Hint: one of them has a moustache

Our PM may be rejected by two-thirds of his citizens, but he has two things going for him


CP/ Getty Images

Stephen Harper has a bounce in his step lately thanks to the polls. Sure, his numbers are down among men, but that’s nothing he can’t solve by claiming to be writing a book about cleavage or pressure washers. It’s springtime, the weather’s nice and he’s at 33 per cent, baby. Nothing beats the ego trip of knowing you’re being rejected by only two-thirds of Canadians.

It’s remarkable that Harper is in front at all given the 2010 he’s had so far. Fresh off his second prorogation, which went over about as well as my “Grown Men Who Heart Justin Bieber” Facebook group, the Prime Minister poured his soul into a 6,000-word Throne Speech that among Canadians was immediately reduced to a single question: “You’re going to do what to our national anthem?”

Harper flip-flopped on that proposal?.?.?.?and on his policy rejecting condoms as part of a plan protecting the health of Third World women?.?.?.?and on a plan to ban free mailings by MPs to other ridings. About the only thing he didn’t flip-flop on was his belief that Canadians owed him a post-Olympics bounce in popularity. His first major speech of the new Parliament consisted pretty much in its entirety of, “Mr. Speaker: YAY OLYMPICS!!” If he’d had his way, he would have spent most of March wearing Jennifer Heil on his lapel.

At the same time, Harper finally began paying a political price for importing his cabinet directly from the Island of Misfit Toys. One minister, Jean-Pierre Blackburn, got snippy after airport security confiscated his tequila. Another, Lisa Raitt—apparently forgetting that being a minister of the Crown still qualifies as a day job—announced via BlackBerry she was “thinking of live-tweeting QP.” (OMG!!! P. MacKay = dreamy!!)

And then there’s Helena Guergis, who with her husband gave us the rare gift of a political story that includes profanity, tantrums, drunk driving, strip clubs and busty hookers, not to mention allegations of cocaine parties and incriminating photographs. Looking back, you begin to wonder if maybe they were starring in a sequel to The Hangover the whole time. And while the scandal did cost Guergis her job, she and Rahim Jaffer will get their reward when Harper officially names them as our country’s ambassadors to reality TV.

All in all, then, a difficult period for the Prime Minister. But it’s important to remember that he still has two things going for him: the national opposition parties.

Michael “Michael” Ignatieff has been leader of the Liberals for a year now. His party still lags in the polls. No one seems to know what Ignatieff stands for, what a Liberal government would do differently or when Ken Dryden is going to finish that anecdote he started in 2008.

Ignatieff has also revealed himself to have a curious definition of what it means to be a leader. Leadership should be about “convening,” he says, “not command and control.”

Convening? This came as a surprise to Harper, most Canadians and the dictionary people, all of whom have laboured under the apparent misconception that leadership is about, you know, leading. Nope—turns out it’s about building “networks of responsibilities that are focused on outcomes.” Translation: if Ignatieff had given Churchill’s wartime speeches, he would have vowed to “facilitate the pursuit of satisfactory outcomes upon the beaches, streets and other relevant jurisdictions.” And then the convening! If you think I should declare war on the Nazi menace, press 1, followed by the pound key.

I wouldn’t want to be Ignatieff right now. Or whenever he’s in caucus and Denis Coderre gets that “I should give my two cents” look in his eyes. But let’s face it—being a Liberal still beats being a New Democrat.

Here’s a question worth asking: why does the NDP even exist anymore? It’s certainly not to win power. They’ve been blessed with a right-leaning, divisive Prime Minister and a disorganized, ineffective official Opposition and still they can’t convince more than one in five Canadians to give them a look. So what purpose do they serve?

True, it can be useful to have public figures who demonstrate that it is still possible for a man to pay less than $75 for a suit. And yes, there’s no denying that a foolproof way to determine if you’ve had too much to drink is to see if you can successfully pronounce the surname of NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis. (Wash-a-lisa-lease? Have a safe drive home. Wash-a-lasha-lasha-lash? Call a cab!)

Beyond that, most of us instinctively grasp the fact that if NDPers really wanted to see genuine progress on the causes they support, they’d disband and join the Liberals en masse. They wouldn’t get everything they wanted in terms of social progress or gluten-freeness, but they’d get something more than nothing. Instead, Jack Layton carries on—the walking, talking, still talking, stillll talking manifestation of Stephen Harper’s job security.

Harper is by no means a popular Prime Minister. But with enemies like these, who needs friends?


Hint: one of them has a moustache

  1. "Beyond that, most of us instinctively grasp the fact that if NDPers …"

    Most of us, meaning "Liberals?" You'd do better wondering why it is you need the moustache man to save you.

  2. Everything will change once the NDP and the Liberals realize that they need to fuse in order to stop divising the electorate.
    Exactly what the Conservatives did with those maniacs from the Reform party: build a cohesive block of similar-minded people and you stand a much better chance of winning power in a democracy.

    And so we continue in our path to become more and more like the US.

  3. If the Liberals and NDP merged, it wouldn't necessarily put the resulting party in power. A swing to the left might push the fiscally conservative part of the Liberals (the Martin wing) towards the Conservatives. Surely it hasn't been so long since Mulroney's government that everybody has forgotten that red Tories could actually exist, right?

  4. Question to Scott: if the NDP gets ahead of the Liberals in the polls, will you advocated that the Liberals disband and work inside the NDP?

  5. Everyone's leaning to the right side of the bus. The NDP have moved to the centre aisle, the Liberals are just to the right of them and the Conservatives are hanging out of the windows on the right side, mooning the public.


  6. Everyone's leaning to the right side of the bus. The NDP have moved to the centre aisle, the Liberals are just to the right of them and the Conservatives are hanging out of the windows on the right side, mooning the public.


