The Beginning After The End


Here’s the top of our Inside Story, the epic history of the 2008 federal election. The rest — six “chapters,” plus an epilogue — is in the current issue of Maclean’s. There is much to confound and amaze in there, including surprise cameo appearances by Nicolas Sarkozy’s press secretary and — and — well, I can’t say, but you’ll be confounded and amazed.


The Beginning After The End

  1. A sad but true account. Stephen Harper has severely lowered the bar when it comes to civil discourse and respect.

    Politics is a blood sport, but the last two elections have seemed so malevolent. I think most Canadians do not want us to descend to the level of a certain democracy who’s political commercials always finish with “..and I approve of this message”.

    After watching Mr. Dion being pounded into the ground, who would really want to put themselves in his place? How do you beat a bully?

  2. Bedside reading… just about to pick it up.

    Wells — do you intend to use this as a base to give “Right Side Up” a sequel (i.e. Rocky II), or are you going to wait for the next election to pass?

  3. Meanwhile, Don Drummond at TD is forecasting deficits for the next four years, with two of them possibly being in the $10B range. A major recession looks increasingly likely, the Conference Board notwithstanding. So, even with the turmoil induced in the Liberal party, is this victory a poisoned chalice?

  4. Next book: Left Over? ;)

    I’ll pick up Macleans tomorrow.

  5. Brammer, do you say that with a straight face after the hatchet job the Liberals attempted on Harper the past two elections? Nothing Harper did to Dion even comes close to the outright lies and character assassinations attempted by the Liberals against Harper in 2004 and 2006. The Liberals are now reaping what they have sewn. And half-wits like yourselves are still shaking their heads over the unfairness of it all. Sometimes the mud flows one way. Sometimes it flows the other. This time it stuck to you. Better luck next time.

  6. I ain’t no Harperite but I agree with Rager. Liberals did the same to Harper. Get over it. Move on. And if got a grudge to settle, call Jane Taber.

  7. Am psyched to get my hands on this tomorrow. I even have the café all picked out.

  8. Brammer,

    Perhaps you hope all politicians should follow the example of Stephane Dion?

    I mean, what could be better than faking a hearing problem to explain an embarrassing interview, then claiming that critics of your performance are attacking disabled people?

  9. Dion wraps up his campaign, calling Harper, a sitting PM, family man, dedicated civil servant,

    a “liar”.


    Meanwhile Harper capped off the weekend with a Thanksgiving ad asking folks to give of themselves such as serving at a soup kitchen, he reminds us to appreciate our troops, and to wish us Gods blessings.

    The real rage from the left, lay not with how Harper says things or real forms of impropriety, but, as with conservative commenters on this blog,

    he is hated for daring to hold a non-progressive worldview,

    and most hate inspiring,

    doing it well.

  10. Not to mention the character assassination of Stockwell Day and his religion beliefs. It does appear that all elections will henceforth be kinsellafied. It is truly unfortunate and it does turn the average voter off. It has to be one of the reasons the popular vote was down.

  11. Kopy,

    Give it up. Harper and Co. are lowdown… but so are the Dion and his Liberals. Harper won this time, that is the only difference.

  12. “Better luck next time.”

    I’m guessing you don’t actually mean that, do you?

  13. Kody, the indignation over calling Harper a liar is amusing. Harper lied at several points over the election campaign.

    He told Mansbridge that he never described Parliament as dysfunctional, something he had said numerous times only a month prior.

  14. The LPC and the media campaigned hard against a Harper majority, and I think that is exactly what Mr. Harper wanted and was counting on.

    With a majority Mr. Harper could have passed whatever legislation he wanted, and the Libs could have stridently objected to all of it while backing up their objections with votes in the HOC, thereby regaining some credibility while they rebuilt and restocked thier empty coffers.

    However with a Harper minority, the Libs must now continue their Parliamentary dissappearing act for fear of triggering another election which they have no money or leadership to fight.

    As such Harper will have as free a hand to pass whatever legislation he sees fit and the Libs cannot vote against it.

    Great part is that it was the Liberals and the Lib freindly media that were actually agressively pursuing this outcome!

    My bet is the Libs and NDP spent the max trying to effect this outcome, while we just might see the Tories only spent enough to ensure they did not win the majority the media predicted they wanted.

