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Ontario: No Political Hat Trick

12 Oct

Back in the middle of the summer, when politics and elections were the furthest things from most people’s minds, Toronto mayor Rob Ford hosted a barbecue for 800 of his closest friends.

It was a special event honoring federal finance minister Jim Flaherty for his work helping Toronto-area candidates make historic breakthroughs during the federal election earlier this year.

Those federal breakthroughs came about six months after Ford’s own breakthrough victory in Toronto – a steak-and-potatoes conservative mayor winning power in what some perceive as a brie-and-white-wine liberal city.

The barbecue came to the attention of the media because of a surprise guest who showed up to address the gathering: Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

In a video of the event shot by one of the barbecue guests and later posted online, Harper made partisan comments about Ontario politics:

“We started cleaning up the left wing mess federally in this area,” Harper said. “Rob’s doing it municipally. And now we’ve got to complete the hat trick and do it provincially as well.”

When Harper made those remarks in early August, it seemed likely that Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak had a good chance of completing that conservative hat trick. Only two months before the scheduled provincial election, his party sat comfortably atop public opinion polls, and the trend over many months had shown Progressive Conservative support growing as support for Premier Dalton McGuinty’s governing Liberals steadily fell.

In retrospect, Hudak was trying to swim against a couple of longstanding currents in Ontario politics. The first was the tendency of Ontarians to give party leaders some extended time on the opposition benches before they are willing to vote them into government. Hudak’s two immediate predecessors as PC leader – John Tory and Ernie Eves – learned that lesson the hard way, as did McGuinty himself when he was trounced by Mike Harris in his first election campaign as Liberal leader in 1999.

The second – even more unfailing – current was the tendency of Ontario voters to vote in different parties provincially than they do federally. In the 1970s, when Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals held power in Ottawa, so did Bill Davis’s Tories at Queens Park. In the ‘80s, Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative governments negotiated with Liberal and NDP governments in Ontario. In the ‘90s, Liberals under Jean Chretien owed successive majority victories to Ontario voters, who handed them near-sweeps of this province. At the same time, they were giving Mike Harris similar victories in provincial elections. Finally, the current Harper era in federal politics has coincided with the McGuinty era in Ontario.

When the video of Harper’s barbecue speech showed up online, his aides seemed to realize that it probably wasn’t helpful to the Hudak campaign, or to the conservative cause, for the Prime Minister to be seen making such a blatant partisan intervention into a provincial election campaign. A bit of an Internet cat-and-mouse game ensued, with Conservatives trying to remove every online appearance of the video as quickly as McGuinty supporters could get it reposted.

As I have written before on this blog, it helps to imagine this province as an Ontario-shaped target, with a lop-sided blue bull’s-eye in the middle, stretching across the rural southwestern, central and eastern parts of the province. That’s the conservative heartland – a couple-dozen ridings that right-leaning parties usually win easily in both provincial and federal elections.

Splotches of NDP orange dot the outer edge of the province-shaped target, where the most urban neighborhoods of our cities and the least-populated stretches of our northern regions lie. When New Democrats do well in Ontario – as they did in both elections this year – the perimeter of the province grows a deeper shade of orange.

Between the orange edge and the blue bull’s-eye is the red Liberal donut that expands or shrinks at the expense of the other colors, depending on the Grits’ success from election to election.

In May’s federal election, the Tories and the NDP both took big bites out of different sides of that donut – most notably in Toronto-area ridings. The result was the worst showing ever for the federal Liberal party.

In Ontario earlier this month, it was Toronto voters – and to a lesser extent those in Ottawa and a few other urban areas – who preserved the red donut enough to give the McGuinty Liberals a narrow minority victory.

It’s hard to know if Harper’s comments helped McGuinty win. But they certainly underlined the fact that in this province, political hat tricks are hard to come by.

Election Matters… Elections Matter

4 May

Do you remember, just before the recent federal election, when I predicted – on this very blog – the following scenarios?:

* I predicted that Prime Minister Stephen Harper would run a plodding, repetitive, bubble-like campaign, highlighted by an almost daily parade of negative news headlines and mini-scandals, in which he would answer almost every question posed to him with a rote warning that the country faced dire consequences unless voters elected a stable, secure, national, majority Conservative government. I wrote that on Election Day, Canadians would give his party exactly what he asked for, thanks mostly to voters in the Greater Toronto area.

