Harper-bot Attends Debate

Posted: April 13, 2011 in Election

The final directions given to Harper by his PR team must have sounded something like this:

– Don’t forget to look directly into the camera.
– Never raise your voice.
– Calmly ignore any controversial questions.
– Just keep repeating these same three points over and over again.

Stephen Harper is trying really hard to play the “paternal, elder statesman” card.  He, or his team, know that conservatives are impressed with paternalism.  He looked like a parent trying to deal with three rebellious teenagers.  His tone of voice was calmly admonishing, steeped with a fake patience with just a twist of annoyance.

His strategy was to trivialize the allegations thrown at him by the opposition leaders, calling their complaints about integrity in government affairs “quibbling”.  At one point, Ignatieff finally stated that Harper’s use of the word “quibbling” was inappropriate when talking about the democratic process.  The best line for me was Ignatieff’s comment that Harper obviously thought that the democratic process was an inconvenience that just gets in the way of him ruling the country. True.

The second best moment was when Duceppe and Layton ganged up on Harper, claiming that they were with him when he had his own coalition ambitions during minority of the Martin Liberals.  In spite of the fact that they have a letter to the contrary and were first hand witnesses to the whole deal, Harper just refused to admit that it ever happened (because the wording of the letter was sufficiently ambiguous, even if the intentions were clear).

While it was a valiant effort in some spots, and soft Conservative voters should be asking themselves some important questions this morning, the opposition leaders never managed to penetrate the shell that Harper had carefully put around himself.  It was like trying to debate a robot.

The issues were successfully presented and important questions were asked.  If the Canadian voters choose to ignore the issues when they vote, then I fear we are heading for the kind of knee-jerk, polarized partisanship that we’re currently seeing in the U.S.  The aftermath will not be pretty, -both because a Conservative majority will finally be free to institute deep right wing changes into Canadian society that will take decades to reverse afterward, and because a kind of left vs. right desperation in politics will dominate Parliament.  How long before liberal ideas are stereotyped as Socialist?  (Harper is already on record as having said that in a speech.)  How long before the Bible becomes the standard for drafting laws (as was proposed by Harper’s Deputy Chief of Staff)?  How long before corporate lobbying dominates Canadian politics even more than it does now (as it will if the Conservatives are true to their promise to eliminate the government subsidies to political parties, -the only thing that helps to level the playing field when it comes to money)?  And all of this would be happening in a country and a society where the majority of the population is definitely left of centre!!

As was asked several times by opposition leaders last night, -How long until we look like a shadow of the United States?

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