Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Harper needs to "change the channel"

Via Buckdog comes this fascinating Greg Weston editorial from--of all places--the Calgary Sun. It's based around a SES Research poll suggesting that Canadians feel Harper's government is "too close to the U.S."--adding some context to other recent polling numbers that suggest the Conservatives, while still in the lead, haven't made any real gains since the election. This leaves the Conservatives' coveted majority far, far out of reach.

Even more interesting than the numbers themselves, though, are Weston's thoughts on how Harper might respond to these numbers in the fall:

He will be in a lot fewer photo-ops with Bush, and in lot more waving the flag in the far North where our sovereignty is somehow threatened by the Yanks (who, for the record, say they aren't the least bit interested). But more than anything, Nanos says, the Harper government desperately needs to "change the channel to domestic issues that do not involve the U.S." That means moving public attention away from issues such as softwood lumber, border security, the environment and Kyoto accord, and away from conflicts in the Mideast and Afghanistan.

None of which will be easy: The lumber deal has yet to be finalized; new passport rules for entering the U.S. start to kick in next year; the Conservatives are presenting their alternative to Kyoto this fall; and Afghanistan will continue to be a killing field for Canadian troops. At the same time, the Conservatives' much-touted "five priorities" barely registered with voters' likes and dislikes in the SES-Sun polls. Nanos says if the Conservatives are smart, they'll latch on to their promised health-care guarantee, an issue that is certainly Canadian and equally un-American.
Harper's close relationship with the Bush administration is his Achilles heel. Weston suggests that Harper is beginning to realize this, and will respond in the fall not by changing his policies to distinguish himself more from Bush, but by sweeping under the rug any issue that might paint him as a Bush clone. If this turns out to be the case, then the opposition parties need to spend the fall keeping those issues front and centre. Not just because it's politically expedient, but because the issues Harper is likely to try and ignore are so crucial.

4 comments:

Steve V said...

It really is amazing, that a man like Harper, who apparently makes all decisions with an eye towards a magority, would align himself so closely with Bush. The Conservatives had to know that Canadians strongly oppose the Bush policies, and yet Harper voluntarily snuggles close. This might be the one instance where Harper's actually believes in something above political expediency- bad neocon ideology.

Michel Fortin said...

It is interesting to note that while the pools are showing Harper is not making any advance in Canada, in Quebec support is clearly dropping. I think Quebeckers didn't appreciate much the militaristic trend he has shown by sending troops to war in Afganistan and by making big military investments. This was visible in the pools some time before the war in Lebanon, but was much amplified by the pro-Israel stance he adopted during the conflict.

Wasn't Québec the key to a majority Conservative government? This strategy doesn't seem to be working very well at the moment, but I think this was to be expected.

Deanna said...

Has anyone seen the actual poll numbers for the SES report? I didn't get any feel for the numbers from the Sun article.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Deanna,

That's all I've got, I'm afraid. Though I'd love to see them as well.