Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Conservative priorities, front and center

My, a blitz! When was the last time we saw an issue light such a fire under this government? Hard to say, but this is telling stuff:
Their bid to kill the long-gun registry in peril, the Harper Conservatives are ramping up their campaign machine to blitz key ridings before a decisive Wednesday Commons vote on the matter – one that could reverberate into the next election.

The Conservatives are expanding the use of live callers and robo-dialers – automated calling systems – to contact voters across 20 federal ridings where they believe opposition MPs face the greatest pressure to help sink the registry. They’re also boosting Internet advertising on top of radio ads already running in these constituencies.
Live callers and robo-dialers! Wonder what the final accounting will be for the Hoeppner bill and her broad based campaign, complete with matching van. It's U.S. style riding by riding targeting of members, the exact dynamic a private member's bill plays to, where members theoretically have freedom to vote as they like and thus enable such targeting. Wouldn't be surprised in the least to see Conservatives line up private member bills on other hot button issues of a social conservative nature in the future. This one's been close, heck, why not? We may have been witnessing a dry run of a whole new era in Canadian politics. Who says the Conservatives are running on empty? They're innovating in their own interests quite handily. We're just looking at their accomplishments all wrong.

A few other points on this. The spin is really remarkable, irrespective of what happens, the Conservatives seem to win. If they lose the vote on Wednesday, they get to keep the issue alive as a fundraiser. Never mind that they'll have blown it big time after getting ever so close to dismantling the great bugaboo. There'll be no consequences from that? Why didn't Harper make it a government bill at any time during his minority mandates? No reckoning, not even in the slightest for this great missed opportunity?

Then there's the second "upside" of them losing. They get to use it as a wedge in those Liberal and NDP ridings, and, of course, it's worse for the Liberals. Hmmm. What about that poll on Saturday showing that actually, there's not as much of a rural/urban divide as the reporting would have us believe ("...the urban/rural chasm, according to a Harris/Decima research poll released on Sept. 8, has narrowed to a small crack")? Maybe the Canadian people aren't as facile as many would like them to be.

We've also seen populist lectures on campaigns, promises made and pious admonitions from Hoeppner, rookie parliamentarian, to the likes of Peter Stoffer about keeping to them. This is rich coming from Conservatives, they of the axing of political party subsidies (platform reference please) and the long-form census (platform reference please).

What must Canadians be thinking as they watched the news coverage focussing on a gun registry battle of all things. Out of touch? Are these people out to lunch? Probably. The Harper Conservatives may have thought this was a good one to push, to feed the base and all, yet it's taken on more life than they likely anticipated. Front and center as Parliament returns, this can't be the big kick off that any party governing at the moment would have wanted. Guns, guns and more guns.