Pressed repeatedly on whether the negative Conservative Party ads slamming Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff for his time out of the country represent his own view, Harper dodged a direct answer four times during a Halifax television interview.There's the big headline point here, that he's visibly uncomfortable in defending the thrust of the ads, that Ignatieff is disqualified from running due to his years of international employment. If you watched it, it clearly wasn't a question he wanted to engage. Who can defend such cartoonish silliness anyway? He can't and he conceded the point.
Harper defended the campaign's claim that Ignatieff is "Just Visiting," saying the source for the ad material is "strictly Mr. Ignatieff's own words and own record so he's the one who has to answer questions on that."
CTV host Steve Murphy asked Harper a fifth time about his personal view. "Do you think that he is in any sense disqualified from aspiring to be prime minister because he's been out of the country?"
Harper stammered, and reluctantly disavowed the main thrust behind his party's ad campaign, which just concluded a broadcast run across the country.
"Every, every, every, obviously every Canadian citizen's eligible to run for office," Harper said. "But obviously our records, motives, statements, all these things will be under scrutiny, they always are, of all party leaders in an election campaign."
Asked if he thought the ads "were working," the Conservative leader said, "that's really for party officials who worry about that," but suggested the ads had had at least one desired effect.
"To the extent that I think the ads have made the Liberal party think twice about having an election, I think that's been a good result. Because I don't think Canadians want an election. I think it would be another round of political instability. And so to the extent that it's put that party a little bit back on its heels and maybe thinking a little bit more about how to cooperate and actually dealing with the economy, I actually think it's been helpful."
But that last paragraph of Harperian babble is, as always, incredible to hear coming from him. The Liberal party needing to think about how to cooperate more? From this wielder of confidence votes ad nauseam? Please. From the PM who tried to decapitate his political opposition by cutting off public funding immediately after an election where it never appeared on the agenda? Please. A plea to cooperate more on the economy from the PM who denied any problems were coming? It's almost embarrassing to hear. What's so cynical is that he knows most Canadians don't pay that much attention to such details and he still makes such statements, exploiting it to his advantage. The last part of the "Sham-ocracy" series today deals with his disingenuous practices. As does Jim Travers.
Also remarkable, Harper's taking to equating an election with political instability. And his constant repetition that "Canadians don't want an election." It's all nonsense and should be countered at every turn. Back at the height of the coalition drama, he seemed to be in love with the notion of constant elections. We needed them whenever a confidence vote was lost, we were told by the PM and his p.r. machine, contrary to our constitutional traditions that would have permitted the opposition to take government without an election (because we had just had an election). Now, however, when we've moved well beyond the post-October '08 election period where an election would actually have to be held following defeat on a confidence vote, he's suddenly developed an aversion to elections. Too unstable, is the line.
And that's the challenge posed by Mr. Harper's tenure. It's irresponsible for the PM to be playing such games and dabbling in such p.r. campaigns. He's manipulating the rules of our constitutional traditions as he goes.