* I predicted that NDP Leader Jack Layton, fresh from hip surgery and a bout with cancer, would fire up the imaginations of voters with the sheer force of his personality and with campaign speeches that spoke of the “winds of change”. I foretold that those winds would carry him right into the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, thanks mostly to the province of Quebec, which would elect almost 60 neophyte NDP MPs to the next Parliament – more than half of the NDP’s new caucus, and more seats than they had ever won before.

* I predicted that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff would run a high-energy but ultimately fruitless campaign that would lead his party to its worst-ever electoral result, that it would be reduced to third party status in the House of Commons for the first time in Canadian history, and that Ignatieff would lose his own Toronto-area seat and resign as leader the morning after the election. In fact, I predicted that the Liberal Party would lose most of the Toronto-area ridings that it held for six election campaigns and almost two decades.

* I predicted that after two decades dominating federal politics in Quebec, Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe would run an increasingly desperate campaign that would lead his party into political oblivion, that the Bloc would be reduced to a rump of four seats, lose official party status in the House of Commons and that Duceppe would also lose his own seat and announce the end of his political career on election night. I also noted that the Bloc’s historic defeat would likely come at the hands of a New Democratic Party that had never had more than a single Quebec MP in the House of Commons at any one time, and whose successful candidates would include a 19-year-old university student and an anglophone Ottawa bartender who spent more of the campaign in Las Vegas than in her rural francophone riding.

* Finally, I predicted that – although her party would earn a smaller percentage of the popular vote than it did in the last election, and she would be excluded from the televised leader debates – Green Party Leader Elizabeth May would make history by becoming the first-ever member of that party to win a seat in the House of Commons, that she would unseat a veteran cabinet minister, and that she would be returning to Ottawa as the MP for Saanich – Gulf Islands, British Columbia.

I predicted all of these things. I really did.

You saw that old blog post of mine, didn’t you? I must have lost the link…

If not, you’ll just have to take my word that I saw everything coming all along.

Or maybe you should take note of the short sentence that opened up John Duffy’s 2002 book, “Fights of Our Lives: Elections, Leadership and the Making of Canada”.

“Elections matter,” Duffy wrote.

When the 2011 federal election began, nobody could have foreseen what the results would be, even though many people – myself included – figured the most likely outcome would be roughly the status quo: A Conservative minority government, a Liberal official opposition, a few dozen NDP MPs, the Bloc continuing its hold on most Quebec ridings, and the resumption of what had been almost seven years of volatile minority political wrangling, machinations, and brinkmanship.

What happened instead was the biggest sea change in Canadian federal politics in recent memory. In one night, for better or worse, Canadian voters put Stephen Harper into the history books as one of the most successful and longest-serving Conservative Prime Ministers in history (assuming he serves out his full mandate), gave the NDP an unprecedented influence, probably destroyed the Bloc Quebecois entirely, and put in grave doubt the future of the Liberal Party of Canada – the most successful 20th Century political party in the Western democratic world.

Elections matter indeed.

This Election’s Battlegrounds

30 Mar

Earlier this month, with a possible election imminent, opposition MPs pounced on an embarrassing internal  memo that seemed to reveal the Conservative party’s strategy for winning over votes in “very ethnic” ridings.

With the election now on, that strategy seems very much be in play.

When it comes to wooing voters, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives don’t tend to pitch broad sweeping visions designed to win broad sweeping mandates.

Instead, they tend to reach out to select groups of Canadians in incremental ways.

In the three elections the Conservative Party has fought since its creation in 2003, it went from narrowly losing a minority in 2004, to narrowly winning a minority in 2006, to winning a slightly less narrow minority in 2008.

In its quest for a majority, the party’s strategy is to focus intently on handfuls of specific ridings and on handfuls of specific groups of voters who may put them over the top in those ridings. A targeted tax cut here, a symbolic recognition of a historic wrong there, and soon enough a narrow majority builds voter-by-voter, group-by-group, riding-by-riding.

Or so the thinking goes.

That’s where the “very ethnic” ridings come into play. For the Conservatives, traditionally Liberal ridings with significant populations of ethnic minority groups are seen as ripe for the picking. The party made some promising gains in many of those ridings in 2008, and is hoping to make a number of breakthroughs this time around.