    LPC is over as we know it as a result

  15. I could give you a laundry list of distortions, spin and outright untruths by Dion (indeed the very act of calling Harper a “liar” for Harper claiming his plan was not tax neutral in an of itself was not true, because it isn’t and even Dion’s own policy advisors admitted the carbon tax was needed to fund the other aspects of his platform),

    but the difference is Harper is far too classy, statesmanlike and tempered,

    to be frothing in public calling his principal opponent a “Liar!”

  16. I’ll say this, kody, you’re much more gracious in victory than I expected.

  17. So I looked in a number of stores today for the new Maclean’s, in Edmonton, because I felt like going for a drive… of course, no new issue, anywhere. Hopefully it shows up somewhere tomorrow — or maybe it’s at that one magazine shop downtown.

    I liked the few bits you dropped during your appearance on The Agenda, which I just watched – apparently your first name is now Inkless. It also reminded me why I like Gerard Kennedy. (And Tony Clement seems like a decent guy, even if there was that whole Insite kerfuffle.)

  18. “Harper won this time, that is the only difference.”

    It must irk even Harper a little that he won by DEFAULT.

  19. If I’m not mistaken, the Liberals starting the negative ads first this election and ran more negative ads than the Conservatives did.

    But all of the parties were negative.

    Duceppe’s Bloc were outrageously demagogic and relentlessly negative. With the Bloc, it’s actually in their constative documents to be negative – Canada’s bad news and the federation sucks says their party constitution, so there is method to their negativity.

    Elizabeth May was negative with a typical left-wing hatred for the Conservatives. She jettisoned her chance at a seat in Parliament to get back at Peter MacKay and the Conservatives. She could have been elected in Vancouver for example. She jettisoned her chance at explaining the Green Party platform the night of the debates and instead spent her entire time attacking those bad Conservatives. For her the negativity was personal. She reminded me of a mean-spirited version of Sharon Carstairs, the fanatical anti-Meech Lake crusader.

    Layton wasn’t too bad but his Party’s ads had the classic leftist class hatred meme.

    The Liberals went negative and continued with their old, now slightly shop-worn tactic of scaring seniors that their benefits will be slashed. It is base and utterly shameless. Also as Kody said, Dion’s “Harper’s a liar” leifmotif on the last day of the campaign was a negative and whiny way to go down to defeat. To me that solidified my view of him as a left-wing kook.

    I know his conduct the last day of the campaign is how I will remember the man.

    Anyway, here’s hoping that next time we can at last have a spirited debate about policy and issues instead of attacks based on people for the views they hold. Maybe there can be a truce and a return to civility.

  20. Excuse me, I’m a relatively new observer, but its obvious that Harper lies. He does it easily and often, no problem. He told reporters following his campaign, in one of the scrums he deigned to give, that he doesn’t read them. He follows US media instead, where he “learns” things. Like sociopathic Rovian strategies for lying and then denying the lies, to get into the heads of ethically healthy people, who can be made to doubt themselves. I’m also a new contributor here, but it seems obvious to me that Kody (with any respect still due) is a plant and a troll, and I don’t understand why said troll is fed instead of ignored. Is that un-nice?

  21. “Maybe there can be a truce and a return to civility.”

    We’ll see about that, given the loaded guns the CPC will have set to fire a few days after the next Liberal leader is selected. Since the Tories have more than enough to spend the limit during campaigns, what else should they spend their donors’ money on than several months of smearing a new federal leader.

  22. One of the parties held onto power, gained a significant number of seats, and additionally made gains in strongholds of opponents,

    and is still in an envious financial situation, ready to fight another election as one of the best funded, organized and motivated in recent history.

    One of the parties showed the lowest voter turnout in over a century, losing some of its last bastions of strength while left holding only a handful of pockets in this great land and ending up in financial and organizational ruins.

    If being the former is “irk[some]” I wonder how one would describe the latter.

  23. Smearing a new federal leader: That’s what they did the last time. They started the negative “not a leader” ads immediately after the last Liberal leadership convention, long before any writ was dropped (making full use of their cynical “fixed election date” ploy), and long before any campaign started. That way the ads also weren’t part of campaign expenses. And if the opposition doesn’t attack back, they’re wimps. Dishonourable and destructive. But they don’t care. As long as they win. And then the false equivalence about “both sides” being responsible. Let’s just forget it all now, until we do it to you again.

