That’s the beginning of a rather famous saying that ends: “fool me twice, shame on me.” How many times have the Opposition Parities and the Canadian electorate allowed themselves to be fooled by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s flip-flops, broken promises and lies.

The following is an excerpt from an op-ed the other day, just before Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty finally stopped announcing their new budget in bits and pieces all week leading up to the actual delivery in the House of Commons (why does the news media in Canada insist on calling them “leaks”?):

Have they no sense that their policies have sent the country hurtling down the road to ruin? Are they so divorced from reality that in their delusionary state they honestly believe we need more of their tax cuts for the rich and their other forms of plutocratic irresponsibility, the very things that got us to this deplorable state?

The newspaper in question is the New York Times. The writer is Bob Herbert. His criticism is aimed at those Republicans who just don’t get it, after a serious drubbing at the polls, and the much-deserved bum’s rush that the American voter gave George W. Bush.

These conservative Republicans attack the new Obama administration’s decision for more government intervention into the economy with a stimulus package. Instead, they advocate more tax cuts to the upper crust and business, and more spending on the military. These are the very things that, along with two wars, unbridled greed and a lack of government accountability, led to a $3-trillion dollar deficit and a meltdown of global economies. Herbert has little sympathy for their denial of responsibility – and absence from reality.

As you have probably already noticed, Herbert’s words could have applied just as easily to Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper and his Conservative horde.

Strangely, some of the harshest criticism of Harper in the past few days, though, has come from a former speech-writer for Brian Mulroney, an editor of Policy Options, a right-of-centre political journal, and published as a column in the conservative National Post newspaper. L.Ian MacDonald:

Leaking the deficit number was unprecedented in itself. But leaking it with the stock market open was unheard of. And leaking it from the Prime Minister’s Office, rather than the Finance Department, was a stunning big-footing of one central agency by another. If a deficit number isn’t market-sensitive information, nothing in a budget is. In the traditional Westminster world, there would be calls for the minister’s resignation. In the normal world of Ottawa, Finance officials, not the PMO, would have conducted the briefing.

But in Stephen Harper’s Ottawa, this sort of thing happens all the time. It’s all about command and control from the centre. This would never have happened in Jean Chretien’s or Brian Mulroney’s time – their finance ministers, Paul Martin and Michael Wilson, would never have permitted the Langevin Block to speak for them.

The strategy of leaking the deficit number was obviously to take the hit going into the budget, and take it out of the news cycle coming out of the budget. Indeed, the deficit number is itself a modest one, especially in the context of the global financial crisis and the imperative of securing the support of the Liberals to assure passage of the budget in a minority House.

At one time, leaking budget information before the government delivered it to the House of Commons was a federal offence for which quite a few journalists and civil servants were threatened with arrest. So much for the “honour of the Crown” and the “rule of law.” Clinging to power at all costs is what it’s come to be. How low can this government go?