Although it is premature to say that the Tory childcare proposals are in trouble, I think it is surprising how little enthusiasm these proposals have generated among the general public. When, for example, the best quote that the wildly pro-Tory National Post can come up with is, "I think it's just a payoff. Of course I'm going to take the money but I don't think it's solving any problems." then you are clearly having some difficulty convincing the populace. And when your PR plan includes sending in the wingnuts, far right lobby groups whose other beliefs include the theory that the One World Government, acting through the United Nations, is employing homosexuals to undermine the Catholic Church, then you are clearly having difficult finding mainstream groups to carry the torch for you.
And of course, though the Stephen Harper Tories command a small minority in the HOC, in the Senate Liberals outnumber Conservatives by a 66 to 25 majority. Which fact inspires Alan Holman of the PEI Guardian to write in his Saturday column:
If the Liberals sense there is serious public opposition to the government's proposal, by arguing it's the duty of the Senate to thoroughly examine all bills that come before it, they could use their majority to strike a committee and hear all sides of the issue from people across the country.
Senate committees have a long history of studying complex bills, often making important amendments. Senate committees have also been used to study complex social issues. They are efficient and much more cost-effective than royal commissions.
If Mr. Harper cares about the children, and his program isn't just a $1,200 handout to stay-at-home mothers and others who oppose day-care, then he would encourage the Senate to study the issue, and perhaps reach a consensus. With only a third of the seats in the Commons, the government can't claim it has a mandate for such a controversial program.
A Senate committee would allow both sides the opportunity to present their views in a more reasoned and rational manner than would ever be possible in the heat of an election campaign. And that could be the very reason why the Conservatives might oppose such a move.
Should Harper refuse to at least allow those deals signed by the previous Liberal government to go forward, then slowing things up in the Senate seems to be a good move both substantively and politically. While Harper seems (almost comically) eager to goad the Libs into an election before their new leader is in place, I don't believe he wants to do it over this issue, especially if the choice is not between passing the legislation or killing it, but between passing a flawed set of proposals and subjecting them to a "rational, reasonable" reconsideration.