Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Jim Travers gets it

In his column today:"Why Tories won't kill gun registry", Jim Travers does a good job of laying out the cynicism of the ReformAlliance-Conservative perma-campaign based on wedge issues.  In this case; the long gun registry.
Guns help define less intrusive Conservative government at home and more muscular foreign policies abroad.

So it's hardly surprising that a law-and-order administration associates itself with arms raffles or that Stephen Harper made the Afghanistan war his own and so often uses soldiers as props. What's remarkable is that keeping gun control alive is better for the Tories than keeping the promise to kill it.

Liberals did Conservatives a lasting favour by introducing the long-gun registry and then letting a break-even proposition become a $2 billion embarrassment synonymous with red tape. With the possible exception of same-sex marriage, nothing alienated more Western, centre-right and rural voters. Once-safe Liberal seats swung Conservative and haven't budged.

How valuable is the registry to Harper? Precious enough that Tories continue to bash it as symbolic of the Liberal nanny state, but have not abolished it in three years in power. Harper is now leaving its fate to a private member's bill – a process prone to failure.

He then uses that observation as a launching pad to a more general maxim for all parties.  Avoid accountability at your own peril.

If Conservatives listened to their own rhetoric – and weren't hunting eastern, swing and urban voters – shooting the gun registry would have been a first-term priority. If they believed in protecting the public purse, then the Prime Minister wouldn't be asking for $3 billion to spend behind closed doors. If accountability was more than a slogan, parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page wouldn't be fighting for the independence and funding necessary to do his job.
Liberals paid the highest political price for avoiding that discipline. Now Conservatives are making the same mistake even as they continue pointing fingers at the Liberal folly. What both missed or ignored is that ruling parties put themselves at greatest peril when they spend fast, loose and in the dark.

Sage advice indeed.

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