  24. And neither, if things continue like this in Quebec, can ever hope to win a majority. Lots of irk to go ’round on that score.

  25. I mentioned that maybe there can be a truce and a return to civility next go round. I think that will in large measure depend on who the new leader of the Liberal party will be.

    Say they choose someone like John Manley, I will bet dollars to donuts that the next election campaign will be more civil. Manley is a classic centrist who doesn’t think that someone who harbours conservative beliefs is a bad and evil person. He realizes that people who hold such views work from a different set of starting assumptions in determining how to arrive at political solutions to our society’s challenges. Civility will return, in other words, when the Liberals purge themselves of their leftist orientation which is corroding the openess and generosity of spirit and the Liberal Party once stood for.

    So my helpful advice is: move the party back to the centre and relegate the leftist elements to the fringe. So that means avoid picking leaders with Ph. D’s in sociology which is a marxist-tainted discipline. Or former NDP castaways. Picking a small-town lawyer with people sense like Jean Chretien would be a step in the right direction.

  26. I suspect they’ll stay pretty far left,

    under the belief that they can pilfer from the other three left leaning parties.

  27. But Harper isn’t a conservative. He’s fringe himself. How about moving the Conservative Party back to the centre too? And to call sociology Marxist-tainted is hilarious.

  28. Jody said: “And then the false equivalence about “both sides” being responsible. Let’s just forget it all now, until we do it to you again.”

    You did mention in the previous post that you were a relatively new observer. You may not have observed the character assassination and ridicule of Stockwell Day in 2000 because of his conservative views right up to including his religious beleifs. This was done by the Liberals, and now that I think about it, Chretien was at the helm and therefore bears some responsibility for this. They did the same to Preston Manning in 1993. They did the same to Harper in 2004 and 2006 and to a lesser extent in 2008 and only lessened it because they thought it could not stick anymore.

    So no, on the “who started the negative politics of personal destruction” question there is absolutely no debate needed – The Liberal Party of Canada did. I’ll admit that the Conservatives have learned to fight fire with fire.

    But we should stop pointing fingers, instead we should try to see how we can bring about more civility.

  29. Jarrid, do you honestly believe that the CPC wouldn’t respond to a centre-right candidate like Manley by going after him with even greater bloodlust than someone like Dion? Dion threatened the bases of Greens and NDP more than CPC. Manley would be gunning directly for the CPC governing base in suburban Ontario, Quebec and BC. That would represent an unacceptable threat to the CPC, so I think you could expect no expense spared to eviscerate Manley.

    You sure have some rosy glasses on about the motivations and behaviours of your party.

  30. “So no, on the “who started the negative politics of personal destruction” question there is absolutely no debate needed – The Liberal Party of Canada did. I’ll admit that the Conservatives have learned to fight fire with fire.”

    It didn’t start in 1993.

  31. Always blaming the Liberals…


  32. “It didn’t start in 1993.”

    I guess we could stay up all night debating that one Andrew, but negative campaigning’s been around probably since the first time there was an election in Athens way back when if that’s what you mean. But what I’m saying is the personal attacks and ridicule heaped on someone because of their honestly held beliefs and conservative views. Day was attacked and ridiculed precisely for the views he held.

    They were vicious ideological attacks which were sadly condoned and encouraged by the media. That was a sad chapter in Canadian history and I know of no equivalent. That’s what I mean when I say the Liberals started it. They did the same thing to Preston Manning as well. Conservatives, both capital C and small c have gone on to live and learn from it.

  33. I didn’t see character assassination of Harper in 2004, 2006 or 2008 — I saw warnings about his views and what they would mean if he won a majority. And I do mean “he” because it’s well-known from inside testimony that he’s an authoritarian, controlling, punishing, scripted one-man show and doesn’t tolerate alternate opinions, let alone dissent. The contrast between his raging shout-downs in Question Period and his blue sweater act is downright creepy. In his victory speech he indicated that any cooperation would be for awhile. I figure that means until he can find a way to accuse anyone else of incivility so he can let it all out again. Who knows where his demons come from.

