Introspect this

Silly questions, the latest in a lifelong series of them.

Are we past the point where it’s okay/acceptable/advantageous for politicians to be publicly introspective? Was it ever okay/acceptable/advantageous for politicians to be publicly introspective? Or is Mr. Harper particularly stubborn in his refusal to introspect as such? (Or, well, are we actually to take his refusal as evidence that he truly believes he has lived up to the finest standards of national leadership over the past two months?)

Watch, as the editor of this magazine asks the Prime Minister to participate in a little public introspection. See, how it takes four questions to get a sideways reference to something that might be considered a concession of some such.

Q: Over the last couple of months, through the formation of the coalition and proroguing of Parliament, what was the experience like for you? What did you learn from all of that?

A: Well, you know, in a sense it hasn’t changed the government’s plans. The plan was to pursue a budget as early as we could, early in January, and that’s what we’re going to do. I can say it’s been an interesting time—obviously there’s been a change in the opposition leadership as a consequence and so, you know, my great hope is it will lead us to some greater knowledge of what it is the opposition’s actually seeking in terms of public policy. We obviously have significant economic challenges in the country, we’re consulting widely on what should be in the budget, and what may be interesting out of all this is if we actually get some idea from the opposition what their economic priorities are.


Q: I asked you about what you learned through the month of the coalition and all that excitement. Aside from what the opposition’s up to and what the opposition wants, what about the way you guys handled things? Are you happy with everything you did?

A: Well, you know, my own judgment is that what we really saw there was a continuation of a pattern we saw prior to the election—part of what led me to call the election—and during the election was the increasing opposition-for-the-sake-of-opposition approach of the other parties, and their increasing willingness to work together to do that. I think that reached a crescendo, and now I think they’ll obviously have to make some decisions: you know, are they serious in providing the government with their input on the economy? If they are, obviously we will take those things into account. If not, they’ll make their own judgments about how to go. I mean, our focus will be on what we think is best for the economy.

Q: But you don’t think you made a mistake or you mishandled your relations with the opposition?

A: Well, I think it’s always the right of the government to pursue what it believes is in the public interest. There were some measures—particularly the political subsidy measure—the opposition parties disagree with, but the government listened, and the government has decided to go [with] a freeze instead of an elimination. But make no mistake, the government believes that the elimination of these subsidies has to be done eventually, that that’s in the public interest.

Q: So it’s good policy but the timing is a political mistake?

A: Well, I guess that’s a conclusion you have to reach because we withdrew it. That said, it’s still the right policy, widely supported by Canadians.

Full interview here.