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LOEWEN: The pratfalls of lengthy election campaigns

Image Credit: Compilation/Jennifer Stahn
September 09, 2015 - 8:00 AM

On August 2nd, when PM Stephen Harper initiated the start of the Canadian federal election campaign, many of us looking at the eleven weeks looming ahead figured the guy was nuts.

Eleven weeks?

How could a disengaged electorate, stymied by the government’s intransigence in engaging Canadians with accountability and transparency, be expected to get engaged in a lengthy campaign -- especially one starting at the end of a long hot summer?

Pundits scratched their heads.

Some brighter lights suggested that, with the Conservative Party of Canada’s war chest bursting at the seams as a result of Mr. Harper’s Senate shills shoveling shekels into the Rainy Day Fund, the odds were favouring the party with the most Geld.

After all, Mammon is almost always the Kingmaker in these contests. And there is no doubting the riches accrued by the CPC -- their resources make beggars of the rest. They have so much money at their fingertips that they have created a “news channel” to showcase Mr. Harper, and a fancy plane carrying the PM and his handlers all over the country for the last several weeks now.

With all that money, reminding us (through incessant TV adverts and the eye-candy littering the shoulders of our highways and byways) of the government hard at work on our behalf, you’d think the election would be pretty much “good to go” in the Conservatives’ favour.

No doubt PM Harper figured that with an unprecedentedly lengthy campaign, his team would be able to frame the issues the best, and get ahead of the competition.

You know the drill: Downplay the scandals emanating from the court overseeing the Duffy-Wright Affair; amplify the noise surrounding the projection of the CPC as the only responsible money managers available to Canadians, etc.

No doubt PM Harper and his advisers also calculated that they would be able to control the campaign narrative with slick ads aimed squarely at the perceived deficiencies of the other contenders.

Pesky questions from reporters could also be handled by draconian vetting procedures and a severe restricting of questions asked of the PM at these events. Hell, even engaged Canadians desirous of attending these campaign stops would be vetted as well, so as to ensure that few unanticipated nettlesome nellies could be present to nag the helmet-headed Incumbent for actual answers to questions that journalists have been unable to have government account for.

All in all, an Ali-like bit of strategizing: The rope-a-dope. Allow your (much poorer) opponents to wear themselves out while you huddle up against the ropes of the ring until they’re entirely spent and ineffectual.

The CPC strategy, coupled with opponents crippled with either a lack-of-experience or an economic platform counter-intuitive to the status quo, seemed to assure the PM and his minions a likely success. Especially when one takes into account the 30 new seats created in 2012, and a “Fair Elections Act”  (sic) that will likely disenfranchise many voters who would ordinarily vote for virtually any party but the helmet-headed Incumbent’s.

But lengthy election campaigns can have their downside, it would appear.

Cynical calculations by war room strategists don’t typically come with a clairvoyant’s sagacity; and this Fall’s coming election has everyone on their toes for fear of the proverbial landmines ticking away, ready to detonate and overturn party fortunes.

Most hapless of them all is, of course, the Conservative Party of Canada.

The Duffy-Wright Affair has had tongues wagging both inside as well as outside of the CPC fold. Long-time Conservatives of a “Progressive” bent are assuredly sickened at revelations coming out at the Duffy Trial. Even they cannot believe that the PM could have been as ignorant of internal machinations as he has claimed.

And no sooner does the trial break, but there are suggestions that disgraced erstwhile Sen. Pamela Wallin may be next to face an actual court room drama.

Another landmine was the gone-viral assault on journalists by Harper-supporter Earl Cowan. Even the circumspect vetting of campaign stop attendees couldn’t prevent a Reformatory caricature like Cowan from doing brand-damage as he emerged from an event in the Greater Toronto Area.

And then another couple of vettings-gone-virally-awry: The would-be Conservative Party MPs, both from GTA ridings, caught out in outrageous behaviour that even Rhinoceros Party candidates might look askance at.

One can forgive the PM for feeling embattled and beleaguered and even wincing as he did when asked at a recent event about the quality of some of his candidates. His assurance that the high standards set for his candidates were proven by their being jettisoned by Team Harper rang weak and hollow.

And then, and then... There’s the real world and how it can intervene in the best laid plans...

One could only look on in horror as Minister of Immigration Chris Alexander could attempt to ameliorate criticism of Canada’s anemic reaction to the years-long refugee crisis unfolding in Syria.

One might almost begin to feel some sympathy for PM Stephen Harper. It’s certainly a dubious distinction to be destined to become Canada’s most reviled Prime Minister.

But thoughts of sympathy evaporate, at least for this fair-minded monologist, when I realize that it could all have been so different. That the blame for Tory misfortunes truly rests at the leader's leaden feet.

By insisting on a style of governance that more accurately looks like “Father Knows Best” than anything more accommodating to Canadian interests and concerns, PM Harper has made his bed.

He might decide it’s time to throw out the rule book for this campaign and finally begin to engage honestly with Canadians and their many questions.

But this PM is no quitter. And he is evidently mad for power at any cost.

My hope is that a last-ditch effort to regain some support for his flagging prospects doesn’t emerge as a national crisis that, in retrospect, will be revealed to be fabricated. But anything is possible these days. Stay tuned. It’s gonna get interesting.

— Jeffrey Loewen is a Kelowna-based writer who plays music by day and politics by night

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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