Budget blues

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It is depressing. The budget passed yesterday and what felt like a small opening in the door for a new kind of politics, has now slammed shut. The old fractious bombast has re-emerged in full force along with the feeling that government power is now shared between Conservatives wearing liberal clothing and Liberals who are really just tarted-up conservatives. The whole scene feels so strangely out of time.

For a brief period, the shocking answer to a political crisis was cooperation. And it was powerful. The threat of losing the Government transformed the Harper government into a puppet of its own political ambition. The result is that we are stuck with Flaherty's foolhardy attention deficit disorder budget. But Harper has a serious decline in popular support to show for it.

The Tories are now adrift in their own peculiar spiritual crisis. Their religion has quite publicly failed to meet the test of our times. And Harper is looking more and more lost each day. I am sure Andrew Coyne's cover story in Maclean's doesn't help. But will the other parties involved learn the lessons of their victory?

Yes, as predicted, the Coalition didn't succeed in taking over. But it signaled a very high profile entry of a new non-partisan spirit into the political mainstream. Is it just a blip? I don't think so considering that it comes at a time when a certain former Senator from Illinois has made it the cornerstone of his approach. Which is odd timing when you think of it because the Coalition drama wasn't any wannabe-Obamania. It was an answer that emerged from a uniquely Canadian problem. And that problem will be emerging in full force once again as soon as the next election rears its head. And we all know that will likely be within the year. The numbers just don't tally up into easy majority wins anymore. The Coalition experience was a metaphor for this new time where those who can learn the skills of co-operation will be the big winners.

But if we are going to move into a new world where Obama sets the leadership standards, our Canadian liberals, lefties and greens need to learn some new skills in the land of party politics. Maybe it's a good thing that the Coalition didn't have to step up at this time. The Canadian public was fearful. It is a time of crisis and government at this time is a weighty load to hand off to those not used to getting along.

Actually getting along well enough to function as a government is an untested skill not yet honed among the parties. Amazing times have brought us to this moment and we will need amazing skills to get beyond the place we now find ourselves. New thoughts toward laying the groundwork for future inter-party co-operation are a necessity so we can be ready to step up to the plate the next time opportunity knocks.

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