Okay, even the Kool Aid drinkers have to be gagging on the gag order.
It is all beginning to unravel like a cheap suit.
Look no further than John Robson, former champion Kool Aid drinker of the Conservative Party who drove more wooden stakes through the heart of Karl Marx and Ed Broadbent than Barry Goldwater. I have crossed swords with Robson many times but never once doubted his intellectual honesty. And that honesty is what compelled him to write a column in the National Post advising the Tory faithful to abandon the current leadership in this election.
“These people are not honourable. Indeed, they laugh at honour. They cherish the low blow, the devious tactic, the unprincipled bribe, in a relentless, sneering partisan tone. People I know and like retweet Pierre Poilievre with vicious glee. I weep for them and my country.”
John, old trout, finally we agree.
How has the CPC braintrust responded to the growing chorus of the disenchanted? Circle the wagons and look for enemies in your midst. Elizabeth Thompson, whose work at iPolitics has been hotter than the Blue Jays these last few weeks, hit another one out of the park with her story on Stephen Harper’s penchant for treating supporters like potential threats.
First came the story of Harper minion Kory Teneycke’s revealing “democracy by invitation only.” I ask you: who would go through hoops for a ticket to see Steve, knowing that he will either bribe you with your own money, break into song, or tell you a whopper? Even Jimmy Swaggart offered a little inspiration along with the request for cash.
Now, as revealed this weekend, if you want to see Harper The Great and Powerful in person, you have to agree in advance to shut up and never speak a word of what you saw or you won’t get through the door. And I’m talking about his fans here, not seditious parliamentary librarians who need to sign a loyalty oath before lending out a book.
I’m not sure what democracy is anymore in Canada, but I’m pretty certain its got nothing to do with agreeing to get frisked and letting people and dogs mess with your junk before you attend a political event. Do they even do that in Myanmar?
And just the other day, my friend and colleague, Susannah Kelley, was refused entry to a Harper event. Her crime? Attempted coverage. She was barred because she wasn’t there the full 60 minutes in advance and the RCMP dog wasn’t in place to put this veteran journalist to the sniff test. Do they really think there is a “Stop Harper” sign in every woman’s purse? Or that Mike Duffy might slip into the event disguised as the Thin Man?
Stephen Harper’s cynical manipulation of the system to give Canadians 11 weeks of electoral hell is not going as planned, no matter how hard Big Oil, the Banks, and some at the CBC try to throw him a lifeline.
The point is the Harperites know they are in trouble with their own supporters. They were OK with the spendthrift liar, but no one admires a coward.
For one thing, everyone knows the cost to taxpayers of this election will be needlessly astronomical. Harper planned the whole thing because he and his cash-rich pack of robots can spend twice as much on the longer joust than would be possible, at least legally, on the usual 37-day campaign. Remember, to Harper an election is just like a car or a rifle; something you buy.
The extra money will come in handy in places like Peterborough where only a fumigator could clean up the stench left by disgraced former Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro. The ballot question in Peterborough is this: How many paid commercials does it take to exorcise the memory of a scoundrel in shackles?
Harper’s mischievous marathon towards October 19th was also designed to blunt spending by third parties, especially the unions and pensioners, whose respective campaigns were beginning to bite. Calling the election early means that limits what they can say and where they can say it.
One long-time Conservative who spoke to me on background said there was also another calculation in this Chinese water-torture of a 77-day election campaign; the hefty reimbursement cheques that Elections Canada will write to the CPC when the dust has settled – perhaps as much as $25 million. Not bad for a man who said he wanted to take public money out of political funding.
Does Harper really think he can raid our piggy bank for the largest one-time payout to taxpayers in Canadian history, the Universal Child Care Benefit, and convince anyone that it is about child care and not politics?
Can he make anything that walks upright believe he won’t tax back most of what he appears to be giving Canadians when next April rolls around?
And what about that polygamist in B.C., who will get a cheque for $43,160 because he’s got more kids than Old Mother Hubbard? He’s got the kids, Steve, so do we pay? Try selling that to the base.
Leaping lizards, Batman, the guy who made the cash-for-kids announcement was wearing a Conservative-branded golf-shirt! Is there anyone in Canada smart enough to boil an egg who believes that the government really couldn’t process the cheques back when the program began on January 1? Is there anyone with the IQ to butter toast who doesn’t see that the retroactive payment cheque was designed to coincide with the election call?
The truth is, Steve was making his own people gag long before the election call.
Brent Rathgeber, who left the Harper government over the issue of core values, said it best and most simply; Harper has degraded the Conservative brand to the point where it is now the personal vehicle of an unprincipled political maverick who would do anything to keep power. “They have taken electioneering and electoral bribery to new and dangerous levels,” Rathgeber, now an Independent, wrote.
And its not just bribing Canadians with their own money. Despite Treasury Board guidelines designed to protect public servants from being drawn into partisan political activity, Foreign Affairs minister Rob Nicholson ordered his bureaucrats to produce three terrorism-related statements he could announce in the media each week. It’s pretty simple. They figure if they can scare the pants off you, they just might get your vote.
Not cynical enough for you? How’s this one: public safety minister Steven Blaney reversed the RCMP’s ban on Swiss Arms and CZ-858 rifles. The RCMP had determined that the weapons were variants of prohibited, automatic firearms. Accordingly, they changed the status of the weapons to “prohibited.” Blaney ignored the Mounties and simply changed them back again. The Conservatives are clearly betting that in a close election, the difference between winning and losing could be the gratitude of gun nuts. As for public safety, everyone needs a look-alike assault weapon to deter the swarms of terrorists down the block, right?
And how about this? On the same day that the election was called, the Harper government slipped through an Order-in-Council aimed at permitting itself the power to continue negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Here is the catch. Once parliament has been dissolved, the behaviour of government is supposed to change. While constitutionally, a government retains full legal authority to govern during an election campaign, it is expected to exercise restraint in its actions. This is called the convention of restraint and it prevents governments that may not be re-elected, and who do not face the confidence of the House, from making country-changing policy decisions during an election.
The Privy Council Office, which has been massively politicized under Harper’s period in office, has now added a new paragraph to the convention of restraint allowing the government to move forward with TPP negotiations for a variety of compelling reasons. The problem? How can the Conservative government tell its negotiating partners that anything it says will hold true after October 19? It can’t, of course, but in the bid to have a public-relations victory, this is war and all’s fair….
So no wonder the base is wondering. How can it be that the Christian caucus of the CPC is now being treated like the skunk at the garden party? Harper wanted their money and their votes but he did less for social conservatives than the Liberals.
The proof? Not only wouldn’t Harper permit Maurice Vellacott to run in one of the new ridings, he has now turned the disciplinary apparatus of government on the pro-life champion over allegedly improper housing expense claims. Sound familiar? Vellacott, who once thought Harper would take his determined little caucus of one-issue Conservatives to the Promised Land, is now merely headed to court – like a lot of disappointed Conservatives.
Michael Harris is a writer, journalist, and documentary filmmaker. He was awarded a Doctor of Laws for his “unceasing pursuit of justice for the less fortunate among us.” His nine books include Justice Denied, Unholy Orders, Rare ambition, Lament for an Ocean, and Con Game. His work has sparked four commissions of inquiry, and three of his books have been made into movies. His new book on the Harper majority government, Party of One, is a number one best-seller.