Cold Hard Wonk

No sentiment but politics

In Front and Behind

Posted by JJ in Strategic Planning (Saturday January 6, 2007 at 4:01 pm)

If ever you’re called upon to explain the difference between Stephen Harper and Paul Martin, don’t feel compelled to read some well-written, lengthy tome. Just note this:

When Paul Martin needed a floor-crosser to secure upcoming votes, he promoted the member to his front bench.

When Stephen Harper needed a floor-crosser to secure upcoming votes, he didn’t.

Yes, yes. There’s the Emerson issue. But there’s a big difference there. Emerson crossed right after the election. There’s no reason to turn down help at any time, but Harper didn’t particularly need to avoid a confidence measure at the time. Regardless of the state of the Liberal Party’s leadership, there was no chance that the opposition parties wanted a third election in fewer years. Wajid Khan’s crossing came, like Belinda Stronach’s, in a time of need.

The Conservatives now have, with the NDP, a bare majority in the House. That means that if Harper’s plan to gain NDP support by sucking them into the reform of his Clean Air Act is successful, the government will gain a major victory on the environment, flattening Liberal leader Stephan Dion’s main sail. With the NDP willing to offer support, both to show their own usefulness and to beat the Liberals back on the issue, it just might work out.

Whether Belinda Stronach would have crossed with or without a Cabinet post, the optics of having an opposition member cross to sit as a back-bencher are much greater than having them cross to sit as a Minister.

And that’s the difference between Martin and Harper. In the same circumstances, Harper chooses the smarter path.

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