Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Monday, October 16, 2006

What are the Conservatives up to?

On the weekend, we at Progressive Bloggers got a stern talking-to from the leftdog, accusing us of all being so busy writing about the Liberal leadership race that we're letting the Tories do crazy things without taking them to task. He's right, of course, and it's not just the Liberal bloggers who are guilty of that. In my own defense, though, I can only say that campaigns and elections are fun even when they're not yours, and it's awfully hard to write about the policies and strategies of a party that you find so damn confusing.

I mean, we all know that Harper did things from day one that went against his own stated code of conduct, but at least you could follow his rationale. When he enticed a Liberal to cross the floor, he was trying to strengthen his puny minority while assuring some continuity on the softwood lumber file. When he appointed a Senator and made him a cabinet minister, he was trying to assure some urban Montreal representation while ensuring that one of his backroom buddies got a juicy post. Slimy stuff, but hardly nonsensical.

These days, though, they've been decidedly more...shall we say...opaque. Though they've been told by their own ilk that they should distance themselves from Bush, stop concentrating so much on foreign policy, and avoid talking about the environment at all costs, they've been behaving more like Bush by the day, digging in their heels on Afghanistan, and announcing with much fanfare that soon they might maybe be announcing an environmental plan approach that completely lacks any teeth.

As if those things weren't baffling enough, their side projects are equally incomprehensible. Not only are they bringing back the same-sex marriage issue this fall, but they're also floating a possible federal Defence of Religions Act that sounds suspiciously like something Alberta's resident Rick Santorum clone, Ted Morton, would come up with. They're making their sitting MPs defend their seats in nomination battles, but rigging the vote for even their looniest caucus members. And in their spare time, they've been firing government scientists for refusing to participate in their war on rhetoric. The result is that they remain stuck at 36% in the polls, and their love-hate relationship with Quebec has swung decisively to the other end of that dial. Strange moves for a party that wants a majority so badly that you can almost see the drool on their slavering chops.

The Second Coming of Greg Bester seems to think we're witnessing the Conservatives coming apart at the seams, but after all the lessons we've learned about not underestimating our Dear Leader, I'm reluctant to come to the same conclusion. And on last week's edition of CPAC's Talk Politics, Susan Delacourt seemed to be equally disinclined to predict the Conservatives' defeat based on this strange new strategy:

Ken Rockburn: This is a guy who's looking for a majority government. You can see it in every move they make that this is what they're aiming at.

Susan Delacourt: Yeah.

Ken Rockburn: Is this one going to play out for him in this regard? If it goes on like this, you would think people would see him as at such a remove from your average Canadian that this whole movement he's proported to represent to begin with--that it might just backfire on him.

Susan Delacourt: Well, if it works, he's rewriting a few formulas. I'm loathe to make predictions because it's been a raucous few years in Canadian politics for predictions. But I will say that if it does work--if this sort of very authoritarian, controlling, disciplined kind of leadership works--then we've all been off on the wrong path.
So have Stephen Harper's Conservatives gone just a little bit crazy, or have they stumbled upon a winning strategy that none of the rest of us recognize? I would have thought I understood Canada well enough to say one way or the other, but in days like these I'm starting to think I shouldn't dare. And as for the leftdog's challenge to start posting more about the Tories, I'll do what I can, but lately I'm just too weirded out by what they're doing to do much more than sit here, slackjawed.


leftdog said...

For a minority government that has the solid support of 38% of Canadians, the Harper gov't is going very hard at rebranding the nation to suit their T0RY ideology.

My biggest current concern is with the Canadian Wheat Board - a national institution that they want to neuter without the consent of farmers AS THE CURRENT ACT REQUIRES!.

I think Harper's 'Plan B' has always been that if they cannot achieve a majority government, they will tear down that which they can - sort of a right wing 'scorched earth' policy.

Anonymous said...

I would me more inclined to think Harper was a genius if his numbers were going up rather than down.

bza said...

Maybe there is some method to their madness. The American neo-conservative strategy was polarization and activating the base.

If the Libs, Bloc, NDP, and Greens all stand at odds to the tories this may work in their advantage. Maybe Harper is trying to be a war prime minister and be our straussian hero in times of uncertainity.

Kevin Brennan said...

Count me in with the confused.

I don't see this as a "base activation" strategy because frankly there aren't enough right-wingers in Canada to produce a workable majority government.

My best guess is that Harper has gone off plan. My honest impression is that he's a smart guy who can figure out how to be effective politically when he puts in the effort, but his instincts are terrible. The last election was won because Harper had a plan and stuck to it--and because the other parties played right along with it. He either didn't think through his goals for a minority or has been knocked off course, and this is the result.

West End Bound said...

As a US citizen in the process of obtaining PR status in Canada the Harper/Tory moves are confusing to me, also. It's good to see that the current Canadian citizens are also in a quandry . . . . The one thing I am sure of is a Harper/Tory majority would not be a good thing!

Devin Johnston said...

I'm definitely in the camp of being too dumbfounded to even comment on the Conservative government's actions. It's like watching a train run over a puppy.. what can you really say other than "man it sucks that that train is running over that puppy."

Jen said...

Is it just me, or does New Government sound a bit like Tony Blair's New Labor in the UK? Which we all came to realise was just newspeak (!!!) for Old Tory. I'd say that maybe I'd just stay in France, but with the Presidential elections coming up in May, they too seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place (that is, a conservative with a tough flair, and a socialist who either has no ideas of her own, or is another Tony Blair-type Trojan horse.

The article on women's lobby group funding just has me floored. Absolutely floored. I should repost that...

Um, so when is that softwood lumber vote? Please don't tell me it's already taken place, because I haven't heard that an election has been called. (Hey, I can still be naively hopeful, can't I?)

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


The government won't fall over softwood lumber--they'll fall over the next budget. That's the spring. You can count on it.