Monday, March 21, 2011

Harpo, the juggling seal

Harper jeopardized by scandals

Operative word: Scandals (as in plural). I guess Harpo the Seal was unable to keep all those balls in the air. He only succeeded in outdoing the Chretien government by having multiple scandals instead of only one. Harpo gives new meaning to the expression "go big or go home". In Harpo's case it's "go big and go home"

Harper jeopardized by scandals

By Kris Kotarski, For the Calgary Herald March 21, 2011 3:02 AM

When Paul Martin's Liberals were swept from power in the 2006 federal election, the National Post's Barbara Kay began her postelection column with: "It isn't that the Conservatives didn't win big enough to please me; it was that the Liberals didn't lose big enough."

Although I agree with Kay's columns about as often as Canadians get to see a solar eclipse (we're due to agree again this June!), I thought she captured the postelection mood perfectly.

After a steady trickle of Chuck Guite, Alfonso Gagliano, Jean Brault and the rest of the sponsorship scandal's stars and starlets, even some left-leaning Canadians were happy to turn the page on the AdScam Liberals. I recall thinking that the election wasn't just about changing one governing party for another -more than in any other vote in our recent history, it was a cleansing ritual, with legitimate moral outrage sweeping the Liberals from power in 2006.

Fast forward to 2011, and, rather surprisingly, Canada's electoral math has not changed at all. Despite a generational global economic crisis, serious convulsions in the world's energy markets, a new era in U.S. politics and a continuing war in Afghanistan, Canadians have refused to grant Stephen Harper a majority government, just as they refused to accept Stephane Dion or Michael Ignatieff as prime-ministers-in-waiting.

Each time the poll numbers have inched up to put the Conservatives in majority territory, the voters have pulled back. Each time the Liberals have gained and begun to pull even with the Conservatives, the voters told them in no uncertain terms that they were not trusted to form a government just yet.

Although this uneasy balance has persisted long enough to be broadly accepted as our new Canadian consensus, the moral dimension of Canadian politics did change during the past five years, and, from Harper's point of view, not for the better.

After an initial honeymoon that lasted until the income trust decision in late 2006, the Conservatives have marched step by step to alienate groups of potential voters.

For some, the disillusionment came quickly, when a pledge to "stop the Liberal attack on retirement savings and preserve income trusts by not imposing any new taxes on them" was violated, infuriating the business community and seniors.

For others, it was the decision to prorogue Parliament, not once, but twice -first shutting down the House in late 2008 to avoid a confidence vote and a possible federal election call, and then shutting it down again in late 2009 to avoid a burgeoning human rights scandal raised by diplomat Richard Colvin, who alleged Afghan detainees turned over to Afghanistan prisons by Canadian soldiers were tortured.

I suspect that many university-educated big city voters began to think twice about Harper and his principles when Colvin was unceremoniously smeared by the Conservative government for blowing the whistle on detainee abuse.

I suspect that many more are baffled by International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda, who callously ordered that the word "not" be inserted into a Canadian International Development Agency memo that recommended funding a Canadian aid group, and then telling Parliament she did not know who made the change.

However, if these scandals made a Harper majority unlikely by alienating potential voters, the latest scandal has the potential to end his minority government altogether, because it is bound to seriously upset his traditional supporters.

Late last week, accusations surfaced that 66-yearold former Harper aide Bruce Carson engaged in illegal lobbying in the Indian Affairs department to secure a water filtration contract that would send 20 per cent of gross revenues to his 22-year-old fiancee, Michele McPherson, a former Ottawa escort.

Because ex-escorts do not easily leave the front pages of newspapers once they get there, this story is not going to go away. And, if an election is called this week, voters will continue to be confronted with the sort of moral rot for which the Liberals were punished five years ago.

Recalling Kay's words, we may be heading for an election where many Canadians may be hoping for the Conservatives to "lose big enough," regardless of who is on the other side. That's a dangerous mix for the PM, but it's a moral landscape of his own making.

Kris Kotarski's column runs every second Monday.

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Dr Mike said...

Hopefully the opposition passes the budget & does not allow Harper to campaign on the economy.

Make things as difficult for him as possible after the passing & make him go to his Buddy the Governor General to force an election making the "buck" stop with him.

Let him shoot his own foot & then we can all enjoy the dance.

Dr Mike Popovich

Anonymous said...

Professor Franks said there are eight opportunities before June.

Anonymous said...

What more do those nutty Canadians need to convince themselves that the Government of the Honorable Member of Calgary-in-his-Vest is not fiscally conservative or politically trustworthy?

By the way, and this is for the nutjobs at the Calgary Herald, the first critical sign that the Honorable Member of Calgary-in-his-Vest is not trust-worthy happened when he broke his income trust promise.

Anonymous said...

And that doesn't even count all the scandals that were determined not to be scandals but in fact were scandals.
The above is how Harper ducked and weaved for 5 years. He finally moved right when he should have moved left.


Anonymous said...

If the Liberals have any sense they will recognize the opportunity they have been given in Bowmanville - Oda territory - almost next door to the finance minister in Whitby. They have no competition from the NDP over there.