Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Conservative Crest

While I’m loath to admit it, even in the face of adroit hustings maneuvering, the Conservative party is running a near flawless campaign. And yet, I must vouch my Liberal allegiances before they are metaphysically revoked. So here goes. Stephen Harper will never earn my trust (his eyes, particularly in those egregious excuses for political ads the Conservatives are running, betray an evil of the worst kind; or there’re just tragically misshapen – ed.) however, the Conservatives have been nothing less than spectacular. OK, I’m being a tad facetious. But altogether, they have been ably up to the task of deliver the goods day in and day out, offering fresh idea after fresh idea.

Apropos, yesterday’s announcement of a $500 tax-credit for families with children under 16 involved in sport and physical activity was just another example of their growing appeal. And to name it a Sports credit? Pure genius! Along with the proposed GST percentage point cut and the income tax shelter for seniors, among others, the Conservatives have not only charmed the message much like a snake charmer but have also managed to stroke some psychological sweetspots that can’t but arouse interest among even the most liberal.

There have, no doubt, been a few hiccups, like Brian Pallister infelicitous gaffe regarding women and their inability to firmly answer questions. When asked to clarify his comments, which weren’t taken out of context primarily because they were delivered in front of a camera to an interviewer, he gave the predictably pat and therefore predictably flimsy response that is characteristically know as a mea culpa – he said he was taken out of context. But the story, your run-of-the-mill ‘Conservatives are out of touch with the mainstream of Canadian social values’, a story so quickly amplified by our ‘Liberal media’s’ journalistic aplomb, had no legs.

The Conservatives, it would appear, are getting a fairer shake this time around, if only because the country is in the throes of an insurgency of lethargy. People are simply tired of hearing anything the Liberals have to say. Anything! It’s the curse of being electorally successful for too long, the point at which returns begin to diminish. Aside from Paul Martin’s intention to ban handguns, which would be momentous if it weren’t so after-the-fact, the Liberal campaign has been a woefully tedious mess.

Communications Director Scott Reid’s fine contempt toward what families would spend their childcare dollars on under a Conservative plan -- beer and popcorn, as he sees it -- was met with the necessary opprobrium from all sides. And for all their public relations acumen, to counter Mr. Reid wry remarks the Liberal's took a descent into gay marriage demagoguery; a tired and unqualifiedly uninspired tactic. It was so incongruous to hear Mr. Martin fulminate about the threat the Conservatives posed to gay marriage. It was so 2000! Isn’t same-sex marriage already the law of the land?

Recent polls have been fairly static, The Liberals still manage to hold a seven to eight point lead over the Conservatives nationally, and in Ontario the Liberals are polling relatively well. But the trends seem to show a gradual warming towards the Conservative message in general, which has meant a virtual bottoming out of NDP support in Ontario. NDP support usually shifts to the Liberals strategically in an attempt to hedge Conservative gains. So now the question can’t help but reveal itself: Wither the Liberals?

* * *

A banishment to the political wilderness may be exactly what liberalism in Canada needs, in my opinion. I’m all for some type of political time-out to allow the Liberals to get their shit together. Or just get a breather at least. As a result of the dearth of ideas, an utter lack of principle, of direction, and, more prominently, of leadership, a programmatic and intellectual refashioning of liberal ideas is badly needed. And though I may be contradicting what I wrote in my last post, which was intended as pure political strategy, Stephen Harper is no more a leader than Paul Martin is. Paul Martin is a leader only because of his experience -- and by default.

A Conservative minority government wouldn’t necessarily be a horrible thing. The de facto Prime Minister Harper would be de jure powerless. In this scenario, the balance of seats in the house would be held by a generally centrist and social democratic rabble of MP’s. The Liberals will have an opportunity to go sit in the corner and think about of what they’ve done to the county.

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