Don't count Stephen Harper out -

Don’t count Stephen Harper out

Come-from-behind conservative wins in the U.K. and Israel suggest it would be unwise to count Harper out

(Leon Neal, Pool, AP Photo)

David Cameron (right) looked poised for defeat in his last election; instead, he won a majority. (Leon Neal, Pool, AP Photo)

Is Stephen Harper taking notes from conservative politicians in other counties who have pulled off improbable victories when defeat seemed certain?

Harper seems to be running a multi-leveled campaign. Still present is the calm, rational and reassuring persona the Prime Minister has perfected over his time in office. You get the feeling he wouldn’t lose his temper if someone spit water in his face.
But he’s also running on fear—fear of what a victory by one of his opponents might mean, and the fears of some Canadians about the supposed encroachment of radical Islam.

Harper says his opponents are the ones who have made an issue of his government’s belief that during citizenship ceremonies a woman should not be permitted to wear a niqab—a face veil worn by a tiny minority of Muslim women in Canada. But the Conservatives have run at least one attack ad pillorying Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s stance opposing that. Harper has also publicly mused about forbidding public servants from wearing the niqab. (If there’s a single civil servant who wears one now, journalists have been unable to find her.) And the Conservatives have pledged to establish a “barbaric cultural practices” tip line, which would admittedly be a handy initiative for those who find 9-1-1 too hard to remember.

As for a Liberal victory, according to recent Conservative ads in Punjabi and Chinese, Liberals want to open brothels “in your neighbourhoods.” The ads also say the Liberals want to legalize marijuana, which the ads claim would allow children easier access to the drug.

The Liberals do want to legalize marijuana for people over the age of 18 and regulate it, which they say would restrict access for children. The Tories’ claim that Liberals want to open neighbourhood brothels is tenuously based on Liberal leader Justin Trudeau voting against anti-prostitution bill C-36.

The Conservative strategy is divisive and populist. But comparable ones elsewhere have had some success.

British Prime Minister David Cameron looked headed for defeat in a general election this spring. Like Harper, Cameron preached economic stability. The country’s financial recovery is fragile, he said, and only by staying the course could Britons ensure it continues. But Cameron also stoked fears among voters, warning of an outcome in which the Labour party formed a minority government with support from the separatist Scottish Nationalist Party. A referendum on Scottish independence had been defeated the previous year.

The SNP did indeed all but sweep Scotland and would have been a powerful voice in a Parliament led by a minority Labour government. But it didn’t matter—Cameron shocked pollsters and analysts by winning his first majority.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took things much, much further during his campaign for re-election earlier this year. He labeled his main opposition, a joint list of candidates from the Labour and Hatunah parties that called itself the Zionist Camp, the “anti-Zionist camp.”

Zionism, broadly speaking, refers to the belief that Jews should have a national homeland in Israel. Netanyahu was coming close to accusing his centre-left opponents of treason.

Then, on election day, Netanyahu warned that “Arab voters are going to the polls in droves,” as if Israeli Arab citizens exercising their democratic rights was a calamitous event to be feared and confronted. Israel’s right rallied to Netanyahu, and he, too, won an election many predicted he would lose.

Will Harper’s wedge-driving politics allow him to reverse a slide in the polls and hold on to power? Counterintuitively, perhaps, Liberal polling gains may not be all bad news for the Tories. Faced with a similar situation only days before the Israeli election, top Netanyahu strategist Aron Shaviv decided to capitalize on Netanyahu’s precarious position, according to reporting by the Wall Street Journal. Instead of projecting public confidence, Netanyahu’s camp emphasized how vulnerable his right-wing Likud party was. The tactic became known as the oy gevalt gambit, referring to the Yiddish expression for “woe is me.”

The idea was to clarify in the minds of voters the very real dangers of a Likud defeat. For Israel, according to the spin, this would mean a leftist takeover.

For Canada, the risks are niqabs, stoned children and prostitutes everywhere. Or maybe stoned prostitutes wearing niqabs. In your neighbourhoods. Woe is us.

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Don’t count Stephen Harper out

  1. Mr Cameron is a poor comparison Harper is devastatingly delusional Mr Cameron simply underestimated himself.

    • True….I’d vote for Cameron. I’d never vote for Harper.

