It looks like I’m going to have to pull the plug on my proposal for a grand coalition, not that this should particularly surprise anybody. I got one offer, but from a disaffected Liberal rather than somebody currently voting for the Conservative party.
I also got criticized on BlogsCanada for crafting “an unholy alliance” — but only by NDPers. The one Harper Tory who acknowledged by small campaign offered me a deal of his own: vote Conservative in Kitchener Centre so he could feel better about voting for Ed Broadbent in Ottawa Centre.
Sorry, Don, but the NDP is actually in a battle with the Liberals for Kitchener Centre, and the Conservative candidate is nowhere to be seen (unusual), so I have to reserve my vote on this one. I may yet vote Green, but from this point on, this depends on how the election goes. I’ve only decided who I’m not going to vote for.
The criticism by NDP supporters does suggest that NDPers are hearing the footsteps of the Green Party, slightly. This combined with the fact that leaders Jack Layton and Jim Harris are both campaigning to be elected in the same riding (Toronto Danforth) has been taken by the media to suggest dissention and rivalry on the Left — although truthfully Mr. Layton and Mr. Harris are on good terms with each other.
Which is more than you could say with Mr. Layton and the Liberal candidate Mr. Mills…
“You know, guys, there’s something called dying with dignity. This isn’t.”
This past Sunday, Mr. Mills and Mr. Layton’s wife, Olivia Chow, had a small confrontation. Ms. Chow was in her riding, campaigning with her husband. After Mr. Layton left, Layton’s opponent, Dennis Mills, showed up and confronted Olivia in front of television cameras, attacking her for her husband’s recent campaign statements. The act was confrontational and immature. It served only to make both Mills and Chow look bad.
I’d be willing to let this pass as an aberration and a sign that Mr. Layton and Mr. Mills are in a heck of a dogfight, except for this story, which POGGE directed my attention to:
We may have a new theme for our federal election campaign: the politics of confrontation. On Sunday last, Jack Layton and Olivia Chow were working the Toronto riding where Layton is running against incumbent Liberal MP Dennis Mills. Layton had left Chow on her own when Mills suddenly showed up and confronted Chow in front of the TV cameras, launching into an attack on Layton’s recent public statements.
It seemed like an aberration until I read this CTV story:
Conservative leader Stephen Harper was ambushed by two Liberal cabinet ministers on the campaign trail Tuesday, suggesting the Liberals have started a new and aggressive strategy to deny the Conservatives an easy ride.
Immigration Minister Judy Sgro headed out to a Harper event to challenge him on a controversy that broke earlier in the day. She wanted to drive a verbal stake into the Conservatives’ views on abortion.
… “Mr. Harper, what rights are you going to take away next?” she demanded of the party leader as he walked out of a Markham motel.
Harper had a terse reply.
“Better get out and knock on doors, Judy. You’re going down,” he called out to the minister and her supporters as he walked away.
Then, minutes later, as Harper was shaking hands with voters at an event reporters call “mainstreeting,” another Liberal cabinet minister launched another confrontation.
This time, it was Veterans Affairs Minister John McCallum. The minister, surrounded by Liberal supporters, waved a letter in his hand as Harper walked by.
“I want to give you this letter, it’s an open letter to you,” McCallum called out, as reporters moved in with microphones.
“I’ll give it to one of my staff,” Harper replied.
From there, the event quickly dissolved into chaos. With the shouting of protesters and party supporters growing louder, Harper took refuge in a store. He told reporters he found the Liberal ambush tactic desperate.
“Desperate” is the right word. So too is “underhanded”, “immature” and “disgraceful”. This is not an “honest and emotional” debate. If Mr. Mills wanted to take on Ms. Chow or (better yet) Mr. Layton in such a debate, he should have scheduled one, with a moderator and rules of engagement. Crash an event and disrupting the proceedings does not create an exchange of ideas. It does not allow voters to see different visions on display. It does not address a single issue of the campaign.
What these Liberal candidates have done is a disturbing echo of the Republican Party “scruitinizing the scruitineers” in Florida after the 2000 Presidential election. Back Mills, Sgro and McCallum with a large number of chanting Liberal Party supporters, throw in a push here, and a punch there, and you have a blatant intimidation tactic not seen since the bad old days before Baldwin and LaFontaine when mobs crashed polling stations.
I have had it said to me that it’s about time that Liberals or leftists stood up and got more in-your-face about politics, just like the Rush Limbaughs and the Ann Coulters of the world. I can only view such a viewpoint with disdain and disappointment. It is true that we’ve had a number of people on the extremes lie, bully and cheat, but what is more wrong: the acts of these individuals to try and disrupt the political process, or the individuals themselves? Do we truly believe in what we stand for in this democratic system, or are we only interested in winning?
I know that some of the same people who whined about heckling by the Ontario Conservative opposition as Finance Minister Greg Sorbara read his first budget to Queen’s Park will respond to Mr. Mills’ tactics with a “Go Mills Go!” This is hypocrisy at its finest. Had the Conservatives ambushed Liberal candidates on the campaign trail, in the fashion described above, the party would be lambasted by the Canadian electorate, and deservedly so. Unfortunately, it seems that the Paul Martin Liberals only believe campaign tactics are childish and immature when it happens to them, and not when they do it. It speaks volumes that the Conservatives have not set up Truth Squads for this election, though MP John Reynolds was the one who first came up with the idea. It speaks volumes as to the political bankruptcy of the Paul Martin Liberals that they’d stoop this low.
