I knew if I waited long enough something would inspire this week’s post. There it was this morning! I woke up to a screaming headline from Canada’s National newspaper – the Globe & Mail, that Ottawa was to toughen up boating standards. Wow! It is summer, but are there no bigger issues in the news than this?
Tragically, last week a pleasure boat operator was killed when his house boat was rammed by another boater under the influence of alcohol. Predictably, Transport Canada’s reaction is to stiffen up testing requirements for boating licenses. So what justified the front page headline? Well, Transport is considering adding fourteen new questions to the test. No doubt one question will be – is it legal to drink and boat? Obviously no test is going to prevent irresponsible behaviour. I am sure the offending boater will soon will be charged as a criminal matter.
So the tougher license is just another example of the government acting as a nanny state. We have seen this from the Ontario Liberals, but from the Federal Conservatives, what’s up?
Well, here is the point – this is considered a good news day. There really is not much else to report on…although, at least the Toronto Sun got the real news today – that Canada’s next Governor General will be David Johnston.
The Prime Minister has set his course now for next year, having convinced the G20 that the emerging issue is deficit reduction. Don’t expect any bold new policy initiative that creates news, especially if it costs money. The government is focused on finding new ways to make its operations more efficient and everything else is largely a diversion. This has not been reported to my knowledge but the PM is chairing a cabinet committee called a task force on administrative review. Together with Ministers Flaherty and Day, they are determined to find ways of reducing inter-departmental overlap and making the operations of government more efficient  in order to squeeze savings for its deficit reduction plan that will be revealed in next year’s budget. We have seen these types of exercises break down before,  largely over bureaucratic turf protection. But this initiative gives you a better idea where the PM’s real priorities are these days. I expect real savings to be identified and if any government can force departments to comply, its Mr. Harper’s.
So in the meantime, Mr. Harper’s strategy is to offer up just enough news on a day-by-day basis to demonstrate that his government’s heart is beating. But his plan is to stay focused on the real macroeconomic issues that will matter the most for re-election. Staying focused on personal and corporate tax reductions, finding ways to attract foreign investment, and making government more efficient is his prescription for keeping Canada’s economy chugging along. The strategy is to govern less and stay out of voters’ faces. It worked for Chrétien, why can’t it work for Harper?