It is my impression that Maxime Bernier's latest speeches are really Tory policy being enunciated. ( At least I always hope that is the case.) I am not alone in this thinking. Chantal Hebert also sees it this way. She thinks that the new budget will shrink the size and scope of government. That is music to the ears of many Tories. She also acknowledges that is really only the Tories who at this point are ready for an election.
In his budget, Jim Flaherty did not use the words zero growth. But he froze the operating budget of every federal department and he forecast that the growth of direct program spending would not exceed 1.3 per cent, once his austerity regime is fully in place.
More importantly, he put in place a formula he would be free to tweak should his economic forecasts turn out to be overly optimistic, or should he enjoy the freer hand of a governing majority.
Even if the plan at it now stands fails – as many economists expect it will – to meet the Conservative deficit targets, the formula will still advance the Conservative vision of a smaller, less activist, federal government.
From the ideological standpoint of the Liberal party, the introduction of a blueprint designed to progressively shrink the scope of the federal government is the poison pill of the Flaherty budget.
But less than an hour after the budget was delivered Michael Ignatieff signalled he would swallow it.
While the budget was not crafted to engineer the fall of the minority government, the Conservatives once again turned out to be more ready to put their case to voters than their main opposition critics.