’s.

Harper isn’t terribly popular and it’s forgivable not to drop his name gratuitously. Still, on managing the economy back to sustainable growth, he still beats the competition — and did nothing in the last two restraint budgets to panic Liberals and New Democrats into uniting to defeat him at the polls.

Asking for a mandate to fire tens of thousands of people is as stupid for a conservative as asking for a mandate to raise middle class taxes by the left.

Voters rightfully suspect it’s not in their interest to help their leaders do the nasty things they must do sparingly.

These "courageous" gestures are common currency amongst retired public administrators and tenured academics. Only when struck by the WCM virus should a sane politician be excused for taking one up.

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