The internal memo that fell into the hands of the Conservative Party’s opponents revealed the party had identified a number of ridings across the country with substantial populations of voters from particular ethnic groups. Conservatives were formulating a plan to win these ridings.

As embarrassed as Conservatives may have been by the revelation of the memo, the ethnic strategy has been much in evidence since the campaign began.

In the first five days of his campaign tour, Harper chose to visit Brampton, outside of Toronto, twice. He also made a stop in Burnaby, B.C. Both of those areas have large communities of new Canadians.

In his speeches at these stops, Harper has not been subtle about the “very ethnic” pitch, tying his audience’s immigrant status into his other major campaign message: That his opponents are plotting a coalition:

“People like you,” he said in Burnaby,  “people who have come to this country from all over the world, all the different origins in the world, they’ve all come here because they believe in Canada. And they don’t want Members of Parliament who are going to sign on to Mr. Ignatieff’s reckless idea that he can lose an election and then run Canada backed by the NDP and the Bloc Québécois.”

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff told a multicultural audience of supporters that his opponent had crossed a line.

“(Harper) said ‘You people, you people who come from other lands.’ ” Ignatieff said.  “The last time I heard somebody talk about the ethnic vote, it was out of the mouth of Jacques Parizeau… I don’t want to be the prime minister of you people, I want to be the prime minister of the Canadian people.”

Among the ten “very ethnic” ridings mentioned in the Conservative memo is one riding – Mount Royal, in Montreal – with a large Jewish population. In 2008, Conservative candidate Peter Kent took the Toronto-area riding of Thornhill, the only riding in Canada with a similarly large population of Jewish voters (about 35 per cent of the riding).

Could the Conservative Party win over enough Jewish voters to take Mount Royal riding this time around?

It would be a notable victory, because Mount Royal has voted Liberal since the 1930s, long before it had a significant Jewish population. It was the riding of former Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. This is in contrast to Thornhill, which is a very suburban, more small-c conservative swing riding.

Although Harper’s policies and public statements on Israel may have won over some portion of the Jewish community, is it a big enough portion to make a difference in ridings like Mount Royal? When it comes to a final decision at the ballot box, voters tend to focus on domestic issues and leadership, so it’s not even certain if the Canadian government’s relationship with Israel will be a factor in the final vote.

But with the Conservatives only a few “ethnic” ridings away from a majority, expect the furious wooing to continue until election day.

Election drumbeats and flag waves

24 Jan

This past weekend, inside an Ottawa convention centre, the Prime Minister of Canada stood in front of the biggest Canadian flag this side of Canada Day, at a podium bearing a placard with a single word in large white letters:

“Canada”.

To a crowd of hundreds of supporters waving smaller Canadian flags, there to celebrate the fifth anniversary of his government’s first election victory, Stephen Harper spoke of the people “who are the foundations of Canada”:

“The truck driver. The bank teller. The pensioner. The salesperson. The farmer, the fisherman. The entrepreneur, the autoworker. The tradesperson and the soldier… Whoever has the honor to lead them must care about them and must love Canada as much as they do.”

No mention of Canada-loving college professors or patriotic performance artists. But never mind…

The same weekend as Harper was giving his anniversary speech, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was wrapping up an 11-day tour of 20 ridings across Canada that his party thinks it can win from other parties.

“Canadians are entitled to ask, ‘are you better off than you were five years ago,’ “ Ignatieff said at the outset of his tour. “Is the economy stronger and is Canada more respected in the world? And I think the answers to all of those questions is no.”

NDP leader Jack Layton was on a cross-country tour of his own.

“If an election comes, New Democrats will be ready to go,” Layton said in Vancouver. “But until then, we’re asking Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff to work with us to get some results for Canadians right now.”

To underline the election-readiness half of that double-barreled message, the NDP offered reporters a “sneak peak at their new cutting-edge election headquarters” in Ottawa. A few days earlier, a reporter obtained and published an internal NDP memo declaring the party “prepared to wage an aggressive federal election campaign at any time”.

Meanwhile, the Conservative and Liberal parties released campaign-style attack ads.

The two Liberal ads were both aimed at the Prime Minister, painting him as more interested in fighter jets and corporate tax cuts than in the concerns of ordinary Canadians, and asking “Is this your Canada? Or Harper’s?”

