Making hay while the sun shines

Andrew Coyne is just plain cranky. I heard him explaining this article on how stupid politics is in Canada last night on the CBC. For example, here’s a quote:

The Conservatives, for their part, seem to have lost all interest in policy, contenting themselves with packing diplomatic posts with party supporters and other delights of office. Before long they will be haranguing each other in Question Period, to the immense uninterest of the public.

From the tone of his conversation on CBC, it seems he believes that neither the Tories or the Liberals want to engage in any serious policy debates out of electoral fears. He claims that comes from Jean Cretien’s example.

I had this in my mind when I read the the TJ article this morning about Shawn Graham’s increasing approval ratings.

It seems to me that Graham has been doing a lot of image polishing himself in his first year in office rather than serious policy moves.

I think the first year or two in office is when you make all your offensive moves and then you settle back into defense when you look at your polling numbers.

Remember old Iron Mike Harris. Like him or hate him, he did a lot of slashing and pillaging in his first couple of years as did old Charest in Quebec. Charest’s polling numbers after those changes (or even hinted changes) were at record lows – I think I remember him being around 15% approval or some sub-George Bush level.

So, if Shawn Graham spends his early time in office tiptoeing through the tulips, when will the tough decisions be made?

I don’t know if politics has become ‘stupid’ as Coyne suggests. I do know it has become a lot harder to make tough decisions. There was a time in this country when politicians made decisions like supporting NAFTA, the GST, cutting $40 billion in spending. Even in New Brunswick, we saw forced community amalgamations, hospitals closed, public sector wages frozen for years. A lot of tough decisions.

I suggest there will need to be very tough decisions ahead for the Graham governmetn if they want to even start moving towards self-sufficiency. This will start with a rethink of government and an attempt to turn the Titanic away from the managing of decline to supportive of growth. It will, I believe, also mean a major shift in public spending towards the investment side of the ledger rather than the expense side.

And the best time to make that happen is early on in the mandate before you can see the whites of the eyes of the voters.