  34. Jarrid: “Day was attacked and ridiculed precisely for the views he held.”

    In fairness, those included Creationism. You’re pretty much fair game after that, I think.

  35. One thing about the introduction to the article: living in Alberta I won’t be able to read the whole thing proper until Tuesday. But Wells say in what’s been posted so far that the tory vote went up in Quebec. It may have looked up at one point during the count (I didn’t see the count until 90 minutes after the polls closed in both Alberta and Quebec). But the tories won 24.6% of the vote in Quebec in 2006. According to elections Canada, right now they won 21.7% this time.

  36. “Conservatives, both capital C and small c have gone on to live and learn from it.”

    I suppose it is said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery.

  37. Jody please tell me you’re a Green Party or Bloc supporter and not a Liberal or I’ll start dispairing that there’s hope the Liberals have learned something from this election.

    As for your caricature of Harper, all I can say is that the man is a formidable politician, in Jean Chretien’s league. Like they say, he plays chess while others play checkers.

    I hope that is what I will read when I pick up the Macleans election issue.

  38. Jarrid, after watching the In-and-Out and Cadman tape stuff, I’d say that what Harper does is *cheat* at chess while others play checkers. I wonder whether he’ll order everyone to call this Canada’s NEW New Government. And whether there’s any more room on the walls for all the big photos of himself that he’ll blow up from his “platform.” Over and out for the night.

  39. Jack said:”Jarrid: “Day was attacked and ridiculed precisely for the views he held.”

    In fairness, those included Creationism. You’re pretty much fair game after that, I think.”

    I don’t think so. If we were hiring him for Chief Rabbi then it might be relevant but someone’s theological views are irrelevant when it comes to governance. They shouldn’t be judged on whether or not they hold the right theological views. I thought we moved on about that after the Americans accepted that they could have a Roman Catholic president.

    The thing that’s sad is that Kinsella, who was at the forefront of the attack is a Catholic. (Sounds like he could use a refresher course but that’s another matter.) I do think Catholics have a more sophisticated grasp of the theological understanding of creation but what does that have to do with the ability to run for Prime Minister? I think it was low and divisive and irrelevant.

  40. “Always blaming the Liberals…”

    Austin, I’m hardly the only saying that the Liberals have to:

    1) Clean up their act;

    2) Get their act together.

    I beleive the two go hand in hand.

    They really should leave this “Harper’s a liar” nonsense to Duceppe and May. Dion, on top of his political ineptitude, left the political scene on a totally graceless note the way he concluded his campaign in my opinion.

  41. I’m saddened to hear that kind of relativism from you, Jarrid, given your fine prose style.

    Creationism is not a “theological view,” it’s the absence of one. It’s like believing in the tooth fairy. At all times & places there will be some views which are, shall we say, grown-up and some which are a sign of intellectual childhood. Perfectly reasonable people were believing Catholics before JFK, so anti-Catholicism was just bigotry; but no perfectly reasonable people are Creationists today, in the sense that Stockwell Day was (is?) a believer in Creationism. You just can’t entrust the Executive to somebody who thinks the Earth is 6000 years old, anymore than to somebody who, on “religious” grounds, thinks that the Cabinet should go Clear. Religion is not some loophole in reason.

  42. While I think that Dion calling Harper a liar was in poor judgment as it lowered him to the level of a mere attack dog when he should have been trying to act Prime Ministerial, I don’t think that he wasn’t telling the truth. Harper started this campaign with a lie, the one about sticking to a fixed election date from now on. He lied about income trusts and not taxing them. He lied about the Cadman affair, when his own expert said that the part of the tape Harper claimed wasn’t what he said, was validated as unaltered. Not only that, during the debates he even reversed his position on Afghanistan.

    Dion though was mostly referring to the lie that the Carbon Shift was nothing more than a straight out tax, when it was in fact more like an adjustment of the tax system, pushing Canada away from income and corporate taxes that hurt productivity, towards a consumption tax that would naturally encourage investment and savings. That Dion completely failed to grasp and articulate the benefits of his own tax reform plan and argue for it competently, is the true disappointment here.

