Stephen Harper hasn’t been having the best week of his life. His former aides are discussing how his short temper led to fits of rage with the media, a Muslim group is pushing a libel suit on him and his spokesperson, and the nasty Supreme Court debacle refuses to go away.
But a recent report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) may just be the silver lining that will blow the rainy clouds away if and when it is inevitably blown out of proportion. Conservative tax cuts, it concludes, have landed Canadians a total of 30 billion dollars, benefiting mostly the elusive-but-not-really middle class.
In the past, Harper has been all but shut out of the wrestling match over the slippery bar of soap that is the “middle class”. Thomas “Angry Tom” Mulcair and Justin “the Second” Trudeau have largely monopolized that battle of words, even though they can’t adequately define what it is they’re fighting about.Trudeau won the hearts and votes of Liberal Party members when he anointed himself champion of the middle class, but he faltered when he couldn’t specify who was in the middle class and who wasn’t. Mulcair, in turn insisted that JT will never know what the middle class is because he was never part of it.
Trudeau’s latest attempts at clarification achieved the opposite effect, befuddling many and prompting ridicule from the PM himself. Perhaps Trudeau’s biggest accomplishment, then, was driving stone-cold Steve Harper to the point of cracking a joke.
Other than the occasional ridicule, Harper has so far steered clear of the NDP-Liberal battle over intangibilities, and perhaps with good reasons. The only real outcome of this debate thus far has been the Trudeau Uncertainty Principle, which states that the more you try to define an all-encompassing economic class in an attempt to pander to voters, the less people will actually be included in that category.
The PBO, however, wasted no time in giving an easy, empirical definition to the middle class, specifically “lower-middle income earners”, in its report. Even more shocking is the report’s disdainful use of “progressive” to describe tax-cutting programs implemented by the Conservatives. Not only has Harper laid claim on a golden electoral prize (well, maybe not golden; we’re not doing that well yet), but he’s also infringing on a quality thought to be reserved for the more left-of-centre parties.
So, has the PM won the War
over for the Middle Class? Probably not. For the time being, Harper enters Prince Trudeau and Angry Tom’s slap fight wielding a baseball bat. One report can always be challenged and contradicted by another.
More importantly, in modern political culture, leaders don’t let silly things like numbers and facts get in their way. That would be too simple and, frankly, too boring. Just be ready for the Tories to triumphantly tout this report in a future election to support Harper’s claim to the thrown of Lord Protector of the Middle Class.