The Conservatives had several different ads attacking each of the other major party leaders, although Ignatieff was targeted more than others.

“Ignatieff. He didn’t come back for you,” declared the Conservative ads, which described the Leader of the Official Opposition as a tax-and-spend liberal with a dubious commitment to his home country, similar to earlier attack ads that claimed Ignatieff was “just visiting” Canada after many years abroad.

So… are you ready for an election campaign? Or maybe you kinda feel we’re already into one.

Or maybe you’d rather not even think about it even a little bit. If that’s the case, you’re probably in the majority.

And maybe you won’t really have to think about it at all. Because it all could be a bluff.

In a minority Parliament, parties are always in election mode, ready to hit the campaign trail at any moment. And we’ve now had minority Parliaments in this country for more than 6.5 straight years. That’s a Canadian record, if you’re keeping score.

Over that time we’ve had a number of near-elections. Remember Belinda Stronach crossing the floor to help save Paul Martin’s minority government? Remember Stéphane Dion repeating over and over again how he had the power to pull the plug on Harper’s government… until finally Harper decided to pull it himself? Remember when Ignatieff announced, “Mr. Harper, your time is up?”

Ignatieff’s announcement came more than 17 months ago. No, there hasn’t been an election since then.

If there is an election this year, it likely will be triggered by a defeat of the federal budget sometime before the end of March. Any later than that and a federal election will come up against a number of already scheduled provincial elections, including Ontario’s.

Of course, all it will take to avoid an election will be a single opposition party deciding it is in its interest to prop up the government for another while longer.

But if this latest not-quite-an-election period is any indication, we already have a sense of how the next real campaign will unfold:

It will get personal. There will be flag waving. And if poll numbers (which have remained relatively consistent in the five years since Harper’s first election victory) don’t move much during the campaign, then we’re looking at many more record months of minority Parliament.

A Different Kind of Minority?

10 May

I have no particular expertise when it comes to British elections, and whatever I do know about the subject is forever colored by a 40-year-old episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Python’s “Election Night Special” sketch parodied a frantic BBC broadcast, cutting between anchors as they spouted nonsense about voting results. The “broadcast” would sporadically jump to live news reports from individual constituencies, where Silly Party candidates seemed to be scoring upset victories over their Sensible Party counterparts. In the sketch, competing local candidates stood together on stage, wearing large round multicolored ribbons on their lapels, as someone announced the voting results.

I used to think the ribbon-wearing and the standing-together-as-results-are-announced were Monty Python visual jokes, but when I watched my first actual live UK election night special on BBC Canada the other night, I realized they really do it that way. For instance, when incumbent Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke on election night from his Scottish constituency, all the other local candidates he had just defeated stood behind him. They included one guy with shades and a moustache who held his fist in the air the entire time Brown was speaking. Maybe he was from the Silly Party.

And yes, all of the candidates – Brown included – wore large multicolored election-night ribbons on their lapels.

I’m not sure why we don’t do that in Canada, given we inherited most of our democratic traditions from the UK’s “mother of all Parliaments”. Instead, Canadian candidates hide out in their own headquarters on election night, voting results get announced centrally via Elections Canada, and politicians’ lapels remain giant-ribbon-corsage-free.

Of course in this month’s vote, the Brits may have inherited a more recent political tradition from our side of the Atlantic: The Hung Parliament, as they call it, in which no party wins a majority of seats in the House of Commons.

We’ve had three straight federal elections with that result. In the UK, though, the recent national vote was their first one since 1974 in which no clear majority winner emerged.

As I write, several days after that vote, it’s still not clear who will be the next UK Prime Minister (although it won’t be Brown, who announced he would be stepping down as Labour Party leader. His party, which finished in second place to the Conservatives, could still maintain power by cobbling together an Israeli-like coalition of smaller parties).

The most likely scenario is a government led by Conservative leader David Cameron, supported by the third-place Liberal Democrats either in a formal coalition, or in some sort of a Parliamentary arrangement in which the Lib-Dems agree not to defeat the government for a certain period of time in exchange for some policy concessions.

