Dipping into the campaign goodie bag
Prime Minister Stephen Harper unveiled a defence strategy this week that seems to exist only in audio format, while Liberal leader Stéphane Dion has been talking up a carbon-tax plan that also seems a little incomplete.
The coincidence would seem to suggest that the leaders of Canada's two main political parties have decided that half-baked proposals are better than no ideas at all. Or maybe all their big thinkers are on vacation, or at some conference somewhere for policy wonks.
But there's a better explanation — the spring election, or lack of it.
A Conservative strategist confided a few weeks ago that the longer the Harper government has to wait for an election, the more it has to raid the ever-evolving campaign platform. Announcements that Harper had been planning to make on the campaign trail are now being rolled out as government proposals — that's probably why they look a little sketchier than a full-fledged policy. Election announcements are expected to have a shelf life of one or two news cycles, not 20 years.
Dion, meanwhile, is believed to be rushing out the carbon-tax idea before it's ready simply because he's impatient to talk about the environment and policy, in a way that he might have been talking on the campaign trail. Liberals will freely admit that the carbon-tax idea isn't fully formed or ready for prime time yet.
That's something that Harper and Dion have in common right now — both leaders would probably rather be fighting an election this month. Harper's hands are tied by his fixed-date election legislation. Dion's hands are tied because neither he nor his party are ready.
So in the meantime, presumably, we're only going to be getting shapes and suggestions of policies. It's weird, but what isn't weird in Ottawa these days?