We've now seen both faces of the country's leader, and they are both ugly. The Canadian Press reported mere moments after the Governor-General delivered her second Speech From The Throne in two months:
"After denying the prospects of a deficit throughout the fall election campaign - and shrugging-off the chorus of independent analysts who predicted one was imminent - the Tories have admitted a big deficit is coming."
The Prime Minister may well have been forced to eat humble pie over his Government's near crash and burn from the poison pill delivered in the late November fiscal update. But; some now suggest that Conservative Party unity and loyalty may be cracking under the weight of the expected $64-billion deficit of the next two fiscal years.
This is high drama in low places: The back rooms of the national political parties. In this case specifically, the Conservative Party of Canada led by Stephen Harper. T'was no accident that in last week's circuit of Ottawa politico cocktails the name of the former Chief of Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier, came popping-up as potential leadership material. Whatever General Hillier's political intentions are, he's keeping them to himself. The undertow of a draft Hillier movement speaks volumes of Mr. Harper's once stranglehold leadership grip on the party he more or less created. Some wags claim that several Conservative Members of Parliament challenged the Prime Minister over the deficit spending plans at last week's national caucus meeting.
Over at Toronto radio station CFRB, Brian Liley reports that the deficit he'll announce tomorrow is not an idea that our fiscally conservative Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, has accepted with ease. But rather, that it's been imposed by the Prime Minister's office. The same can most likely be said of that fall fiscal update which included the singularly nasty "poison-pill" of cutting public financing to national political parties. That issue of course led to a parliamentary crisis of confidence, stymied the House of Commons, and left politicians on the side-lines for the last eight weeks while the country's economy continued to tank.
Along with the Prime-Minister's credibility, Canada's long held tradition over budget secrecy has now also been dismantled. The advanced leaks of key elements of the budget's contents, including the size of the deficit, over the past few days is said to be a strategic element of a budget process plan created in the Office of the Prime Minister. One thing seems clear. Since the key planks of this week's budget have already been made public, the critics in opposition have just about been stifled over any of the initiatives they might wish to see modified or amended. The Globe and Mail says confidential sources have told it the Clerk of Privy Council, Kevin Lynch, and a Harper confidant and senior advisor, Bruce Carson, have been brought in to run this budget process. It seems kind of hard to figure out just where the Minister of Finance, Jim Flaherty, stands in, or on this. Most likely we won't know any better following "his" budget speech on Tuesday.