Of course, we’ve had almost six straight years of minority parliaments in Canada without either of these types of arrangements. First Paul Martin, then Stephen Harper, maintained office by hook or by crook, surviving confidence votes through temporary ad hoc alliances with one party or another, through hardball political moves such as wooing over floor-crossing MPs and threatening or calling unwanted snap elections, and when all else failed, by using the extraordinary tactic of proroguing Parliament itself. Although these tactics have prolonged the lifetime of governments, they have been arguably unhealthy for our Parliamentary democracy.

In fact, the ongoing Canadian experience with minority politics prompted some British experts to describe Canada as a good example of what NOT to do when your country is faced with a hung Parliament. A British academic report called “Making Minority Government Work”, released last year by the School of Public Policy at the University College London, devoted an entire chapter to what it called “Canada’s Dysfunctional Minority Parliament”, and concluded that “for minority government to work in Canada there needs to be a dramatic shift in political culture which emphasizes cooperation and accommodation rather than conflict and partisanship”

Because minority parliaments in Canada, as in Britain, have been few and far between, political leaders have tended to see them as temporary aberrations. Maybe that’s why co-operation is so fleeting between parties. But the current minority era in this country has had staying power. Polls suggest it may continue indefinitely.

For the sake of our political culture, it may be high time for the silly and sensible parties in this country to take a lesson from the Brits and try harder to foster more accommodation and less cutthroat partisanship.

Also, I’m definitely in favor of giant round lapel ribbons.

Government by Trial Balloon

22 Mar

One of the first times anyone ever launched a trial balloon, things didn’t go perfectly well.

It was back in 1783. The famed Montgolfier brothers, inventors of the hot-air balloon (which is still called a “montgolfière” in French), had been experimenting with levitating air-filled silk balloons in their hometown of Annonay, in southern France.

Word of their experiments soon reached the French Academy of Sciences in Paris, and one of the brothers was summoned north to report on their discoveries.

But before Etienne Montgolfier was able to do so, a rival inventor named Jacques Charles launched his own trial balloon – this one hydrogen-filled – into the Paris sky.

By some accounts, the launch itself was a success. Hundreds of awestruck onlookers watched the balloon rise heavenward.

But a storm soon blew in and carried it miles away into the countryside. Charles’ balloon landed in a small village, where peasants mistook it for an evil demon attacking from the sky, panicked, and destroyed it with pitchforks and knives.

That’s the way it goes sometimes with trial balloons.

Flash forward some 227 years to the present day. Now, the trial balloons that get launched are metaphorical ones. Politicians float unmanned ideas into the public realm, hoping the rest of us will keep our pitchforks and knives away, and instead gaze awestruck and heavenward at their proposed policies.

But as in 1783 France, things don’t always go perfectly well.

Look at some of the trial balloons our own federal government has floated in recent weeks.

Last month, on the very day that Parliament came back after a lengthy prorogation, in an otherwise unmemorable Speech from the Throne, the government announced plans to “ask Parliament to examine the original gender-neutral English wording of the national anthem.”

The government was apparently proposing that a single line of “O Canada” – “… in all thy sons command…” – be changed back to its original lyric of more than a century ago: “… thou dost in us command…”

The proposal caught the country by surprise. Canadians had just spent two weeks happily singing the national anthem over and over again during the Winter Olympic Games.

It didn’t take too long for the pitchforks to come out. The backlash from citizens was so quick and so virulent that a mere two days after the Speech from the Throne was read, the Prime Minister’s press secretary came out with the following statement:

“The government will not proceed any further to change our national anthem. We have offered to hear from Canadians on this issue and they have already spoken loud and clear. They overwhelmingly do not want to open the issue.”

Not pretty. But that’s the way it goes sometimes with trial balloons.

Then a few weeks later, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon seemed to float a trial balloon of his own. He announced that the government’s plan for aid targeted to women and children in developing countries – the “signature” initiative of this year’s coming G-8 and G-20 meetings hosted by Canada – would not include contraception.

“It does not deal in any way, shape or form with family planning. Indeed, the purpose of this is to be able to save lives,” Cannon told a Parliamentary committee.

Opposition politicians, media commentators and health experts quickly pounced on the minister’s comments, pointing out that family planning is central to maternal and child health in the world’s poorest countries. Critics accused the government of taking a page from the policies of former U.S. President George W. Bush, and putting socially conservative ideology before science and health.

Whether the minister was floating a trial balloon or simply misspeaking, it only took two days — again, two days — for the government to announce that they weren’t excluding contraception from their plan after all.

