Sunday, October 12, 2008

How a rout became a bout

This is from the National Post.
This is an interesting article but it misses some points and just seems wrong on others. Certainly not all parts of Harper's platform was ideologically driven but some certainly were such as parts of his crime bills, but Harper is in a minority so cannot afford to be defeated at the wrong time because of ideological driven policies. His buildup of the military is certainly ideologically driven as is his comradely following of Bush on the environment at international meetings. When it comes to this election however Harper throws ideology out the window to try to garner votes. He gave a grant to the auto sector after saying that we should not bail out failing industries. He turned around and gave tax breaks for art lessons after getting into trouble re funding of the arts. He recognised Quebec as a nation earlier, a move that helped him out for a time in Quebec.
Harper did appear unfeeling and rather mean in his attacks on Dion and this may perhaps have hurt him. Dion has done a bit better lately in spite of his gaffe in a taped interview. However, Harper's reaction may actually have helped Dion and certainly in Quebec again Harper's reaction would not help at all. It looks as if we will likely end up with another minority government not that much different from the old one but maybe the voters are as volatile as the stock market so who knows!

Saturday, October 11, 2008
Once invincible Tories fail to take stock
How a rout became a bout
Don Martin, National Post Published: Saturday, October 11, 2008
Chris Wattie/Reuters
Going into the campaign, three words were guaranteed to crack up anyone on Stephen Harper's campaign bus: "Prime Minister Dion." Or, if you wanted to unleash a real knee-slapper: "Liberal transition team."
Put into a seasonal context, Conservatives expected this election to be a 36-day Liberal turkey shoot culminating in the day-after-Thanksgiving electoral carving of its leader, Stephane Dion.
After all, they couldn't lose. The only suspense was the size of the win as a stronger minority or the much-craved majority government.
But this crazy, gaffe-prone market meltdown of a campaign has one wondering which leader's neck is on the block after the cumulative impact of a dozen Conservatives missteps forced Mr. Harper to sound the alarm this week against the possibility Mr. Dion could be his replacement.
It's rare and frankly incredible to be on the eve of an election and have so many outcomes -- bookended by the unlikely Conservative majority and improbable Liberal minority result -- still in feasible play. There were no
defining turning-against-Harper moments, and aside from occasional comments that became one-day backfires, his campaign performance has been solid, his promises a prudent fit with bad times.
About the only explanation for the creaking and crashing of his once-invincible war machine is the pummelling Canadians are taking in their stock portfolios, something the Prime Minister is powerless to prevent.
That's why the first hint of grave danger to a Conservative campaign, which had planned for almost every other contingency, hit just as the Prime Minister was visiting the Governor-General to force the election a year ahead of his fixed date.
Word landed during his coffee chat that U. S. government-sponsored mortgage agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Machad been placed under the control of the U. S. Treasury.
Unfortunately, those subprime mortgage casualties were merely the distant sound of troubling waves hitting the outer breakers.
The campaign trail eventually became bogged down by bad news as global bank bailouts were unleashed, the market crashed, the dollar collapsed and oil prices fell down a deep well. This campaign would clearly not follow any made-in-Canada script. But the Conservatives didn't panic. Their leader's numbers towered over the rivals as the best economic manager for ugly times. All they had to do was to try to give him a more human face and stick to the platform.
Perhaps that natural aloofness became a vote-swaying issue, but to vote against a leader for not cooing with investor sympathy after 32 months of solid government is a hard-to-believe explanation for the precipitous downturn in the polls.
The groundwork done by the Conservatives was unlike anything seen since the Jean Chretien glory years, all of it a single-minded fixation on winning big in this election.
They invested heavily in ethnic outreach and apologized profusely to offended minorities. They gave a dignified resolution to the native residential school tragedy. The conquest of Quebec, granted "nation" status by the Conservative government, was merely an electoral formality.
In the pivotal Quebec battleground, they were up against Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe whose party had lost a compelling reason to exist.
They were up against a Liberal leader who launched his unprepared campaign without a plane and was already widely seen as a one-election loser inside his party. The bonus was having economic turmoil at the precise moment the Liberals were standing on a carbon tax platform that had everything but a trap door and noose to reflect voter reaction.
And if that wasn't enough, a surprisingly resilient New Democrat Party seemed ready to split the left-leaning vote and hand the Conservatives default victories with only a 35% share of the ballot in some ridings. For the Conservatives launching
a campaign with overflowing coffers, a war room that had been on standby for years and a decent record of achievement, this wasn't supposed to be a fair fight.
Yet a culture of self-defeat seems to helix inside Stephen Harper's DNA. He tripped himself up late in the 2004 and 2006 campaigns with comments that sent voters scurrying back to the Liberals. Since the man learns from his mistakes, though, it seemed there would never be a threepeat.
But there it was. Small things became such big news that started the polls sliding. He elevated an arts funding reallocation into a cultural battle against snobbery and galas. An exuberant Conservative backroom straddled the lines of good taste several times and put the most unlikely phrase of "puffin poop" into the headlines. A youth crime crackdown became an unsettling image of life sentences for adolescents in Quebec. There were plagiarism allegations in an old Harper foreign affairs speech, a callous-sounding reference to the market crash as having decent "buy" possibilities in a scrum and the unfortunate pile-on of the hapless Mr. Dion in an interview this week.
Perhaps the outtake humiliation of Stephane Dion was the perfect wrap-up metaphor for this bizarre campaign.
That Mr. Dion sputtered with incomprehension at a repeated media question on his economic plan speaks to the ongoing concern that the Liberal leader couldn't handle the pressure or the language challenges of a federal election campaign.
The reaction by Mr. Harper, staging an evening scrum to insist that national leadership doesn't allow for a do-over and thus rendered Mr. Dion unfit to lead, proves the Conservative leader was correct in predicting a nasty campaign and raised concerns of a mean heart beating inside his sweater vest.
And the fact the controversy raged over which leader has the better plan -- or any plan -- to protect the economy reflects the sad reality there's little a government can do to buffer Canada from a global financial crisis.
Monday ends a Conservative campaign that had two years to prepare backed by a government record that gave critics precious little ammunition to target them as ideology-driven.
If the polls accurately foreshadow Tuesday's results, Quebec is a write-off for new seats and that ends the dream of a majority, despite Mr. Harper having wagered enormous personal and political capital in wowing an ungrateful province. He faces little prospect of gains in Ontario, likely losses in Newfoundland and a lot of uncertainty in British Columbia.
People sitting down for their family dinners this holiday weekend have plenty more to chew on than potatoes and pumpkin pie.
They have to decide which of the two leaders will live to fight another election -- and which will be the turkey.
Copyright © 2007 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.

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