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EdiToryal roundup, 26 september September 26, 2008

Posted by tomflesher in Canada.
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This week, despite all of noted Green Party activist Stephane Dion’s attempts to kill the Liberal brand, Stephen Harper managed to show up and exist. After the jump, I’ll take a look at the methods he used to do so.

Harper’s first tactic: fail to discuss the details of his own green plan, but devote his time to criticizing the Grits’ Green Shift, as Jeffrey Simpson details. The carbon tax, Harper says, would not only be fiscally unsound but would harm the Canadian citizens. Thus far, according to Simpson, he has not discussed his own plan to reduce emissions.

Tactic two: if you say it enough, Quebec will believe you. Harper appears to be counting on Quebec for support, especially considering the Liberals’ recent failures there. His hat hangs on the idea that he has restored fiscal balance in the federal government’s interactions with Quebec, and that he supports Quebec autonomy. The Quebec Minister of Finance publicly disagrees with him on the first point; on the second, he appears to be committing a fallacy of equivocation. Harper’s idea of Quebec autonomy is likely very different from what Quebecois mean when they use the word.

Tactic three: it’s those Ivory Tower Liberals! Harper is doing his part to appeal to any anti-intellectual sentiment he can find in Canada. The juxtaposition is valid, of course – Harper’s opponent, Dion, is a Ph.D. who left the Academy to enter politics. Harper’s cuts to arts programs also make sense from a purely fiscal standpoint, since his policy appears to be to cut whatever federal programs he can manage to. Harper’s attempt to shift his image appears dishonest to some, including the author of the linked editorial. The problem, of course, is that he can carry off wearing a cardigan marginally better than Stephane Dion can. Obligatory discussion of arts as non-elite.

Finally, tactic four: govern with a baseball bat. Harper’s style of minority government may well shift if he gets another minority, despite the Bloc’s fears that he’ll get a majority. What Harper is doing here, though, is not developing a “Conservative dynasty,” as Lysiane Gagnon argues in the second linked editorial. Gagnon’s choice of phrasing is important:

Mr. Harper wants to establish a Conservative “dynasty.” He wants to transform the Conservatives into Canada’s “natural governing party,” a status once held by the Liberals. This is another reason why Mr. Harper would have no choice but to stick close to the centre of the ideological spectrum.

She suggests that Harper wants to transform the party. I think that phrasing is incorrect – Harper’s take-it-or-leave-it governance belies a desire to transform the government.

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