For me, the Paul Martin Liberals have crossed the line. They showed that this election is not about their vision of Canada or their policies, it’s just about winning. They want to win because they want to win, and nothing more. They don’t deserve to win. Our only response is to do everything (legal) in our power to ensure they lose. Even four years of Stephen Harper rule will be worth it.
Why I Don’t Fear Stephen Harper
If Stephen Harper were to win a majority mandate in this election, my main reaction would be one of disappointment, not of shock or horror. Our lives would go on. During this campaign, the Paul Martin Liberals have attempted to hide their own deficiencies by painting Mr. Harper as an extremist akin to George W. Bush and Mike Harris. But Harper is no George W. Bush. He’s not even much of a Harris.
As you know, my American mother-in-law and her husband are in town. Last night, we spent the evening watching CBC’s the National. Among the news items was Mr. Harper’s unveiling of the Conservative party’s Law and Order policy, and the criticism he received when Conservative party health critic Rob Merrifield talked about mandatory third-party counselling for women seeking an abortion.
Now, my mother-in-law and her husband are staunch Democrats from a family of staunch Democrats stretching back generations. While watching the news, they were impressed. They were impressed by the depth and the balance of the reporting of the CBC, and they were impressed by just how moderate Stephen Harper came across. In my mother-in-law’s words, “your far-right is so far left of our far-right!”.
Note that Rob Merrifield did not talk about recriminalizing abortion. Note that, in slapping Merrifield down, Stephen Harper emphasized that he did not intend to recriminalize abortion. Note that, in setting down his law and order policies, there was no talk of a draconian “three strikes and you’re out” policy, or anything that severely tied the hands of trial judges (as is the case in the States).
Indeed, I had to conclude that if Stephen Harper ran against George Bush in the presidential election, my Democratic in-laws would vote for Harper. If Harper ran against Kerry, the result might be a toss-up, depending largely on how well each candidate campaigned. This man is a moderate, folks, and he’s perfectly acceptable as a Canadian prime minister.
Stephen Harper is not the anti-Christ that hysterical pundits have painted him to be. Though I am philosophically opposed to his tax cut policies (and though I think he is being incredibly optimistic with his revenue predictions), I could live under his government, and I think that I could live fairly happily. I would be interested in seeing what his policy would be on funding for the arts, as you can well imagine, but it’s clear to me that I’d still have a recognizable Canada in 2008. Harper is, after all, limited by a number of factors:
1. Moderates within his party and his attempt to put on a moderate image.
If Harper gains a majority mandate, this will be why. Any significant departure from stated Tory policy and any appearance of pandering to his party’s social conservative side will be detested by the moderate majority of Canada. The resulting backlash will ensure he is only a one-termer. A government of moderation will ensure reelection.
2. A Unified Opposition.
Whereas the Liberals could play off the right-wing leanings of the Canadian Alliance with the leftist policies of the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP, Harper would face a solid front. Rather than the Liberals encountering discussion from across the floor that it’s spending too much and spending too little, Harper’s opposition would have a remarkably consistent message. This significantly changes the tone of the conversation in the house.
3. The Firewall Around Ontario.
When Paul Martin cut transfer payments and downloaded responsibilities onto the provinces, while appearing to be a centre-left Liberal, the hard-right provincial government of Mike Harris took those additional costs, cut services, and downloaded further responsibilities onto the municipalities. The situation under a Harper government would be reversed, but tax cuts, transfer payments and responsibilities generally do not flow up the ladder of Confederation.
With Harper, we would have a Canadian prime minister interested in devolving more responsibilities onto the provinces as well as tax points to back that up and a provincial premier acknowledging the need to reinvest in our local infrastructure. With Dalton McGuinty willing to spend money to fix up our cities, his activities are unlikely to be harmed by a federal government interested in granting him more authority to do so.
The prime minister of Canada, after Harper’s reign, might be responsible only for ribbon cutting ceremonies at mall openings from coast to coast, and thus my disappointment. But the life of the average Ontarian will not, in my opinion, be much affected.
Up Close and Personal With Jack Layton
Jack Layton sat for an hour with Peter Mansbridge during a special extended edition of the National yesterday, fielding a variety of questions from a wide selection of Canadians. Again, my American in-laws were impressed by the depth of the coverage, the fact that Jack Layton gave unscripted responses, the fact that Peter Mansbridge held Layton to his points, and the fact that the audience members were allowed to give follow-up questions.
Layton did very well, I thought, coming across as intelligent and responsive. Mansbridge actually helped in this regard, stopping Layton before he got too far on one of his rants. Layton also politely disagreed with some of the individuals, including someone who spoke in favour of restricting gay marriages. He never once raised his voice or put down the people who disagreed with him.
It will be interesting to see how Martin and Harper fare.
My mother-in-law commented that this sort of political conversation is rare in the American media, where the sitiation has become far too adversarial to get a real discussion going.
This is a good thing about Canada, and I hope we get to keep it.