Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gaming the Games

L. Ian MacDonald's latest election analysis column today, "Harper has good reasons not to want an election this fall," included reasons why Harper should do everything to put the election off until 2010. Among them, this harbinger of things to come:
"The Vancouver Games loom as a feel-good moment for the country, with an impressive harvest of medals in the offing. Harper and his ministers should spend a good part of those 17 days in Vancouver and Whistler, basking in the reflected glow of that good feeling. Harper could even do some on-site research for his forthcoming book on hockey, a work in progress that has been delayed by his current job."
Set aside the commentary that could very well be made about the hockey book that's much talked about yet never gets written for the moment...

This is a germinating piece of conventional wisdom, that the Games can be used by the Harper government for political advantage. But they have to be very careful with that. It's not clear at all that such "reflected glow" will accrue to the Conservatives. Mr. Harper's negatives are pretty entrenched at this point. After a fall parliamentary session, if they survive, who knows how much further that impression will have fallen. Will they be running more negative ads through the fall? Will there be more Nixonian remarks in the Commons? They've already floated their "wedge issue" strategy for the fall. The "in-and-out" hearings are scheduled for November. Turning on a dime from a fall session that is likely to be much the same as they all go for the Conservatives, i.e., partisan slug fests, toward a halcyon Games-Harper seems a bit of a stretch. Canadians fell for Sweater Vest I. Fool me twice...well, you know the rest.

If the games are overtly politicized by Harper and his crew, it will be noticed. They should be very careful in not making that event about them.