Tuesday, August 04, 2009


As we watch the thuggish behaviour in the U.S. of paid organizers and mobs hired by the health care lobby to disrupt town hall discussions of health care reform, let's recall that we had our own brush with similar tactics back in December. Recall the massive public relations exercise launched by the Conservatives to delegitimize the perfectly legal parliamentary course of action that was put in motion as a result of the Conservative government's own short-sightedness, i.e., the defeat of the government on a non-confidence motion and their replacement by the opposition without an election. Minister John Baird famously laid out to Don Newman the Conservative government's intent on going over the heads of parliamentarians, the Governor General, to whip up public sentiment:

Constitutional expert Ned Franks summed up quite effectively what occurred in Canada:
The Conservatives were governing with the support of less than 40 per cent of the electorate. Nevertheless, they mounted an astonishingly speedy and successful anti-coalition public-relations campaign.

They had only seven days to do this, between the government's disastrous fiscal update of Nov. 27 and Mr. Harper's meeting with the Governor-General. While the anti-coalition campaign was filled with misrepresentations and half-truths, it worked brilliantly. Public opinion turned formidably.

Among the half-truths and outright misrepresentations was the claim that the coalition would be an "illegitimate" government while Mr. Harper's government was "legitimate." Neither he nor his party mentioned that more than 60 per cent of Canadians had voted against them.
Normally Canadian prime ministers work toward encouraging national unity and a common sense of purpose among Canada's French and English populations. Not so Mr. Harper in this political dogfight. His rhetoric was the most anti-Quebec, and by inference anti-French, of any major party, let alone a government, of at least the post—Second World War period. Perhaps, having failed to increase his support there in the election, he felt it expedient to abandon Quebec and appeal to the latent hostility toward bilingualism and Quebec in his political heartland of the west. Perhaps his party's polling had indicated that this line of attack was a winner outside Quebec.

Regardless, there was no doubt that Mr. Harper's inflammatory and tendentious rhetoric was stunningly effective in mobilizing public opinion against the proposed coalition. The opposition parties and their leaders seemed unable to counteract it.
Just a reminder.

(h/t Canadian Cynic)