    Harper is a politician. Like the vast majority of politicians, he keeps his word only when it is convenient to do so. Dion merely pointed this out, albeit, considering the history of the Liberal party promises (repeal GST, Universal Child Care, 0.7% GDP foreign aid etc), rather hypocritically.

    Nevertheless, to call Harper “classy, statesmanlike and tempered” is the abject nonsense of a blind follower. Tempered maybe, I can admit he was quite calm during the debates for someone with a known temper being piled on by four accusers. But classy and statesmanlike? Robert Stanfield had class. Trudeau and Mulroney were statesman. Harper has been little more than a shrewd tactician and partisan who didn’t hesitate to break his own law for political gain, not to mention the Duffy Interview, which was a lame attempt to score points off of Dion’s lack of English comprehension and absentmindedness.

    Obviously the shrewd tactician defeated the naive academic, the patronizing populist, and the freewheeling activist, but if these are all we as Canadians have to choose from… and one wonders why so many people didn’t bother to vote this time around.

    Even in the vitrolic American election, at least this time around, Obama and McCain have enough decency to claim they respect one another, Obama admiring McCain’s years of service to his country, and McCain recognizing Obama as a “decent family man” and someone who is making history. It’s sad when I have to say I have more respect for these American candidates than I have had for any of the Canadian leaders of this past election cycle.

  43. “It’s sad when I have to say I have more respect for these American candidates than I have had for any of the Canadian leaders of this past election cycle.”

    It isn’t really that sad if you think about it. Their country is 10 times larger, and there are only two left standing. I imagine if you took all the contenders for say, governor of New York you might find a similar quality of candidate. Don’t forget, John Edwards has twice been mentioned semi-seriously as the Dem nominee. The only way we could fall that far is if the equally oily Brian Tobin became Liberal leader, a highly unlikely occurence.

  44. I remember the 90’s too. It is hard for me to forget MP’s being called racists on the floor of the House of Commons, or mocking our right to be there. I don’t think it is pure strategy on Harper’s part but it is an outlet of vicious bitterness for how he and his fellow MP’s were treated then.

  45. Jack, I don’t think I’ve ever been called a relativist before.

    You can pretty well pick any religion and point out some pretty whacky elements if you take an objective reasonable approach. Let’s take Catholicism. Catholics beleive that a 16 year old Jewish virgin conceived a child 2000 odd years ago without had sexual relations and before the advent test-tube babies, i.e. modern technology. That doesn’t make any sense and your tooth-fairy analogy would apply I think. Speaking of tooth fairies, apparently a two-winged creature called an angel told the 16 year old how this incredible happening was to occur. Catholics also beleive that bread and wine consecrated at a religious ceremony called a mass is no longer really bread and wine but is now the body and blood of Jesus. And not just symbolically. That Catholic belief is where the expression “hocus-pocus” comes from. I could go on.

    The attack on Day was good old-fashioned bigotry and intolerance. As a rule, people’s religious beliefs should be off-limits.

  46. Andrew, I would relish a campaign between Harper and Manley.

    The Afghan commission showed that they clearly have a great deal of respect for each other. Manley comes across more as a truly decent, less partisan human being who would raise the bar of civility and decorum. No more of this BushHarper nonsense.

    He is also bilingual, and did a more than able job as finance minister under Chretien after Martin left. He would correct the leftward drift and bring the Liberals back to the center, where they belong.

    And I also think he would bring out the best in Harper as well. Harper played down to the level of his competition this time around. Manley would be a much more formidable opponent, and Harper would have to elevate his game to stay competitive.

    If only…

  47. “Harper played down to the level of his competition this time around.”

    Nonsense. The CPC fired the opening volley with the unprecedented ‘Not-A-Leader’ campaign. Any chance of civilized, respectful discourse went out the window at that point. That’s the kind of politics Harper plays. He has never given any indication otherwise.

    “If we were hiring him for Chief Rabbi then it might be relevant but someone’s theological views are irrelevant when it comes to governance. They shouldn’t be judged on whether or not they hold the right theological views”

    Literal creationism is a rejection of science. This is why I think Canadians couldn’t take Day seriously. We can have a PM that rejects science. And there is a difference between Catholic catechism and what most Catholics actually believe. I doubt the majority of Catholics actually believe the wine/bread is anything but symbolic.

