Megapundit: An errant Sparrow, or a parrot?

Must-reads: Richard Gwyn on the elusive Tory majority; Chantal Hébert on Liberal fortunes in Quebec; Don Martin on Tory strategy, or lack thereof.

We’re very disappointed in you, young man
In which Stephen Harper creates a monster, then throws him under the bus.

The Globe and Mail‘s Christie Blatchford notes the “gracious, even tender” manner in which Jim Davis, the bereaved military father whose opinions Ryan Sparrow dismissed as those of a Michael Ignatieff supporter, reacted to the news of Sparrow’s suspension. (“[It] upsets me,” he told CTV’s Mike Duffy. “We all learn from our mistakes.”) Blatchford believes military families, particularly those of the fallen, have a uniquely authoritative position from which to opine on the Afghanistan mission, but she decries the tendency to treat them as “just another constituency or community with an agenda or axe to grind.” As Tim Goddard, father of Nichola (killed in May 2006), tells Blatchford, “we don’t speak with one voice.” (Goddard says he’s thankful the Sparrow incident put Afghanistan on the “election agenda.” We fear he may be disappointed.)

Thankfully for the Tories, the National Post‘s John Ivison suggests, Senator Marjory LeBreton was aboard the campaign bus to provide an “empathetic response” to Sparrow’s gaffe: “When families suffer a tragic loss, politics should never enter into it,” she said. This, Ivison suggests, “may lead Canadians to the conclusion that this was a rash decision by one individual that should not reflect on the rest of the party or the Prime Minister.” In which case, we’d respond, Canadians are far stupider than we thought.

Harper’s announced pullout from Afghanistan in 2011 will embolden the Taliban and demoralize troops, Jeffrey Simpson suggests in the Globe, and it implicitly proves all the negative reports coming out of Afghanistan correct. “If progress were being made, and if success, however defined, seemed possible, no political leader would be committing at this point in time to leave in 2011,” he argues. We now know the mission “cannot end in success,” he concludes, “despite [the] sacrifice” of the Canadians who have died, and will continue to die until 2011.

There’s plenty to attack about Stéphane Dion’s Green Shift, argues the Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin: it’s a complex amalgam of economic, environmental and social policies, for example, and (which has always befuddled us as well) it seems intent on exempting those most dependent on carbon emissions when, logically, it should be its primary targets. Harper, however, chose yesterday to suggest Dion—among the nation’s most unimpeachable federalists—was fomenting disunity in Alberta with his carbon taxation initiative. Idiot eruptions from the “Republican-trained true believers” (in the words of “a veteran Conservative strategist”) are one thing, says Martin. But “whatever possessed [Harper himself] to go extreme on the green file … is beyond me.”

The Ottawa Citizen‘s Susan Riley says the campaign thus far is, as usual, a mess of “noise and abuse,” but she believes there’s enough out there already for voters to discern how the four party leaders would govern. Based on his “breathtaking disdain for the environment,” as evidenced by a two-cent cut to the diesel excise tax that Riley admits may do nothing at all and his refusal to purchase carbon offset credits for his airplane (they’re “fashionable,” says Riley; we’d say they’ve been wholly discredited), we can expect PM Harper “to be a passive observer of economic disruption and environmental degradation” who might pull us out of Afghanistan in 2011. Dion, on the other hand, promises “a return to Trudeau-era idealism and a radical tax shift.”

The Liberal campaign got back on track yesterday, Sun Media’s Greg Weston believes, “with the arrival of lobbyist Herb Metcalfe, a 30-year veteran of federal campaigns and one of the smartest strategists in the Liberal camp,” and with Dion’s speech to the Saint John Board of Trade, which “abandoned his meandering professorial lectures for a punchy political stump.” Also lightening the mood: a poll suggesting that while voters don’t see Dion as a strong leader, neither do they intend to vote on that basis; and, naturally, the Tories’ “hat-trick of gaffes,” i.e., the rogue puffin, the errant Sparrow, and trying to muzzle Elizabeth May, a gaffe for which we have no pithy name.

The Vancouver Sun‘s Barbara Yaffe suggests both Canadians and Americans are now further down the “politics of persona” road than ever before. “Starbucks most definitely is out; Tim Hortons is in,” she says, and the idea of voting for an even moderately “patrician” leader is ancient history. It’s not good enough to want to have a beer with the prospective Prime Minister, in other words. The war rooms seem to want us to believe their man “shares [our] hopes and dreams”—that he’ll almost act as our surrogate in the House of Commons.

Rick Salutin has been won over from the U.S. election, which he believes has become “dull and alienating” ever since Obama bested Clinton, and is now fascinated by the Canadian version, with its “unpredictable, contingent quality” and its impassioned debate about whether Elizabeth May should be allowed into the leaders’ debate. Some say Harper and Layton misread public opinion on that front, he notes, but that hardly explains it. “The public wants lots of things. Usually it’s just ignored,” he writes in the Globe—such as, wait for it, when George W. Bush sent more troops to Iraq even though he “knew the public wanted out.” Classic Rick Salutin, that is.

The Financial Post‘s Terence Corcoran directs our attention to the latest productivity numbers, which show Canadians still lagging behind Americans, and suggests now would be a good time for the Prime Minister to abandon the Liberal tradition of “spending too much and taxing too much with the wrong tax policies.” If not, he suggests we at least get off our high horses about how much better Canada’s economy is than the United States’, given that Washington is still spending less as a percentage of GDP…

…thus setting up a much-anticipated cage match with Richard Gwyn, who suggests in the Toronto Star that “the cross-border comparison of fiscal order here vs. fiscal crisis there and of employment steadiness here vs. rising unemployment there ought to make a Conservative majority” a very achievable goal for Harper. The biggest obstacle, he believes, is that even compared to European Union countries—of which only three have “exclusively left-of-centre governments”—Canadians are overwhelmingly predisposed not to vote for conservative parties. As such, Gwyn argues it was a big mistake for Harper to draw attention to Canadians’ misgivings early in the campaign by suggesting he only anticipated gaining another minority.

Dion can’t take credit for either of the two “star” Liberal candidates in Quebec, Chantal Hébert notes in the Star—those would be Marc Garneau in Westmount and Justin Trudeau in la belle riding de Papineau, naturally. Indeed, Garneau had to threaten to take his spacesuit and go home to even land the nomination. “But while the Liberal team in Quebec is probably the least star-studded the party has ever assembled in its history,” she writes, “the irony is that it still stacks up to the competition.” That’s to say that the Tories’ crop is no better than 2006’s, in Hébert’s estimation. And if Michael Fortier loses in Vaudreuil-Soulandges, Harper’s Cabinet may well even end up weaker than before.

Things were going very poorly for Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc even before former PQ cabinet minister Jacques Brassard accused the party of becoming “the twin of the NDP”—a “sneering, sarcastic political broadside,” says L. Ian MacDonald in the Post, the likes of which hasn’t been seen “since Pierre Trudeau was a pamphleteer in the old Cite Libre days.” With both sovereignty and the sponsorship scandal off the table, the real NDP muscling in from the left, polling numbers auguring poorly and Duceppe exhibiting “the body language of someone who wants to go home,” MacDonald says the last thing the party needed was to have “old wounds” reopened.

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