Why Harper's Strategists Have It Backwards

It seems as though it is the policy of Harper’s Tories to avoid talking about policy and focus more on the mantra of Liberal corruption. As a means of damaging the Liberal government, this is probably effective, but as a means of communicating to Canadians why the Conservatives should be elected in their place, it’s somewhat less so.

A number of Conservative bloggers are aching to have Harper’s Tories run a positive campaign on policy rather than a negative campaign against the Liberals. A few days ago, some of Harper’s backers explained their strategy.

“The difficulty with laying out our platform right now is the Liberals have demonstrated they are prepared to steal everything,” Peter Van Loan, the Conservative MP for York-Simcoe in Central Ontario, said yesterday.

“Obviously, if we laid it out right now, I have no doubt it would be stolen within hours. And for that reason, to a large extent, the platform elements of a positive message will be seen most obviously during an election.”

Hat tip: Andrew at Bound by Gravity

This didn’t calm the bloggers’ fears. Consider Andrew’s response at Bound by Gravity

You’re scared that the Liberals will steal your policies?!? Who the hell cares??? You’ve been stealing their policies for the past year or more as you tried to brand the CPC as “Liberal lite” (all the same goodies, with only half the corruption!). What does it matter to you guys if the Liberals pilfer back an idea or two, especially in light of the fact that the average Canadian voter is screaming out for a reason to abandon the good ship Liberal.

The Liberals’ propensity of borrowing policies from the parties surrounding it is well known. The party is not a party of principle. It’s a party of pragmatists duking it out with opportunists. The opportunists will always implement whatever popular idea is out there in a bid to maintain power; the pragmatists will always implement whatever idea is out there that is good for Canada.

Consider medicare. Tommy Douglas was the big voice behind it, but he didn’t get to implement it, the Liberals did. In so doing, they forestalled a possible NDP surge in the late 1960s, and crafted a program which maintains the ardent support of a majority of Canadians. Likewise, it’s doubtful that Paul Martin would have been able to act on the deficit as hard as he did, had not Preston Manning and his Reform Party communicated to Canadians the seriousness of our debt problems, thus allowing us to brace ourselves for the harsh cuts that were to follow.

Peter Van Loan’s fears that policies may be pilfered by the Liberals may be justified, but those same fears suggest that his political priorities are skewed. Sure, some Liberals may have adopted medicare and deficit reduction for opportunistic reasons, but one can also argue that those policies were good for Canada at the time.

And surely, when it comes to strengthening our nation, it matters far less who enacted those policies than the fact that the policies are enacted. Tommy Douglas and Preston Manning are still remembered for their contribution, and they must certainly take comfort in the fact that our nation now is better off as a result of their ideas. And both parties still have at hand the issue of how well these policies are being run as a weapon to bludgeon the Liberals with.

It doesn’t say much for MP Van Loan that he would want to hold off on policies he sees as good for Canadians so that he is the one in power when they get implemented. And if Harper is backing this strategy, it’s another piece of evidence that he may be as powerhungry as Martin, and thus not up to the job of prime minister.

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