    “I thought we moved on about that after the Americans accepted that they could have a Roman Catholic president.”

    I’ll buy that when we have an openly agnostic/atheist President. When the US President claims that god speaks to him and guides his actions, it is hard to accept the argument that religion is irrelevant in candidates for the top job.

  48. We can, obviously, should be ‘We can’t have a PM that rejects science.’

  49. “Cheat at chess”, well said Jody.

  50. Ahem. A little bit of research would go a long way if people want to be authorities about what Catholics believe in terms of transubstantiation.

    We orthodox Catholics are often accused of not knowing the difference between imagination and reality. I would posit that not only is that not true, but we regard imagination as key to our doctrines and practice. Catholic orthodoxy holds that human beings are not telepathic or possess extraordinary senses. Therefore, one comes to know God through attempting to understand him. This is accomplished in a number of ways. One is through God’s revelation (Jesus and prophetic sources), which is trusted by faith and interpreted through reason. Another is metaphysical philosophy that logically follows from physical philosophy (ie. what qualities would being have without existing in space or time). The third is through imagination, which is why we have sacred spaces, rituals, times, objects, and prayer. These are all done to attempt to focus our minds on something ineffable and mysterious, yet still active in our lives.

    The way we relate this to the Eucharist is through the Doctrine of Transubstantiation. Simply put, it is the belief that the substance of the bread and wine have changed to the body and blood of Christ. If you don’t know your Aristotelean or Neo-Thomist philosophy this will require some unpacking. We do not believe that the host and the wine have changed empirically. Nor do we believe that the host has changed under the surface in any way that can be detected. At a cellular and molecular level nothing has changed, and it is still the same bit of unleavened bread it always was. It is however through the ritual action of the priest and the faith of the gathered community (which is why non-Catholics are not allowed to receive it) to have become the body and blood of Christ. Through the act of eating the host (and drinking the wine) we engage the body, mind, and spirit in an act of solemn prayer and communion. The sacrament has accomplished in fact what the sacrament symbolizes. In fact (and many people don’t seem to make this connection) being excommunicated simply means that you do not take communion with the rest of the church faithful.

    Why do we insist on calling something as something other than it is empirically? I guess the closest analogy is when secular leaders take an oath of office. Mr. President doesn’t become Mr. President when he is elected. He becomes Mr. President when he takes the oath of office and is invested through a ritual with the power of the executive branch. Without the ritual, the protocol, and the title, he could not command the respect the office requires and thus wouldn’t function in fact as the President. In fact, the esteem which must be given to the office of the Presidency and its current holder is so great that they remain Mr. President until their death and their death would be considered to be such a blow to national prestige and power that they are given official protection until they die as well. The President has become the “host” if you’ll pardon the pun, of the intangible notion of executive power.

    If you have any further questions and clarifications, contact your local Catholic parish and sign up for an alpha course program.

  51. Somebody in Maclean’s production dept. should be getting a heads up in advance so they can put a hard cover on this thing.

    Still think Harper war room had fingerprints all over the “CTV/Duffy/PM would be more than happy to meet the press” crazy question episode. Although I guess Paul didn’t find anything underhanded in the affair which really drove the last nail in Dion’s coffin.

  52. Just got back from the café, where I devoured your piece, Mr. Wells. It took me a couple of hours to read it so I’m rather impressed that you wrote it in a space of days.

    A very pleasant combination of madeleines and eye-openers. The disorganisation of the Dion team was the biggest non-surprise surprise; but I had not idea it was that extensive. The Tory strategists’ trip to France was very funny. The Quebec arts bungle was very dramatically described. The Green section at the end was devastating. My biggest take-aways were the relentless retail politicking of Harper (esp. as vs. the Dion mysticism) and the strange Layton saga. But the whole thing is definitely a keeper. Chapeau!

  53. My issue hasn’t arrived yet but I just wanted to thank you – and all the national political bloggers on Maclean’s – for being consistently interesting, insightful and funny throughout the election campaign. I spent far more time than I should have on this site during the campaign; it was worth it.

  54. Good job Wells. Great read.

    The Muttart and Finly trip to Paris was very funny.

    Everything is the long game with Harpers team..

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