  2. The shredder trucks are at the PMO. What does that tell you?

  3. Logically, we should expect a Conservative minority government, again. It worked well the last time, and it is good for Canada. In the last few weeks, on various comment boards, there have been posts and comments by Liberal Party supporters. Most are disgusting, nasty, and often just foolish. Generally insulting to anyone who does not support their point of view. Perhaps it’s only a few people, but the level of comments is such that I have started to worry about this country.
    Even when they pretend to support another party, or claim to be independent, a quick review of the poster’s comments exposes them. This, indeed is a shocking trend. What could we expect with a Liberal Trudeau majority ? And why is it so similar to Premier Wynne’s campaign of nastiness __?

    • LOL Liberals have been in charge for most of Canada’s history……and we are one of the leading nations in the world. There is nothing to worry about.

      • The conservative parties have narrowed that gap significantly in recent years.

        The Liberals have won exactly one election against a united conservative party in 31 years.

        I trust in Justin and Butts’ ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

        • PCs used to win when they were conservative…..they have since turned into the Tea Party….and Canadians don’t want that.

    • …………….Harper has exceeded any campaign of nastiness that I have ever seen in this country…….no words can adequately describe how repugnant he is in every possible way!!!!!!!

      • Then you clearly haven’t been paying attention to other campaigns.

    • That’s a laugh.

      Your party is claiming that Trudeau wants to open brothels and give marijuana to kids, you don’t think that’s disgusting?

      Or better yet, visit the National Post comment boards if you want to see a gathering of racists and hatemongers and they’re all Harper supporters.

      • “Or better yet, visit the National Post comment boards if you want to see a gathering of racists and hatemongers and they’re all Harper supporters.”
        -Nonsense. I frequent that board. And most of the messages are from Harper haters who demonize him.

    • Perhaps you should drop by a Maclean’s board after BillyBob posts. And have you ever heard of the word “libtard?”

      Maybe you should be worried about this country, but not in the way you think. Or shocked (gasp – my smelling salts). Or maybe we’re just using different internets.

  4. The progressives are the ones who are being divisive and running the Netanyahu campaign, basically accusing anyone who supports Harper and the Conservatives as unCanadian.

    Harper’s position on niqab’s is identical to Jack Layton’s and MIchael Ignatieff’s, and his position on “reasonable” accomodation is far more accomodating the the legislation in Quebec passed by the Liberal Party.

    The new prostitution law, based on the Nordic model, targets pimps and johns, and the Nordic model has proven to radically reduce human trafficking in countries that adopt it, whereas human trafficking becomes endemic where “legalization” has been pursued.

    • It never ceases to amaze me that the ones that are being divisive accuse others of being divisive.

      And Harper is un-Canadian, he hates everything about Canada. He put the country down in front of a bunch of Americans and said that America was the country he admired.

      Harper is the worst American President that Canada has ever had.

  5. I can’t help but feel that Macleans really wants Harper to win, although they’re not willing to admit it. How about a headline that emphasizes how desperate his tactics have been, instead of portraying him as a scrappy underdog?

    • How about a headline that emphasizes how desperate his tactics have been, instead of portraying him as a scrappy underdog?”
      –If that’s the kind of coverage you want, then go to the Toronto Star or Globe & Mail and CBC websites. You can find plenty of stuff to feed your need to see Harper as a cartoon villain. Stephen Harper is a scrappy under dog. He has been from the start the kind of politician who no one expects to vote for. He isn’t slick, charming or charismatic who needs everyone to adore him and ignore the difficulties of life. He’s a driver and the type of leader who gets things done and realizes that to govern a country you need to get things done.

  6. My my it’s funny how the Gaurdian is shilling this same line how the UK and Israel pulled out majorities in the middle of the nite and Harper could too.Do they know something we don’t ? Canada is lost if that happens.

  7. I don’t think comparing Harper to Cameron is reasonable. Cameron is clearly better than Harper. Furthermore, Cameron’s conservatives won because Britons feared a Liberal coalition with the Scottish Independance Party, just like how Harper pushed the fears of a Bloc coalition in 2011. That won’t happen again because the Bloc Quebecois is only marginally more relevant than the Conservatives in Quebec. I bet those Conservatives could fill more rallies.

    Secondly, it’s unfair to compare Canada to Israel, Canada is far more secular than Israel. Despite what Harper believes, most of us don’t fear God, nor the boogeymen he comes up with.