Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Campaign notes: Tuesday morning

Toronto Liberal supporters in St. Paul's and Parkdale-High Park are still being targeted:
There have been at least six more reports of vandalism – including the cutting of brake lines and graffiti defacing houses – in Toronto's St. Paul's and Parkdale-High Park ridings.
And in an odd twist late yesterday a constituent in St. Paul's riding was called and threatened that if she didn't take down her sign she would be next, said Liberal incumbent Carolyn Bennett.
More on the phone calls here. Letters to the editor here.

Margaret Atwood follows up her previous essay, "To be creative is, in fact, Canadian" with another piece today to explain her "ironic" support for Gilles Duceppe: "Anything but a Harper majority." She cites a number of policy reasons for her opposition but I think her most effective critique is levelled directly at Mr. Harper's supposed vaunted leadership skills:
Mr. Harper got elected by promising to consult, to be transparent, to be accountable, but he's delivered the extreme opposite. He doesn't consult with anybody but himself in the mirror; he has the most secretive government Canada has ever known; and his accountability consists of "If I make a mistake, you're fired." Real leaders know that the buck stops with them, but Mr. Harper is an amazing buck-passer. He won't own up to his own stuff — such as his heartfelt support for the Iraq invasion — unless shoved up against the wall, and even then he mumbles.

People sometimes ask me about my eerie ability to predict the future. Nobody can really predict the future — there are too many curve balls — but we can make informed guesses. Today's informed guess is this. Dear fellow Canadians: If you give the Harper neo-cons a majority government, you'll lose much that you cherish, you'll gain nothing worth having, and you'll never, never forgive yourselves.
In even a 36 day campaign, as short as possible by law, Mr. Harper's still succeeded in showing the nation who he is. Ms. Atwood does a good job of setting it out in that first paragraph above.

He's stubborn, sticking to his campaign plan, likely one that's been mapped out for about two years now. How he would adapt that plan to an historic challenge has been shown. His instincts have failed him. His instincts said stay the course. His whole campaign's been built on leadership and he's been exposed by his failure to react to this unprecedented financial crisis.

Consider Brian Laghi's piece in the Globe today as well that uses a moment in the English debate as a metaphor for one of the central problems Mr. Harper has in cementing the deal with Canadians:

During the debates – particularly the English one – Mr. Harper failed to find words to calm Canadians who have trouble understanding the issue or are fearful that the financial crisis spawned in the United States will depress their net worth, cost them their jobs or lead to higher mortgage payments.

During the English debate, Mr. Harper said Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion was panicking when he outlined a five-point plan to deal with the crisis and its effects on Canada. Mr. Harper said Canadians weren't particularly worried about their jobs or their homes; they were more concerned about the stock market.

The reaction was a far cry from the newly empathetic figure Mr. Harper's handlers have been working hard to portray.

“In the context, in that moment, his positioning didn't look like the kind of reassurance people were looking for, either from the standpoint of a bedside manner for those who are feeling anxious, or for those who are in preretirement or in retirement mode and worried about the performance of their financial investment,” said Bruce Anderson, president of the Harris/Decima polling firm. (emphasis added)

Right, not sympathetic, but in addition, it displayed his personal obsession with partisan politics once again. The discussion on the economy was just another opportunity to attack Mr. Dion, never mind that Canadians are concerned about the economy. The craven political calculation of that moment is symptomatic of his larger problem. His record in governing, the campaign he's run, it's all divide and conquer, stitching up of constituencies, a bit here, a bit there. It's calculated to the hilt. And it's just not visionary or resonating. It's too much about Steve, the one-man show, and not about us.

So now he's scrambling, releasing a platform today, laughably, one week before the election. Come on. Dion had a good line on this yesterday:
At an evening rally in Victoria, Dion prompted laughter and applause by mocking Harper on the eve of the Conservative platform announcement.

"Maybe if Stephen Harper spent less time distorting me and my plan he would have been able to release a platform by now."
Whatever Harper says today has to be viewed pretty cynically. People have voted already. And he's losing support. Conservative support has virtually collapsed in Quebec and it's sliding in Ontario and Quebec. It's too late for a platform.

Note John Ivison in the Post today on Dion:

"The traditional strength of a Liberal government is that we understand the role of government and we understand the market economy. We will bridge the two," he said, with a coherence that is hardly his trademark.

Mr. Dion is back in the game, in defiance of many, even on his own side, who had decided that if he wasn't dead yet, he soon would be. This stubborn man, who has been written off so many times, appears to be defying his critics again.
And on that note, one last item which may also suggest why he's back into this:

Dion went "mainstreeting" with Liberal supporters assembled along a waterside boardwalk in Sidney, a town on the outskirts of Victoria, in the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands.

"Remain the gentleman that you are," one older woman told him, grasping his hand. "I cannot do otherwise," Dion, 53, replied. "My father would not accept it."