“We are not closing doors against any options, including contraception,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in the House of Commons.

Another balloon… popped.

And those are simply two of a number of possible examples of a trend that seemed to define the first few weeks back at work for a government that had prorogued Parliament in order to “recalibrate” its agenda. Other burst trial balloons included public statements on government-funded Internet access and on political flyers that MPs send out at taxpayers’ expense.

If the government indeed recalibrated its agenda, it’s hard to understand why there are still so many trial balloons floating around.

And if you’re going to float those balloons, it’s probably a good idea to check for pitchforks ahead of time.

The Olympic Prorogation

27 Feb

My family and I spent much time this month sitting on the couch together, watching hours of televised sports we’d normally never care about for even a minute.

More to the point: We spent hours becoming emotionally invested in the successes and failures of Canadian athletes we’d never heard of before, whose sports we’d normally never care about for even a minute.

Ice dancers.

Freestyle moguls skiers.

Skeleton… ers.

To name a few.

Maybe your family did the same thing as mine. The Winter Olympics were a terrific diversion, weren’t they?

Whether Canadians were owning the podium or bemoaning the odium, the fact that the Games were here on home ice made them even more captivating.

Never mind that this particular home ice was in Vancouver – 4,500 kilometres away from Ottawa – a lot farther away than, say, Lake Placid or Salt Lake City. The ice was very… homey.

Now if your family really is anything like mine, no doubt you turned to each other between the medal events and the fast food commercials, and one of you thoughtfully said:

“Thank goodness the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament! If not, we wouldn’t have been able to sit here together for hours becoming emotionally invested in the successes and failures of these athletes. Instead, all our emotions would have been invested in Question Period and in the successes and failures of our members of parliament. There simply wouldn’t have been any emotions left for curling, bobsleigh, and ski jumping.”

“Sure glad THAT didn’t happen!”

Okay, I’m paraphrasing. But your family surely turned to each other and said something like that.

Didn’t you?

Surely you cheered on our short-track speed skaters with gusto as they zipped around the track. Could you possibly have done so with the same amount of gusto if you also had to cheer on your favorite private member’s bill as it worked its way through the parliamentary process?

There’s only so much gusto to go around, right?

Well… look. What can I tell you? We all remember that Prime Minister Harper prorogued Parliament at the end of December. Before he did so, MPs were scheduled to come back to work on January 25th. Instead, they’ve only come back in recent days.

Critics said the government was subverting democracy in an attempt to avoid facing uncomfortable issues such as Afghanistan detainee abuse allegations and its record on climate change.

The Prime Minister said his government simply needed time to “recalibrate” its agenda. He and his supporters also responded to early criticism by playing that Olympic card. Canadians, they said, did not want to be distracted from the festivities in Vancouver.

The government seemed quite certain that the absence of Parliament wouldn’t bother us too much, as long as we had snowboarders and hockey players to cheer on.

But it didn’t take long for evidence of a backlash to emerge. Last autumn, public opinion polls showed the Conservatives flirting with majority territory. Within a few weeks of Parliament’s shutdown, the governing party was back in a neck-and-neck race with the opposition Liberals.

When an earthquake leveled Haiti, our government responded quickly and usefully. But it had no effect on the prorogation-impacted polls.

Anti-prorogation protests that attracted hundreds of thousands of Canadians online translated into substantial live protests in communities across the country.

In response, the Prime Minister seemed to lose some of his bravado. In the face of widespread protests and plunging polls, he announced that after Parliament returned in March, it would sit without a single break until summer. This was a tacit admission of prorogation’s political damage.

Then came the Winter Olympics.

As we sat around our TV sets for those two weeks of non-stop winter sports, cabinet ministers released non-stop announcements touting their consultations with Canadians about the economic way forward. The Prime Minister’s spokespeople previewed the federal budget, stressing that the government was entirely focused on jobs, jobs, and jobs.

The rest of us, of course, were focused on ice dancing. (Is that even a sport? Who cares? Canada won gold!!!).

But now… The flame is extinguished. The snow is melting. The international athletes have returned home.

And the minority government is back in Parliament, sitting without a break for weeks on end, managing a still-shaky and politically volatile economic situation.

If the Prime Minister could turn back time, would he prorogue again? It’s a moot point. In politics, as in Olympic Skeleton, there are no do-overs.