So far so good. Actually, it?s much better than ?good?.
Regular readers of this column will know that I have tried to maintain a positive outlook toward this minority Parliament ever since the June 28th election. Now, thanks to the vision, leadership and negotiating skills of Conservative leader Stephen Harper, my optimism is (so far) being borne out.
Yes, cooperation, while difficult, is possible in Ottawa and that?s good news for all Canadians who want their federal government to get down to the business of running the country. It?s also a positive development for the two-thirds of Canadians who did not vote for the Liberals. By leading the negotiations between all political parties, Stephen Harper has ensured that Paul Martin is not able to function as though he still has a majority.
First, Mr. Harper brokered an agreement between the Bloc Quebecois and the Liberals on the Bloc amendments to the Throne Speech. Then this week, the Conservative leader won the Liberals? grudging acceptance of his amendments to the Throne Speech. It is unprecedented for the opposition to impose such substantive amendments upon the government?s agenda.
Due to Mr. Harper?s initiative, the government has been forced to commit to: ensuring that the Employment Insurance Fund only be used for the benefit of workers instead of balancing the federal budget; reducing taxes for low and modest income families; telling the truth in government budget forecasting; making the electoral system more fair; and subjecting the ballistic missile defence program to a vote in the House of Commons before Canada decides upon its involvement.
Of course it remains to be seen just how sincere the Liberals will be in their efforts to comply with these commitments. However, at least the point has been made that the government must consult with the opposition, taking others? views into account.
There has also been a vindication of sorts this week for Conservatives and Mr. Harper. During the election campaign, our platform was scoffed at by Liberals and New Democrats alike, who said that our proposals for tax cuts and investment in healthcare and defence would push the country back into deficit.
The Conservative platform was based upon the knowledge that the Liberal government habitually underestimates its budget surpluses from year to year, refusing to admit that it?s taking more tax money out of Canadian workers? pockets than needed. The Liberal financial wizards projected the budget surplus at $1.9-billion. In fact, we learned this week that it?s actually $9.1-billion!
That?s your money ? and that?s why Stephen Harper has been working so diligently to ensure a Parliamentary compromise that allows the Liberals to hang onto their minority government, yet also advances the Conservative Party?s objective to see that Canadians? tax dollars are better managed.
I think you?ll actually find that the other opposition parties, and yes, even the government, are pleased at how we?ve managed to make this minority Parliament work to date. Yet, it?s you, the Canadians we represent, that have the most to gain from this cooperative new tone ? let?s just hope it lasts!