- Paul Wells speculates as to what comes next for the Harper Cons once their first set of legislation is rammed through a majority Parliament. But as Wells notes, we shouldn't get sidetracked as to where those decisions will actually be made:
The Cabinet committee on priorities and planning meets on Tuesdays, usually with Stephen Harper as chairman. He calls a lot of decisions on the spot. But not all. Sometimes decision is reserved pending the Prime Minister’s private decision.- Meanwhile, it shouldn't come as news that the Cons' hatred for the CBC is utterly out of touch with most Canadians. But I'd still be careful about complacency when it comes to the danger that they'll decide to launch an all-out attack anyway.
When it came time to decide how many seats each province would get in an enlarged House of Commons, a senior source close to the government says, the Prime Minister took the briefing books and spreadsheets and sat alone for hours, juggling options, weighing the political fallout from every scenario.
The first priority is the ambitious spending-reduction exercise now under way. There’s a nine-member cabinet subcommittee meeting regularly and for long hours to find things to cut. But refer back to the Commons seat reallocation. “Everybody knows that the final decisions are made by the PM,” Senior Source Close to Government told me. “This silly committee is not the real game. The game is to get out of this round and into the real game, which is the [Prime Minister’s Office].”
Meanwhile, the “silly committee” is gently rigged. Ministers make proposals to it on options for cuts. But the PMO hasn’t been shy about calling into ministers’ offices to discourage some options from going to committee. Ministers’ staffs take those suggestions seriously, since it’s the PMO that decides where they work, and whether they continue. “Ministers’ presentations to cabinet are the ones the PMO has written for them, or approved, or weeded out stuff they don’t like,” Senior Source said.
With inputs vetted and unpleasant ideas pre-screened, the only surprises are the ones that come from the outside world. More than once lately the PM has responded to surprising news with, “Why wasn’t I told?” Because your staff ensured you wouldn’t be, sir.
- Naturally there's every reason to disagree with Con MP Jeff Watson's argument that the federal government should only be involved in profit-making activities. But I'd think Watson's statement is noteworthy on another front: after all, since when have the Harper Cons shown any particular interest in identifying and funding actual profit-making opportunities? And if the answer is "they haven't", then isn't that a fairly damning indictment of a government whose area of strength is supposed to be the economy?
- Finally, on the subject of investments worth making, Michael Rachlis points out that a lack of investment in public-sector health care represents a major problem with our current system (rather than a solution as the profiteering right incessantly argues).