  7. Everyone's leaning to the right side of the bus. The NDP have moved to the centre aisle, the Liberals are just to the right of them and the Conservatives are hanging out of the windows on the right side, mooning the public.


  8. The Liberals and the Conservative have more in common than the Liberals and the NDP. If you wanted to see more two party polictics, then a con/lib mix party and a NDP lead opposition would more likely be realistic.

    As well, the Green party and the Liberals have far more in common than the NDP and the Liberals too.

    The only party to have simalar values to the NDP is the Bloc party, and I doubt they are going to merge any time soon.

    I find it interesting that people today think the Liberal party stand for the same values that they once did back in the sixties and severties.

  9. they didn't stand for nothing in the sixties and seventies, you say?

  10. How about a do-over. Blow up the 4 parties and start fresh. The average Canadian wouldn't be able to provide a very compelling answer of why they were left, left-centre, right, etc.

    For my money the CPC do a crappy job of playing right wing, in part because that position is such a jumbled mass of bible thumpers, fair-weather libertarians and "guns is good" folks. They largely ignore the important economic bits and spend their time in photo-ops with the military and tim hortons crowd. Anmd you could say the same about the other parties. Screw left and right, its meaningless crap…

  11. Three out of ten THAT VOTE support him. Which means about one out of ten actually like the direction he’s taking us. Dare I say it’s the born again believers that people walked with dinosaurs nut bars- aka Stockwell Day, climate change deniers, anti choice dinosaurs, old rural white guys who still keep their Orange Lodge membership up to date, militarized flag wavers, blue rinse tea sippers, guys with big guns and tiny little penises, and, of course, most of Alberta.

    At least Jack and the NDP stand for something approaching social democracy in THIS century, not the 19th. As for Iggy, well, our loss is Harvards gain. Or is it the other way around??

    -Bill Desmond

    • If you can't be bothered to vote, you've forfeited your right to determine how the country should be run. Literally, Your statistics are also off. There isn't that much discrepancy between the distribution of actual voters and the population at large. In the US, it's only a couple of percentage points. Of course, that's also enough to swing elections there. Not quite the same case in Canada.

    • You're a f***ing tool, you know that?

  12. the NDP and Liberals need to merge so that the Liberals run slightly left of centre and stay there.

    I can't see the fiscal conservative Liberals jumping to Harper's socially conservative party.

    And they need to change the rules for what counts as a federal party, like you have to run in a majority of ridings in all the provinces and territories.

    Federal party should mean that everyone gets a chance to vote for it.

    enough with the bloc – let them be provincial since they don't want to be part of Canada.

  13. It all depends on how it was handled. The two parties currently have support from very different areas/populations (though there is a lot of overlap), so if handled badly, they could manage to turn off supporters of both parties rather than bring them together. For instance, the NDP is able to compete in a lot of areas in the West where the Liberals are DOA. Worst case scenario would be losing both the NDP seats in the West and the Liberal seats in Atlantic Canada to the Tories.

    If the merger were handled well, though, they might realistically be able to increase their vote share and maybe even win a majority. But I'm not certain it would be handled well and I'm not certain it's really for the best, anyway. Honestly, I see the better merger involving the Greens (either with the NDP or the Libs). If ~10% of the progressive electorate switched their votes to either the Libs or the NDP or even just split between the two, that could have a pretty substantial impact on marginal ridings. If the Greens (once again) fail to win a seat at the next election, they should seriously consider offering themselves up for a merger.

  14. How about, instead, we advocate for an alternative voting system so that parties actually get the number of seats that they've earned. That way we can have more parties, that actually represent peoples' views (instead of being the best of the worst), and have a more direct form of democracy.

  15. "They largely ignore the important economic bits…." Huh?

  16. @Feschuk – I know this isn't mailbag day, but I'm confused. This piece is more relevant than it is funny. It's like you convinced Coyne to do a bit of ghost writing for you. Will Coyne now start to be funny? I'm fond of conspiracy theories. Please enlighten.


  17. This kind of journalism really made many of us wonder, are journalists really that out of touch? Or is it due to their professions that they are suckered easily by politicians who talk nicely (like used car sales men and snake oil sellers) than people of substance? If elections depend on journalists like this, we will be voting for good orators instead.

  18. In my defence, the Justin Bieber reference was neither relevant nor funny.

  19. Perpetual minority government? Really? After the last six years we've had?

  20. Simple: the NDP have been betting for years on becoming kingmakers in a minority government, whenver that happens. Hey, wait a minute…..

  21. Yes, definitely.

    The only reason it doesn't work here is that the children at Parliament Hill are all waiting for their party to get a majority. Instead of playing nice and cooperating, they're too busy scheming. Were we to change to a PR system, the parties would know that they have to work together because they're extremely unlikely to achieve the coveted elected dictatorship.

    Not to mention that PR means a better reflection of the actual elections instead of this nonsense about a party needing only 35% of the popular vote to receive a majority of the seats.

    What's funny is that a number of political parties (the Alberta Conservative Party, for example) already use an alternative voting system. I think that they know that these systems are better. But they also know that if they implement them, that it will mean that none of them will ever achieve a majority again.

  22. I'm sure the CPC will be more than pleased to oblige you, although I can't understand why you want to give us a majority. With the exception of a couple of metropolitan areas most of this country is fed up with non-sense and would welcome a more traditional government. The lefty/loser/leaver coalition may appeal in 416 and 604 area codes and he leftover wilted greens may at some time figure out that most Canadians rank eating and paying their bills above saving the planet from Al Gore's delusions…but all that said if even professional Liberal story tellers are losing faith in the brand, what of the poor schmucks in the trenches?

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